In a recent article for UK fashion magazine Grazia, fashion influencer Susie Lau (of StyleBubble) spoke about the ‘business of blogging.’ Her article reflected on the trajectory of influencers; from the bedroom bloggers of the noughties to the Instagram influencer of today, reporting that some influencers have been known to sell $20,000 worth of merchandise from a single Snapchat post. That said, the benefits are not always clear, and for many luxury brands, the world of influencer marketing can be a minefield: which one or ones to work with, how much to pay, how to retain control, how to ensure your influencer doesn’t work with a rival brand. And unlike most other advertising mediums, many influencers don’t have transparent rate cards, and the ones that do can charge anywhere from a few hundred to over $10,000 for one post.
In its simplest form, an influencer campaign is akin to sponsored content, Unlike a print advertorial or native banner ad, there is a genuine human connection required that makes it a lot more difficult to navigate. And when done in the right way, with the right objectives and planning, these partnerships can be extremely viable - both in terms of ROI and building consumer trust.
We advise our clients to consider six key categories of influencers:
1. The Professionals
Who are they? The super bloggers and professional Instagrammers. The group most often referred to when someone says they want to work with an influencer. They usually have hundreds of thousands of followers or more. Some have a successful blog or YouTube account and may even have a team of experts to help with photo shoots and editing. Often spotted on the front row or acting as consultants for brands. With less followers, but a niche range of influencer, ‘microbloggers’ have significant prominence in certain sectors and have followers from 50k-100k, or less.
How to work with them: Usually the most costly and competitive, the key is to look for synergies, engagement rate, and audience. It can be tricky to get hold of the larger influencers, with many using agencies to cut deals. But with the right plan and shared values working with a professional vlogger or Instagram influencer can bring an incredible amount of clout for a brand.
A sketch of the “Mini Horizon” by Givenchy x Mr. Bags, which was released on WeChat on February 3. (Photo from Jing Daily)
2. Traditional Media and Journalists
Who are they? The publications, journalists, and writers whose content often influences brand aficionados and consumers. Though things may have been done solely on a blog or in print in the past, these individuals and media players still hold a lot of influencer in the digital world, often with advanced approaches to social media content.
Like who? Watch industry insiders like Hodinkee and a A Blog to Watch, or lifestyle publications like Cool Hunting, High Snobiety, or more general news outlets with a dedicated journalist or section by industry, e.g. Forbes, The New York Times, The Telegraph Luxury.
How to work with them: Advertorial-style content, inviting them to your key events, sharing press release information, offering exclusive interviews or behind-the-scenes content. Think traditional PR but with an added layer of digital content and storytelling. There can be a great SEO benefit here, with backlinks and mentions of keywords too.
Hodinkee x Vacheron Constantin who collaborated on a limited edition of 36 watches.
3. The Celebrities
Who are they? This category needs little introduction as it is the one the luxury industry is most familiar with. These are the celebrity ambassadors such as actors, athletes, or entertainers, who become part of the brand family and star in advertising campaigns, attend events wearing the brand's jewelry or post images from their trip to a luxury hotel.
Like who? Li BingBing for Carl F. Bucherer, Lily Rose Depp for Chanel, Hugh Jackman for Montblanc, Jennifer Aniston for Emirates.
How to work with them: The most expensive influencer category, working with celebrities should be reserved for big campaigns and contracts. Often brands are limited in what they can and cannot do with their ambassadors, but making the most of the content you get with your chosen ambassador is key. Occasionally a celebrity is also a genuine consumer, in which case you have an ideal synergy (think Justin Bieber for Calvin Klein). In some cases bloggers have become celebrities from being experts (e.g. Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad, Marques Brownlee of MKBHD)
Jennifer Aniston in Emirates Airlines Advertising. Image Courtesy of Emirates.
4. The Creatives
Who are they? The artists, photographers, artisans, and craftspeople who share your passion for creating something luxurious, usually by hand, but are not in the same field or expertise as your brand. They should share your core values to have the best synergy, and are great for introducing their audience to your brand or for amplifying your own values to your audience.
Like who? TAG Heuer and artist Alec Monopoly, Zenith and tattoo artist Luke Wessman, Bulgari and architect Zaha Hadid.
How to work with them: Working on content or product co-creation or inviting them to an event to bring buzz or bring their expertise into your industry.
Alec Monopoly at work on the TAG Heuer store facade in Crans Montana. Photo courtesy of TAG Heuer
5. The Aficionados/Experts
Who are they? These tend to be more than your usual consumer as they have expertise in your product category and may even blog or speak about the industry itself. They know their stuff and can be critical in convincing your wider audience.
How to work with them: Invite them into your world, but don’t try to push/control too much. Find the ones who are also lovers of the brand and you’ve got a perfect match. You as a brand can also learn from them, see what they are writing about and keep up with the trends of the industry.
Jim Chapman on How to Buy a Suit with British GQ. Image courtesy of GQ YouTube
6. Don’t forget your customers
Who are they? Your actual customers who have a genuine love for your luxury brand, product or service. Not necessarily a huge amount of followers, but true ambassadors. According to a global report on consumer trust published by Olapic, almost 76% of regular social media users view user generated content as more trustworthy than ads, so a key category not to be missed.
How to work with them: Content is key here - using their well taken photos or testimonials and giving them kudos for their posts. For some brands it can also mean inviting them to learn more about the brand, giving them access to content and behind the scenes.
An example of user generated content used on the official Caran d’Ache Instagram Account
These six categories are by no means exhaustive or exclusive; a professional blogger could also be a collector, a journalist may also be a product lover, but categorizing in this way helps break down the sometimes confusing world of influencers.
When choosing who to work with, and how to work with them, luxury brands should look at the influencer’s style and check whether that suits the brands tone of voice and specific marketing objectives. Looking at follower count alone isn’t enough; we recommend to go beyond the basics and evaluate based on metrics such as social engagement, domain authority and audience demographics.
When we see that content is cited as the driving force behind influencer campaigns, it’s easy to see the ever increasing power of a strategy that comes from real people that consumers can relate to. These instagrammers and YouTube vloggers open up an aspirational lifestyle, allowing brands to leverage their voice and reach as an an alternative, and some say more genuine, advertising channel.
*Main Image: Hung Vanngo, professional makeup artist. Image: Fashion Gone Rogue