Little Yadav
Jun 04, 2024

Why Gen Z prefers influencers over A-list celebs

Prioritising authenticity over glamour, many within younger cohorts are spurning celebrities in commercials in favour of narratives built on genuine and relatable storytelling.

The future marketing opportunities lie in integrating different content worlds.
The future marketing opportunities lie in integrating different content worlds.

Bollywood celebrities have long been the go-to protagonists in ads because marketers knew that just their face would sail a thousand ships, or sell a thousand products. In recent years, however, the status quo has been changing, especially with Gen Z and millennials.

This set of viewers want more than the face or persona of the celebs to communicate a brand’s message. They are more receptive to content creators who mirror their lifestyles and aspirations and who communicate through authentic and relatable storytelling. Since this audience demography also cares deeply about social causes, they are likelier to relate to a celebrity, influencer, or digital creator who contributes to society rather than a celebrity with a large fan base.  

Content now comes with an expiry date, forcing brands to create more topical narratives rather than have star-studded videos that struggle to stay relevant for long. While marketers are in no hurry to put traditional celebrities in the lowest drawer of their creative portmanteau, they have realised the need to strike a balance between using a mix of these A-listers and influencers.

Campaign India asked some marketing and advertising industry experts to share their gameplan when it comes to walking this tightrope. 

Abhishek Gupta. joint managing director, BEI Confluence

Abhishek Gupta
Joint managing director
BEI Confluence

Things changed substantially after Covid-19 primarily due to the nature of content consumed and the relationship between today’s consumers and Bollywood celebrities. We are now more used to watching content where celebrities play real-life people with real issues rather than larger-than-life personas. The younger generation has 24/7 access to the lives of celebrities through the digital ecosystem and is no longer awe-struck by them. 

Having said that, marketers have not stopped using celebs and continue to leverage their equity for brands. This strategy works as long as they use a disruptive way to communicate the message.

Gen Z is anything but boring. They are unpredictable and like edgy content. Look at what OTT platforms churn out today—unique storylines and characters with out-of-the-ordinary storytelling. The Gen Z audience lapped by the Hrithik Roshan and Burger King campaign, which was anything but predictable.

The bottom line is that celebrities are a great way to grab eyeballs and dial-up awareness. But it is the marketers’ responsibility to ensure that they are used wisely, by creating unpredictable content around them. That is when we are truly harnessing the power of a celeb.

 

Anuya Jakatdar, co-founder, Bare Bones Collective

Anuya Jakatdar
Co-founder
Bare Bones Collective

Merely using a celeb is no longer a viable idea for any brand. Idea is king and the right celeb has to be used to distribute it.  Brands do collaboration posts with relevant celebs, even though they might not necessarily be in the ad. For instance, Urban Company tied up with Zeenat Aman to distribute Chhoti Soch. Similarly, they use influencers to target the right pockets and communities.

Production budgets have definitely declined. Content has a much shorter shelf life, and therefore it is natural that brands want to produce more videos rather than one hero video that fights to stay relevant for a longer time.

Using a celeb for the sake of it is passe or at least it should be; brands should use the correct celeb for the right idea unless they are a brand ambassador. In that case, make the idea such that it works for that exact celeb. That's how content will travel across Gen Z and millennials. 

Gen Zs are influenced by influencers, and view them as celebs; events like the YouTube Fan Fest and Social Nation are proof of this. So, brands need to consider a balance between the right celebs and the right influencers.

Bollywood celebs aren't going anywhere, mainly because it's also hygiene for certain brands to partner with them. For example, beauty and fashion can't not have a face attached to the brand. While Gen Z viewers might not connect with celebs anymore, brands are also all about aspiration, and sometimes they want their brand to be associated with an aspirational entity. If that were not true, Jahnvi Kapoor would not have so many endorsements. 

However, for other industries, brands must find creative and edgy ways to incorporate celebs, so that they get more bang for their buck. Self-deprecation, for example, is an instant hit. 

The idea has to trump the celebrity, and not the other way round. This applies to all celebs, i.e. it includes influencers also. Gone are the days when a celeb just had to appear in a campaign for sales to increase. Now, they should be open to a fresh, interesting concept and leave their airs behind. Or the brand won't come to them a second time around.

Alka Dembla, Head of retail, The Indian Garage Co.

Alka Dembla
Head of Retail
The Indian Garage Co.

