Does Authenticity Exist in an Influencer-Led World? (Stylus)
While the ‘unfiltered’ movement on social media – the concept of being ‘real’ in a virtual world – can often seem contrived, it’s safe to say that consumers are more likely to buy into a brand that uses ‘relatable’ influencers in their marketing strategies than those who opt to work with regular celebrities or models. Here, we unpack the business of influencer marketing, and consider where this lucrative sector will head in the future. As consumer eyes are starting to open to ‘pay-to-play’, will influencers’ authenticity begin to diminish?
Big Brands Begin to Change the Face of Their Advertising
Be it Chanel or Covergirl, beauty giants have traditionally used their magnitudinous marketing budgets to snag the most world’s most in-demand women in popular culture – usually models, actresses or musicians – to promote their latest wares. However, the boom in popularity of bloggers and YouTube beauty gurus means that even the biggest beauty names are looking to bring a bit of ‘realness’ into their advertising output. Take Rimmel London, for example – the budget beauty brand, known for its Kate Moss-fronted campaigns, chose YouTube star Lewys Ball as one of its newest faces at the beginning of the year. And then there’s L’Oreal, which has found success using influencers in its advertising since launching its ‘beauty squad’ back in September 2016, and has continued to sign up new faces since then. Adrien Koskas, L’Oreal’s UK general manager, explained to Marketing Week that the brand is in the process of “shifting more of its budget away from traditional media to social influencers after seeing an uplift in sales.” The brand’s first influencer-headed campaign, for its True Match foundation, became the UK’s best-selling foundation. Whether this is due to the power of the influencers is debatable, but they arguably must have had some factor in the foundation’s success.
Adding ‘Realness’ to the Luxury Market
Beauty often mirrors fashion in that, the higher the price, the more ‘serious’ the positioning of the brand. Drugstore beauty brands, like high-street clothing stores, are more likely to pull in customers with larger-than-life, bordering-on-wacky ad campaigns, punchy slogans and fun packaging. The luxury beauty sector is commonly typified by glossy packaging and even glossier ad campaigns, with a defined point of view and, all too often, not a pore in sight. While the Instagram feeds of brands like Sisley and La Mer continue to focus more on the product and glamorous lifestyle posts than famous (or, crucially in this day and age, Insta-famous) faces, some new brands entering the top end of the market are thinking of different ways to add a little touch of ‘realness’ to the mix. Take Madonna’s skin care line, MDNA Skin, for example. If you look at the brand’s website, it is typical of any luxury beauty brand’s digital presence – think shiny packaging, scientific terminology and a detailed brand story – but a scroll down the MDNA Instagram feed depicts a slightly different picture of the brand. A sense of relatability shines through in unfiltered, close-up shots of Madonna and images of people grinning while wearing the brand’s face masks. Other posts, meanwhile, show MDNA products and tools demonstrated in videos (which, as a newly released report suggests, should be a key area of focus for those seeking Instagram success) that look like they’ve been shot on a regular phone camera – not through a professional lens.
The Rise of the Micro-Influencer
As industry giants like L’Oreal begin to take note of influencers’ sway on sales, it’s predictable that brands with smaller budgets run the risk of being priced out of the influencer market. However, a different type of influencer is gaining traction in the world of digital media and, thankfully for those with less to spend on advertising, they’re slightly more accessible due to having a lower following. When influencer marketing platform Markerly carried out a survey of 2 million social media influencers, some brands may have been surprised by the results, as the results showed that for unpaid posts, influencers with fewer than 1000 followers have an 8% ‘like’ rate, while those with between 1000 and 10000 followers had a 4% like rate. Realising that an increased follower base can actually equate to a decreased ‘like’ rate, some brands are banking on so-called ‘micro influencers’ to promote their products – that is, influential figures on social media who don’t have multiple contracts with huge brands currently on-the-go, and have a large, yet not intimidating, following. Scroll down beauty brand Rituals’ Instagram feed, for example, and (unless you’re a particularly dedicated social media user) you’re unlikely to recognise all of the people featured on it. Endorsements from figures like ballerina Igone De Jongh and artist Jana Jedi¥ess Pallaske feature alongside reposts from fans who aren’t known by the public, such as @ailsasheldon (500+ followers) and @frenchmade_xiv (1k+ followers), adding a more authentic feel to the brand’s feed. It appears that, for an increasing number of beauty brands, adopting a splintered attitude towards influencers is key, with ‘big’ no longer equating to ‘better.’
This post was originally written for Decoded Fashion, who I write blogs for on a weekly basis. You can check out the post here.
Header image via @Ritualscosmetics