Instagram is the world’s most dominant platform for influencer marketing—it’s estimated that the Instagram influencer marketing industry will reach $2 billion by 2019. The social media platform boasts over 1 billion users, making it a powerful beacon for consumer brands.
Instagram is home to an untold number of social media influencers who create content for every imaginable niche. It’s difficult—for both brands and creators—to stand out in this very crowded space. The trend-based nature of Instagram content can cast a generic “sameness” over your Instagram feed, to the point where it can be difficult to identify any distinguishing quality of a specific influencer.
The most creative Instagram influencers establish themselves as not just a tastemaker, but a distinct brand that expands beyond the individual. Extraordinarily creative influencers have cultivated a unique aesthetic to truly make their mark on Instagram.
Sam Ushiro is a Brooklyn-based blogger and industrial designer. The self-professed lover of unicorns and donuts is the creator behind the blog Aww Sam. Sam shares a range of home decor, DIY, party planning, and baking projects in the technicolor dreamscape of her Instagram feed. She showcases her vibrantly colorful sense of style through fashion and travel content.
Sam posts detailed tutorials for her baking projects on the blog, in addition to detailed travel guides and life updates. This allows fans to get an in-depth look at her stunning loft renovations and plans to elope with Kyle, her fiancé and work collaborator.
Sam’s distinctly vivid aesthetic and flair for photography make her an excellent ambassador for many brands, including Google, Haagen Das, Brooklinen, Dunkin Donuts, and Target. Recent brand activations include:
Function of Beauty
Tara Whiteman is a creative force from Sydney, Australia. Her Instagram and blog, Tara Milk Tea, showcase her bright and beautiful travel adventures across the globe. An exceptionally well-traveled influencer, Tara photojournals each detail of her escapes including hotel, sightseeing, and dining experiences.
She is noted for her ultra-feminine, whimsical photos which evoke a lushly detailed fairytale. Her cosmopolitan sheen makes her a well-suited beacon for international brands including Canon, Qantas, and Tiffany & Co.
Crazy Rich Asians
Coco is a 7-year-old fashionista living in Japan. This preternaturally stylish tastemaker has become a Japanese fashion icon. After evacuating Fukushima in response to the 2011 earthquake, Coco’s parents relocated to Tokyo and now own a clothing boutique called FUNKTIQUE in the eccentric, fashionable Harajuku district.
Coco’s Instagram account blossomed from a natural interest in fashion that started as an after-school hobby. Her style inspirations range from Disney princesses, Japanese street style, and European runways. The juxtaposition of adult outfits on a pint-sized child is simply adorable.
Coco doesn’t do many conventional brand collaborations, though each Instagram post is tagged with couture lines like Gucci, Dior, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. Coco’s response to the question “What’s your favorite brand?” is refreshing: “I don’t know yet.” Coco garners press attention from publishers like Vice and Nylon, and is connected to several ad campaigns:
Elle Magazine x Moncler
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Nyané Lebajoa is a model, makeup artist, and entrepreneur born in Lesotho, now living in London. Known simply by the moniker Nyané, she has attracted attention for her striking beauty looks which fuse high-fashion, glam, and urban aesthetics.
Her portraits are both intimate and elevated, showcasing a daring streak of experimentation. Nyané frequently wears wigs from her MOOD line and makeup from other lines founded by influencers, including Huda Beauty and Lime Crime. Her skill with hair and makeup gives her an ethereal, chameleon-like quality that helps her stand out in a very crowded sea of beauty influencers. Brands benefit from her wild yet refined sense of style:
Mood Hair Inc. (Nyané’s wig company)
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Just having a fun Saturday changing my lipstick like 100 times ? what’s your favourite lip colour? 1 – 6 ? ? Go get the @TikTok app and check out my new video for the #posechallenge ! and follow me @nyanécat ? I dare you to do your own, repost it, and tag me in the comments. I’ll be on the lookout and liking the best! #sponsored
Nick Makrides is a professional pastry chef, graphic designer, and photographer living in Australia. He is the creator behind the brand The Scran Line, a blog that fuses all three interests and amplifies them through a huge presence on YouTube and Instagram. The Scran Line specializes in vibrantly hued cupcakes, layered cakes, macarons, and other confections.
On a personal note, Nick is an advocate for LGBT rights and has shared his deeply personal experience of coming out of the closet. He encourages all people to live by his motto to “break through the barriers of what everyone else thinks is normal and do what makes you happy.”
Treats from the Scran Line are instantly recognizable by their fluorescent color palette and signature graphic design aesthetic. Nick provides meticulously crafted tutorials for his recipes, many of which are pop-culture inspired with a cultish bend. His exceptional culinary craftsmanship has earned him superstar status on social media and an ambassadorship for popular food video website Tastemade.
Recent brand collaborations include:
Netflix Sugar Rush
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Hey guys! This is a bit of a different video today but super exciting! Today I’m going to try to make, bake and decorate a cupcake (from scratch) in 30 minutes!!! Disaster or success? Watch and find out! Do you guys want to see more 30 min cupcakes? Let me know in the comments! This is to help celebrate the launch of a new show called SUGAR RUSH, now streaming, only on Netflix!. HERE??WE??GO!?? #ad @sugarrushnetflix
Related Post: Top 10 Food Bloggers Inspiring Future Chefs
Kate Weiland is a Canadian lifestyle blogger and photographer, known for her uber-playful family portraits. Kate’s photos, many of which feature her three young children, are notable for their use of forced-perspective to “dress” each family member with food items to compose a meal.