As a fast fashion brand, we see the changing role of Bollywood celebrities with Gen Z as a challenge and an opportunity. While traditional Bollywood stars don't have the same influence on the younger generation, they aren’t entirely irrelevant to Gen Z. The key is using it in ways that resonate with today's youth.

As digital natives influenced by many sources beyond mainstream media, Gen Z values authenticity, relatability, and diversity. They admire self-made individuals who are real and approachable, reflecting their own experiences and values.

Hence, brands should work with Bollywood stars who are authentic on social media and can share behind-the-scenes looks, engage with their audience, and discuss issues like mental health and sustainability. They can use platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube where Gen Z spends time to create short, engaging content featuring Bollywood stars, like day-in-the-life series or interactive Q&A sessions.

Another thing that marketers can do is pair Bollywood stars with popular Gen Z influencers for campaigns. This combines Bollywood’s star power with influencers’ relatability, creating a genuine connection. Moreover, as Gen Z cares about social issues, showcase Bollywood celebrities involved in charity work, environmental advocacy, or social justice, which aligns with their target audience’s values.

Bollywood remains relevant, but the approach needs to align with Gen Z’s values. Focus on authenticity, leverage digital platforms, blend traditional stars with modern influencers, and highlight social impact. At the same time, embrace the wider range of influencers who resonate with Gen Z to create a comprehensive marketing strategy.

 

Tusharr Kumar, COO, OML Entertainment

Tusharr Kumar
COO
OML Entertainment

Bollywood, creators, digital-first influencers, and even sports personalities are all a part of the larger spectrum of the celebrity culture. The key is how they are utilised and the narrative they embody. Any form of communication that feels overly transactional or inauthentic—whether from a creator or a big Bollywood celebrity—will not make a dent. It has got to be genuine and relatable, or else it is just going to fall flat.

For instance, Gen Z's preferences lean towards experiences that prioritise storytelling, reflecting a desire for meaningful and enriching narratives. Today, when we talk about campaigns that resonate with this audience, the catch is prioritising authenticity and transparency above everything else.

So basically, the focus should be on crafting narratives and contexts that appeal to this demographic. Hence, brands are leaning towards influencers and creators since they bring that raw and unfiltered perspective to whatever is being pushed towards them.

While marketers are getting to terms with the fact that Gen Z is way more receptive to the communication from influencers and creators, it is not about doing away with traditional celebrities altogether, but about striking a balance between the two. For instance, OML crafted a campaign for Oppo, where we paired Shraddha Kapoor with the Swedish dance collective Quickstyle for a TV and digital commercial.

It all comes down to blending different worlds. Even collaborations, which blend long-form content with social media dynamics. These are the sorts of creative ideas that are becoming more prevalent and result in compelling brand campaigns.  

 

Siddharth Devnani, co-founder and director, SoCheers

Siddharth Devnani
Co-founder and director
SoCheers

There is definitely a shift, and Gen Z values authenticity over just the power or high visibility of an A-lister or Bollywood celebrity. Brands targeting this audience need to avoid simply jumping in with the biggest available star. This approach is unlikely to work.

For a surface-level campaign, it is necessary to choose stars who are relevant to Gen Z and who they connect with. Secondly, creating an authentic story with the celebrity is crucial.

Brand integration needs to go far deeper than just a face in a TV commercial. How you weave together what the Gen Z audience follows about the star with the brand or campaign is very important. 

Using celebrities isn't just about using their face for a TV or digital commercial. It is about how you integrate them with your social media feeds. They have millions of followers, so leveraging their fan pages, working with paparazzi for organic promotion, or considering their upcoming films or projects, all play a role.

Many celebrities have partnerships or tie-ups with NGOs or causes they support. Looking at the bigger picture of what the celebrity stands for and how their social media game works is key. 

Here's an interesting example: Kareena Kapoor wasn't previously present on social media. However, to target Gen Z, Puma effectively launched her on social media. This created a well-integrated story—it wasn't just Puma launching a TV commercial with Kareena as the face.

Similarly, using established celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan can also be effective. Cadburys and Dark Fantasy have both done beautiful campaigns that leverage these stars' massive fandoms. In these cases, they didn't just use SRK as a face; they wove in the story of how crazy his fanbase is and how people look up to him. These are just a few ways to leverage A-listers for Gen Z marketing.

Source:
Campaign India

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