As more companies and brands are choosing digital influencers to be the face of their brands, marketers are seeing a shift in who consumers look to for the latest trends, products, and lifestyle aspiration. According to a recent eConsultancy survey, nearly 60% of fashion and beauty brands have an influencer marketing strategy in place, and a further 21% plan to invest in one in the next 12 months. Now, entertainment celebrities who used to influence purchasing decisions with name recognition alone are taking a backseat to top fashion bloggers and Instagram stars.
At Social Media Week: Los Angeles, social media marketing agency Magenta hosted a panel to discuss the influence of both celebrities and digital influencers on fashion marketing and determine, if possible, which group is more successful at targeting audiences of fashion brands. The panel was attended by some of the biggest names in fashion, include Stephanie Horbaczewski, president and CEO of YouTube multi-channel network StyleHaul, Aimee Song, top fashion blogger and creator of fashion blog Song of Style, and Katherine Power, Co-Founder and CEO of Who What Wear.
Unsurprisingly, panelists concluded that the accessibility and authenticity of digital influencers make them far more influential on today’s consumers than celebrities, especially when it comes to fashion and beauty trends.
Unlike celebrities, who seem distant and aloof, influencers are often regarded as “regular people,” and this accessibility is what makes top YouTubers like Grace Helbig so popular. Most digital influencers still work regular jobs, have families, and engage in normal social activities that readers, viewers, and followers can relate to. While celebrities usually have a large, impersonal following, digital influencers have a dedicated audience that regularly engages with their content and follows them specifically for both style advice and inspiration.
A digital influencer’s sole purpose is to share their style, making brand endorsements a natural fit. Because celebrities aren’t necessarily viewed as authorities on fashion or style, marketing campaigns with celebrities typically see less engagement and fall short when it comes to ROI. Integration is the key to a successful influencer marketing campaign, and the more authentic a campaign appears, the more influential it will be on targeted consumers.
To illustrate this point, “capsule collections” designed by fashion bloggers sell out within days (or hours) of being released to the public, as was the case with Aimee Song’s SCHULTZ shoe designs. Many brands now partner with key, high-reach social media influencers to launch products, drive brand awareness, and/or host events.
Though they may impersonal at times, celebrities still wield appeal and recognition, and savvy brands can benefit from strategic celebrity marketing campaigns. Kendra Gratteri, Director of Merchandising and Design at BeachMint, Jenny Neymark, Director of Interactive Design and Social Media at ShoeDazzle, and Andrei Najjar, VP of Brand Marketing and Strategy, all advocate the use of celebrities. BeachMint has long-term design collaborations with Rachel Bilson, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Justin Timberlake, while ShoeDazzle recently brought Rachel Zoe on as a lead stylist for the brand. Junk Food, too, partnered with Kristin Cavallari for an NFL-inspired collection.
Due to the different audiences celebrities and digital influencers reach and the varying levels of engagement among their fans and followers, both celebrities and digital influencers can be employed to create a successful integrated marketing campaign. Celebrities are very useful for creating awareness about the brand, since they reach a mass market of consumers, while digital influencers are better at creating an intimate connection between audience and brand. It is this connection that ultimately drives the conversions and sales brands are seeking.
A comprehensive marketing campaign relies on both celebrity and digital influencer endorsements, and few brands achieve this confluence better than Topshop. The fast fashion brand chose world-renowned model Kate Moss as the face of their integrated marketing campaign strategy, introducing what has now become a 14-season run of Kate Moss x Topshop collections.
To complement Moss’ instantly recognizable face and name, Topshop also used prominent YouTubers like Zoella to reinforce their campaign and reach a dedicated consumer audience to help drive conversions.
For brands seeking to capitalize on the visibility and appeal of top digital influencers, influencer marketing provides extremely viable advertising channels and marketing campaign strategies that maximize both reach and engagement with proven results.