A well-considered influencer marketing campaign can be gangbusters for a brand. However, as the business of influencing becomes mainstream, brands are faced with more options, risks and wins.
In a webinar Thursday, WGSN Insight associate editor Cassandra Napoli shared emerging influencer marketing strategies for apparel and beauty brands.
“The influencer economy is vast and everyone wants a piece of pie,” Napoli said. This year alone, she said, brands will spend $1.6 billion on Instagram influencer campaigns alone.
The way brands use influencer marketing is varied. From retailers co-designing collections with tastemakers, to brands developing avatar influencers to share their message, the role of “influencer” has shifted from a being a source of “likes” to artistic direction, setting a stage for brands to showcase products in a highly curated, visually-appealing and often aspirational story.
And as Napoli outlined, the pace at which influencer marketing is evolving is both quick and complicated.
The sponsored post—once a valuable tool in a marketer’s arsenal—seems antiquated when compared to the CGI influencers like Lil Miquela, a fabricated 19-year-old woman with progressive political views and streetwear tastes. With 1.4 million Instagram followers, the fictional character has posted selfies with actress (and real person) Trace Ellis Ross, touted Alexander Wang threads and even picked up a new gig as arts editor for Dazed Beauty.
And more CGI influencers are cropping up, Napoli said. “Working with humans limits a brand’s control,” she said. By developing their own character, Napoli said brands can help eliminate the risk of off-brand comments and actions that a human influencer may make.
Social media influencer marketing is maturing as influencers evolve from selfie-obsessed, floppy hat wearing ‘It’ girls of the early 2010s to globetrotting, lifestyle gurus with substance.
The travel and hospitality industries, along with related product categories like vacation wear, swimwear and luggage, are benefiting from influencers’ wanderlust. “Travel is the new currency,” Napoli said. “Influencers’ posts have an impact on where people travel. They like to stay in the walls of their Instagram app.”
And hotels and resorts are catching on by tapping influencers to host wellness getaways and curated excursions. “It allows them to buy into the tastes and preferences of their favorite influencer,” Napoli added.
Travel also serves as the carefree, aspirational storyline for brands’ influencer campaigns. “Fashion brands are finding value in hosting influencers on lavish vacations,” Napoli said. This summer, Boohoo, Revolve and PacSun sent influencers on vacation, taking their followers along for the journey. And in the case of PacSun, the trip to Utah turned into the retailer’s fall campaign.
Dabble in design
Department stores are upping the ante by offering social media influencers the opportunity to play designer.
Napoli said retailers like Nordstrom and Macy’s are leveraging the power of influencers with cult-like audiences by asking them to co-design a collection. Influencers document and share the entire design process to build hype, which drives their social following online and in stores, thus helping retailers’ traffic problem, she explained.
Nordstrom turned a 2017 capsule collection with Something Navy blogger Arielle Charnas into a full-fledged line that generated $4-5 million in sales on launch day. In September, influencer Natalie Suarez teamed with Macy’s for a size-inclusive collection of trendy gear like polka dot dresses and pink track suits.
The collaborations are “not revolutionizing department stores,” but Napoli said the partnerships serve as a way to drive buzz and excitement from young consumers.