Influencer Marketing has been on the tip of the tongue of many marketing executives over the past years. And while the fashion industry has been one of several to lead the charge in this arena, we’ve now entered a period where hard luxury brands in the sectors of watches and jewellery have been experimenting, and succeeding. Six points underline why influencer marketing is having its moment in the sun for high-end luxury brands:
1. Opinions of the most conservative brands are changing.
In 2014, 52% of watch industry executives perceived social media as the biggest source of reputational risk. Attitudes have clearly changed. Brands recognize the arrival of the “era of Millenials,” who not only are about to become the largest spending generation in history, but also confidently re-define the vision of luxury. With 47% of this group making their purchase decisions under the influence of social media, watch & jewellery brands have had no other choice but to rise to the challenge.
The industry is bending under such groundbreaking claims as “social media campaigns have 11 times higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.” And even reputational concerns seem to be put to rest as public sentiment for the most discussed online brands – Cartier, TAG Heuer and Hublot – is estimated as average of 82% positive vs. 18% negative.
2. Traditional influencer partnerships are moving online.
Many brands have started by taking advantage of traditional partnerships in brand-controlled online mediums. From YouTube personality-driven series (“Every Rolex tells a Story”, Montblanc’s “Trailblazers”) to product placements at A-list red carpets and top sporting events (think Chopard at the Cannes Film Festival or Rafael Nadal wearing the new Richard Mille at Roland Garros), ambassador marketing seems more and more of a social media game.
“Ambassador marketing seems more and more of a social media game.”
After ignoring digital for years, Rolex first graced Instagram at the end of 2015 by tapping into the pool of connections of its celebrity portfolio (Roger Federer alone boasting 2.3 million followers) and promptly overtook the competition in just weeks after the first post.
Similarly, Tiffany & Co., whose leadership in luxury social ranking almost exclusively relies on brand-created content, generated great organic reach via its aspirational demographics by featuring a constellation of celebrity faces in #LegendaryStyle and #LoveNotLike campaigns.
3. Online influencers have serious audiences, and power.
Research from Digital Luxury Group (parent company to Luxury Society) shows 40% of Google results for branded and technical watch brand terms are from blogs and forums. Not surprisingly blogger outreach is a common practice for many. Omega, TAG Heuer, Patek Philippe, IWC, and Vacheron Constantin exercise it regularly and engage in a variety of ways: from simple distribution of brand content to manufacture site visits, invitations to VIP and heritage events, and exposure to exclusive opportunities.
However, truly impactful bloggers are few. No more than 1/3 of luxury digital influencers remain in the top list from one year to another, whilst 90% of conversations and authentic impact in digital is driven by only 3% of individuals.
Chiara Ferragani from The Blonde Salad, Kristina Bazan of Kayture, Aimee Song from Song of Style, Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller, and so many more have already partnered with jewellery and watch brands in meaningful ways.
Dedicated to watch-crazy fans, WatchAnish, HODINKEE, and A Blog to Watch, for starters, are leading the charge in terms of reporting on and partnering with watch brands. Zenith, Rolex, Chopard, Richard Mille, and every brand in between have been covered on these sites in one form or another.
4. Influencers are now defining the brand’s image and products.
The trend started by brands commissioning to online influencers the direction of advertising campaigns and their social media accounts and has now evolved toward product co-creation.
Maurice Lacroix lit up social media networks of the world’s biggest football fans by inviting FC Barcelona players and fans to co-design a special edition collection of timepieces. The social media campaign, worked on by Digital Luxury Group (parent company to Luxury Society), generated lots of attention:
Another example is from Omega, which collaborated with Buzz Aldrin, one of the two astronauts from the 1st mission to the Moon (1969), to develop the “Mars watch”. Part ofthe Omega family, Aldrin attended the Olympics in Rio and extensively supports the brand on Twitter towards his 1 million+ followers. Finally, Tacori entrusted the birth of its Promise bracelet to Wendy Nguyen from Wendy’s Lookbook.
5. Influencer partnerships move beyond the obvious.
To boost ROI of its famous Divine party, De Grisogono experimented with the influencers from complementary luxury sectors such as foods, arts and music to achieve an impressive 1000% increase in the volume of mentions. In the meantime TAG Heuer and the LVMH watch brands leverage the influencing authority of their own CEO, Jean-Claude Biver, who is personally engaged in interacting with followers and watch owners on watch forums.
Doina Ciobanu for De Grisogono at the Cannes Film Festival
6. Budgets are being set aside to work with influencers.
The days of free brand coverage from individuals with massive online audiences are effectively over. It’s become a serious business for many, as evidenced by the fact that Harvard Business School wrote one of their famous case studies on The Blonde Salad's Chiara Ferragni. Brands are realizing that they need to set aside real budgets for proper influencer engagement. Digital Luxury Group’s Genna Meredith, who leads influencer marketing for the agency, shared some insights on potential costs:
High profile Instagrammers are known to charge anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 for a single sponsored post. Someone even more high profile will charge even more, with some brands paying over $10,000 for a single post. In fact, it has even been reported that a few luxury brands have paid over $100,000 (!) for a single post with a top celebrity (think Kim Kardashian level of reach).
Mid-tier Instagrammers and bloggers (those with 150,000 - 500,000 followers) tend to charge on average around $2,000 - $3,000 for a campaign with a set number of sponsored images negotiated in advance.