Last fall, Mother Denim experienced a nearly 20 percent increase in sales, saw website traffic increase 200 percent, and experienced a 60 percent increase in Google searches after Meghan Markle donned the brand’s Looker Ankle Fray Love Gun jeans during her first public appearance with her now-husband Prince Harry.
Traffic to the product landing page for the Looker Ankle Fray increased by 1,000 percent. The jeans sold out quickly and even incited a 400-person wait list of shoppers eager for their own pair.
When Mother Denim restocked the jean in March, the style sold out again within three days. Though Markle bought the jeans on her own accord, her effect on the Mother Denim pair highlights the power of influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing, a spokesperson-like endorsement tactic, has grown to a point where it is an essential part of a brand’s marketing strategy. An influencer can range from top-tier celebrities, to photographers with followings, to lifestyle-focused content creators on a given social platform.
It’s a tactic that makes sense these days as the market is a mobile-first and social-first environment, Beca Alexander, president of influencer agency Socialyte, explained. Influencer marketing targets the younger demographic of that environment and sets out to change brand loyalty. Most importantly, influencer marketing is a sought-after strategy as it yields a wide variety of results for a relatively low cost.
“From brand awareness to traffic driving to conversion, influencer marketing provides endorsements from peers that drive consumer behavior including purchase intent,” Alexander said. “Influencers tell a more authentic story as compared to other forms of traditional media or advertising. [They] are the new celebrities and reality stars of digital, they offer a less expensive and more trackable way to attract new customers.”
When it comes to denim, Meghan Markle is far from the only influencer who can encourage consumers toward a product. As influencer marketing is most successful when it pushes attainable items advertised through an authentic story, denim is an ideal product for the strategy.
“I think that influencer marketing is really great as a top of the funnel way to get people introduced to your brand,” said Mia Zee, director of marketing for RE/DONE. “If you think about the chain of us gifting an influencer, them posting about it on Instagram, and then a viewer seeing that and discovering our brand, and then when you combine that with other types of digital marketing, those are really complementary in helping move someone from being introduced to the brand to someone who wants to become part of our world and buy part of the collection.”
Zee explained that RE/DONE’s influencer strategy is somewhat unique in that they don’t pay their influencer partners. Instead, the recycled denim brand gifts jeans to an affiliate.
“There isn’t any sort of contractual obligation in place between us and the influencers, so it’s a bit more of a ‘let’s see what we get’ sort of thing. Knowing that that’s the way we operate, our expectations manage to match,” Zee said.
RE/DONE seeks different results from each influencer partnership. Depending on what drew the brand to the influencer, they might look for high quality content that they can repost on their own social media channels, and therefore content creation is the measurement of success in that partnership.
The brand has also formed partnerships with influencers who it felt could be a large driver of sales, so in those cases, sales would be the metric they follow. “Especially on YouTube,” Zee said. “I think that that’s where you can see a direct conversion, direct success with the campaign in terms of traffic and sales.”
Lately, RE/DONE has been interested in YouTube influencers. Though the video platform had mainly been a space for the beauty industry for some time, Zee sees that fashion is catching up and brands are discovering ways it can work for their marketing needs. And the results have proven as much. Zee said the brand has seen a great return and success rate in the work that they’ve done so far on YouTube.
YouTube testimonies for a pair of jeans entail the influencer explaining background information on the brand, price range, her experiences shopping the brand and experiences wearing the jean, thus allowing the authentic storytelling that marketers look for with influencer strategies.
When forming influencer relationships, the most important factor to RE/DONE is that the influencer’s overall aesthetic and following is in-line with the brand’s style and customer base. Alexander agreed that this is how brands should be selecting their influencers. “A winning strategy is focusing on influencers who are the right creative fit in terms of content, have a unique point of view and story to share, have an authentic following, and garner engagement from their audience,” she said.
Alexander also made it clear that brands should understand that there is a difference between audience and influence. “Just because an influencer has an audience, doesn’t mean they are influential in any way,” she said. “If you are contracting an influencer with the hopes of driving sales, they won’t move the needle on ROAs if they don’t have actual influence over their audience.”
As the landscape of social media is constantly evolving, Alexander believes influencer marketing will also evolve and that there is a broad future for the strategy.
With the recent release of Instagram TV, she has already noticed that influencers are creating longer form and higher quality vertical content, and brands have already begun to capitalize on the platform to create awareness with an audience who’s more actively captivated for longer periods of time.
“Depending on the social media platform du jour, influencers will push themselves creatively to adapt, taking brands and their audiences with them on their journey into the future,” she said.
Alexander predicts that the industry will shift its focus on relationship building as technology becomes more unpredictable. She pointed out that metrics will continue to be important, however metrics are already evolving.
“Engagement rates used to be the gold standard for campaign performance until engagement became easy and cheap to purchase,” she said. Now, reach and click-throughs are much more important, as they help build an authentic brand following.