Kate constantly experiments with clever composition styles, many of which take the form of photo series where family members wear coordinating outfits. Kate started taking family photos as a creative outlet, drawing on her own background in dance and drama. She says, “I knew it would be fun to start a series where our family could look back and just have a good laugh. The outfit ideas are endless and I’m eager to create and present new designs.” She’s brought this inventive spirit to her collaborations with brands:
Rocky Mountain Decals
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Fecal Matter is the brainchild of life and business partners Steven Raj Bhaskaran and Hannah Rose Dalton, who star as alien characters in a captivating world of their own creation. The brand can be described as an extremely original art and fashion project which is at once otherworldly, beautiful, and grotesque. The alien character costumes reportedly take up to five hours to fully assemble and style.
True-to-form, the pair doesn’t promote any products other than their one-of-a-kind clothing, accessory, and costume pieces. The pair cites science fiction, horror movies, and Japanese manga as inspirations for their extraterrestrial themes. In a recent profile in the New York Times, Mx. Bhaskaran stated, “We’re not trying to be an influencer. We’re not trying to follow the rules.”
One-of-a-kind pieces designed by Fecal Matter
Jane Aldridge is a part of the elite cohort of fashion bloggers who were famous in a pre-social media era. Her vintage-inspired style is showcased on the blog, Sea of Shoes, which the Texan launched a decade ago (which is eons in internet time) when she was just 15-years-old. A thrift shop and eBay aficionado, Jane’s style incorporates a ton of vintage pieces from both high-fashion and indie brands.
Jane does selective brand collaborations on her Instagram but notes her devotion to long-form storytelling on her blog, which she refers to as a “style diary.” In an age where so many aspiring influencers post photos on Instagram without little narrative, Jane says, “I don’t want to just throw something up there without a story behind it. There is a story behind everything.” Sea of Shoes blog serves as an outlet to share the story behind her outfits and history behind her vintage pieces.
Jane is a feminist and an avid consumer of culture, whether that be watching classic films, listening to history podcasts and foreign music, or devouring literature. Her fascination with the human disposition is just one reason that she remains a fixture in the rapid-fire trend-cycle that characterizes much of influencer marketing.
Adam Gallagher is the mastermind behind the men’s fashion blog I AM GALLA. I AM GALLA is one of the most followed male fashion accounts on Instagram, which displays Adam’s sophisticated sense of style infused with travel and lifestyle content. Adam is known for his ultra-refined taste in all things menswear, especially suits and dress attire. His photography production is outstanding—Adam’s photoshoots could be pulled from the pages of a GQ fashion editorial.
His blog, which is over 8 years old, demonstrates Adam’s perspective as a true artist and visual storyteller. Some of his most memorable photo series revolve around a particular era, like “1950s Havana gangster” or “summering on the Italian Riviera.”
As a creator who launched his blog as a pure passion project, Adam has expressed frustration over the saturated, pay-to-play Instagram influencer community that has developed recently. He has shared personal struggles with depression, which has led to several monthslong hiatuses from publishing new content. Despite that, he maintains an avid Instagram following and has hinted at upcoming music projects. I AM GALLA tends to attract luxury and fashion brands as partners:
Carl F. Bucherer
Creative Instagram influencers are true artists with a one-of-a-kind vision. Brand partnerships flourish when the influencer takes the lead, with minimal brand interference on creative direction. Sponsored posts benefit from the imaginative nature and unique perspective of the creators.
Says Adam of I AM GALLA of brand activations, “It took me 7 years to realize that I’m more creative so if a brand doesn’t allow for us to have our own creative direction then it’s probably not a match made in heaven.”
As Instagram becomes increasingly saturated with influencers, it becomes increasingly difficult for any content to stand out. Many lifestyle bloggers chase trends and churn out similar content with little distinction (i.e. latte art).
Creative Instagrammers can deliver original content in part because they’ve gained success through cultivating their own iconic style. Nick of the Scran Line explains, “Trends come and go. I don’t bother with them to be honest. It’s not my style.”
Many influencer accounts feel superficial because the influencer themselves doesn’t allow their depth as a person to shine through. The most successful creators allow themselves to be vulnerable by sharing real feelings and taking artistic risks. Their distinct style comes as a result of expressing their personal worldviews through their content.
Creators attract followers who connect deeply with their content based on similar taste or interests. This passionate fanbase translates into a highly engaged following. This engagement goes beyond the normal social media interactions (e.g. likes, comments, shares).
Fans of cooking or DIY influencers will recreate their recipes and projects, which shows a deeper level of engagement that transfers off of Instagram and into real life. Brands aspire to this type of action when engaging a creator to plug their product.
In an interview, Jane Aldridge shared how her passion for vintage clothing has fostered “so many special relationships with the vintage community, and being part of that is just the thing that makes me happiest.”
An engaged online community translates well to real-world activity, from product sales to event attendance to mobile app downloads.
Instagram can seem to be dominated by style over substance. This isn’t the case for highly creative Instagram influencers, who infuse their content with a narrative and backstory.
The majority of the influencers on our list maintain blogs, which is becoming increasingly rare as it’s simpler to build a following on Instagram alone.
“I find my blog is really important for me to develop my own plot line and what’s inspiring me, and I wear so much vintage that truly there are so many stories with the outfit that I’m wearing and what goes into them,” says Jane Aldridge.
Sponsored blog content benefits brands because it has a longer lifespan. Instagram posts will fade from users’ feeds within days and Stories disappear within hours. Blog posts will attract organic traffic from search engines in perpetuity. A blog posted years ago will still attract users seeking out information about a specific brand.
Highly creative influencers have been honing their craft for a long time. Brands benefit from the painstaking detail that creators will put into producing high-quality content. Their creative drive makes their content highly personal and raises the stakes in terms of output.
Creative influencers invest in their tools, which might mean:
Says Adam Gallager, “I’ve decided to elevate my branding by using only DSLR cameras, Photoshop as opposed to phone apps/filters & overall raising the bar.”