There was a time, not very long ago, when the only way grooming products would reach the audience, from an Axe deodorant, to a razor, were advertisements about what will get the girls. But, as grooming products for men went from being just a shaving gel to products that are skin type caring and how-to-wear-amask sharing, influencer marketing has been instrumental in changing the game for men’s grooming, in terms of their reach as well. Popular hashtags, shaving rituals, even exfoliating has become more about self-care, as opposed to “do it for the girl”, and some grooming influencers are making their mark in reaching an audience that woud’ve otherwised swiped right on that sexist boxer commercial.

Sayan Bakshi is a Mumbai-based content creator who has an Instagram following of over 2,85,000 followers. While he covers fashion, lifestyle, and travel on his feed, his main focus is male grooming content. To this effect, he has worked with brands like The Man Company, mCaffeine, Man Arden, Everyuth Naturals, and The Beauty Co. His charges for an Instagram post differ depending on the content required, and the production charges involved therewith, he usually makes anywhere between Rs 30,000 to Rs 80,000 for each post or content he is asked to create.

Karron Dhingra is a lawyer who moonlights as a digital creator, and is a popular grooming influencer. His curates content on menswear, and luxury products. With close to 2,56,000 followers on Instagram and a subscriberbase of 1,20,000 on YouTube, Dhingra has collaborated with brands like Park Avenue, Skinn by Titan, Bulgari, and Beauty Concepts to name a few. For an Instagram post, he generally charges Rs 27,000. Then, there is Sarang Patil, with a following of around 45,000 on Instagram. He has collaborated with brands like Truefitt & Hill, Ponds, The Man Company, and Beardo. Considering his following, his charges are comparitively less — Patil charges Rs 15,000 for a static post, Rs 20,000 for a carousel post, and Rs 30,000 for a video. Bakshi, Dhingra, and Patil are a new breed of Instagram influencers who’ve taken male grooming to people who didn’t know it’s a thing, and weren’t noticing how the industry is actually brimming with the importance of grooming for men. Commanding huge followings on social media with high impressions and engagements on their posts, they act like magnets for male grooming brands that seek to promote their products.

“Grooming influencers single-mindedly focus on the importance of maintaining oneself, and how it inculcates a sense of confidence and overall perception. To cite examples, we have worked closely with grooming influencers for our GoodBye Yellow shampoo, Osis+ styling collection and our premium Oil Ultime range,” says Shama Dalal, marketing head at Schwarzkopf Professional India. Having seen promising results from their association with male grooming influencers, the company has doubled its influencer investment in the last three years. Rumi Ambastha, brand director, The Man Company believes that by the end of 2020, the global influencer marketing is primed to be a $20 billion industry. Of this, India accounts for a major chunk, between $75 and $150 million. Having seen this potential, The Man Company has invested around five per cent of their marketing budget to influencer marketing.

One of the main reasons that male grooming influencers demand such high amounts is because their followers heavily engage with their lifestyle, and the products that they promote. “The Return on Investment (ROI) totally depends on the engagement that the influencer enjoys on social media. It’s not so much about the followers since we all know that they can be bought, but the actual test of the pudding as they say, is how much the followers engage with the content,” says Ambastha. But while brands claim that content is king, it must be noted that numbers on social media still play a key role. Hence, while Ranveer Allahbadia isn’t primarily a grooming influencer, he has worked with the likes of Gillette, Nykaa Man and WOW Skin Science on account of the fact that he has almost a million followers on Instagram. The same goes for YouTube phenomenon Nick, who has close to seven million followers across digital platforms, and over 1.2 billion online video views.

While Allahbadia and Nick weren’t willing to divulge their rate card for collaborations, Viraj Sheth, co-founder of Monk Entertainment, the agency that handles the two, says it could be anywhere between Rs 75,000 to Rs 6 lakhs per YouTube video. “While each brand has their own set of strategies, I’ve seen many brands at least double their spends in influencer marketing in the male grooming space. A new startup is willing to spend one to three lakhs a month for pilot projects, whereas brands that have reaped benefits from this medium of marketing have not been shy of spending large sums to the tune of Rs 20-30 lakhs a month,” he says. But why are brands flocking to male grooming influencers, leading to a boom in the male grooming industry? The influencers believe it is because they get to plan their campaigns better with influencers.

“We’re not going to give them a oneday, eight-hour shoot, and forget about the brand the next day. We’re a lot more engaged with the product, and the audience knows these are products we actually use. This works a great deal for a category like grooming that can have severe effects on your body if the product endorsed is not completely safe,” says Allahbadia. Bakshi, on the other hand, believes it’s because not only are male grooming influencers more cost-effective tools to promote the products, the brands are assured of quality content, where the entire production is taken care of by the influencers themselves. Manish Chowdhary, Co-Founder of WOW Skin Science, says that the brand has seen that consumers tend to trust an influencer who is an ordinary person with the next-door neighbour vibe, over endorsements by celebrities.

“The followers of the influencers are able to connect with them in a better way, and take their advice more seriously, since most of them showcase the products in a more real life/real time scenario. Our marketing strategy has been very straightforward, and we like to be direct in our messaging like we are in reaching out to our consumers. Social media itself has a great impact on people’s choices and their purchase decision. Since we are very digitally inclined, using social media influencers in the grooming category has worked well for us,” he says.