How valuable is influence? Modern marketeers are continually grappling with how to use ‘influence’ and where to put their time, focus and investment. ‘Influence’ is nothing new, but, thanks to social media, it has become the Holy Grail of marketing as traditional channels have declined. While measured in followers, engagement etc. the ultimate measurement is sales. And volumes speak volumes for the majority of brands.
Left - Super-influencer Kendall Jenner was made Creative Director of designer multi-brand site FWRD
Brands have partnered and collaborated with influential people for many years, but, in order for them to be more invested, many brands are now appointing influencers as ‘Creative Directors’ or inviting them in as shareholders or investors. This creates longer term relationships and exclusive parties both invested in the success of the arrangement.
Recently in womenswear, PrettyLittleThing announced Love Island’s Molly-Mae Hague, while FRWD announced Kendall Jenner as Creative Directors.
Molly-Mae Hague, 22 years-old with 6 million followers on Instagram, found fame on the ITV dating show. In August, she was announced as UK and EU Creative Director as well as launching her first exclusively designed collection since her announcing new role.
She had previously worked with the brand as their UK Brand Ambassador ‘curating iconic edits’, BTS videos and podcast interviews. In her newly appointed role, the brand said Mae-Hague will take an active position in creatively directing upcoming campaigns for the brand and signing new faces within the UK and EU. Umar Kamani, CEO at PrettyLittleThing said, “This felt like a natural fit for us. Molly has been a huge part of our PrettyLittleThing journey.”
Amy Simon, Global Head of PR and VIP at PrettyLittleThing says, “We have been working with Molly for a few years, way back when she had a much smaller following and she has always been a supporter of the brand.
“We have followed Molly’s career and she was a no-brainer for us when it came to selecting our new Brand Ambassador for the UK. As our relationship has grown with Molly, her input into her shoots and creative has been amazing and she is the PLT customer. She knows what our PLT customer wants, so the choice to then take it a step further was for her to come on board as Creative Director.” says Simon.
Mae-Hague’s current role will be for one year and hopefully way beyond this says the brand.
“She will be meeting the teams at HQ regularly and working across ambassador shoots, seasonal campaigns, our Influencer Marketing strategies, showroom openings, YouTube and so much more. Her role as Creative Director goes beyond her previous Brand Ambassadorship.” says Simon.
Many people are quite sceptical and snobbish about influencers being appointed creative directors at brands. It could be viewed as a kick in the teeth for true designers and creatives, but on the other is this just a natural extension of the brand/influencer relationship?
“Influencers have been a huge part of the brand’s success since the beginning, and we work with influencers of a varied following across the globe.” says Simon.
“The influencer marketing team have great relationships with the ones that we work with and we know our audience relate to the Influencer. We regularly expand beyond just posts, we’ve had many successful edits, interviews for our podcast and collaborations across all our key markets.” she says.
In the US, luxury womenswear fashion destination FORWARD [FWRD], part of the REVOLVE Group has announced Kendall Jenner, 25, as the new Creative Director. Jenner has 192 million followers on Instagram.
“I grew up loving fashion and have been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the most brilliant people in this business. As FWRD’s Creative Director, I am excited to help curate the site’s offering with emerging designers and brands.” said Jenner on her appointment.
The multi-brand site says, as the new Creative Director, Jenner will be in charge of the look and feel of the site, curation of brands sold, monthly edits of must-have trends, styles, and looks, as well as marketing ideas, brand partnerships and brand activations. Jenner kicked off her new role during New York Fashion Week this month.
“Kendall as the Creative Director for FWRD is the perfect choice as we continue to invest in the next generation luxury consumer. We have always had an extreme admiration for Kendall’s style, creativity, and overall exquisite taste. Her multifaceted experience in the fashion industry and the vision she has outlined for the FWRD business has the potential to transform our business and the luxury business as a whole.” Michael Mente, Co-CEO and Co-Founder REVOLVE Group, Inc.
Revolve Group (RVLV) says it ‘is the next-generation fashion retailer for Millennial and Generation Z consumers’ with two sites REVOLVE and FORWARD. REVOLVE offers a more affordable assortment of premium female apparel and footwear, accessories, and beauty products from emerging established and owned brands. At FORWARD, they ‘offer a highly curated assortment of iconic and emerging luxury brands’.
Kendall and Mae-Hague are the same age as the target customer for both of these brands.
Manchester based, In The Style, actively works with influencers to create collections and the influencer gets a cut of sales so has a vested interest in the success.
It’s interesting that they would choose to be so deeply embedded with one brand as it would preclude them (dependent on the contract) of taking money from others, so they deals would have to be favourable. On the flip side for consumers, are they really still mindlessly following what celebrities do? How much longer is that going to last?
Right - Sports stars are the ultimate influencers in menswear - AMC clothing from Castore with tennis player, Andy Murray
Over in menswear, it is sports stars, and more specifically footballers, who wield the greatest influence. Remember how David Beckham wearing that Superdry jacket catapulted the brand? Product placement on influential friends of friends of the brands can really kick start brands, particularly sportswear.
Two such British success stories are Castore and Bee Inspired. Brothers Tom and Phil Beahon, who both came from professional sporting backgrounds, founded Castore with a mission to deliver the ‘lightest, most durable, highest performing sportswear in the market’ and, since its launch in 2015, the digitally native business model has grown rapidly and now sells in more than 50 countries around the world. In 2019, British tennis star, Andy Murray, become a shareholder in the business and took on the role of board advisor, as part of its ongoing long-term partnership. His AMC range of sportswear under the Castore umbrella was recently seen on 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu’s coaching staff. Castore recently launched a collection with Olympic and Strictly Come Dancing swimmer Adam Peaty and are forecasting to turnover £14m this year.
In 2013 professional footballers Steven Robb and Mark Corcoran hung up their boots and were inspired to embark on a journey to change the landscape of streetwear. They launched Bee Inspired. Gifting their footballer friends and being featured on their subsequent social media channels helped the Glasgow based brand to grow extremely quickly. Lionel Messi (269 million Instagram followers), Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho have all worn Bee Inspired. They recently launched womenswear.
The sports shoe brand, On, an investment from Swiss tennis star Roger Federer, is eyeing a valuation of more than $6 billion in a U.S. initial public offering (IPO), a recent regulatory filing showed. On was founded in 2010 by running enthusiasts Olivier Bernhard, David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti, with Federer investing an undisclosed sum in the company in 2019.
“When we spotted Roger wearing On shoes around the world, we just got in touch. Turns out, he has been an On fan for a while. Switzerland is relatively small and it wasn’t long before Roger was catching up with our senior leadership team over dinner.” says the brand. Asian private equity firm Hillhouse also owns a stake.
Long term collaborations often turn into these arrangements. Many sports starts with money to invest are looking for income into retirement.
Somebody like Lewis Hamilton, who recently took a table at the Met Gala for young designers, is showing a strong interest in fashion. His collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger started in 2018, with his latest collection being entirely vegan. It wouldn’t take a genius for somebody at PVH, Tommy Hilfiger’s parent company, to want to tie him in and his 24 million Instagram followers into a permanent and invested relationship like his own label. Something sustainable, possibly?
Not all influencer investments have worked out as well. Just look at Rhianna’s Fenty clothing line or David Beckham with Kent & Curwen, where there was a price disconnect between the product and the audience. Aspiration is one thing, being unaffordable is another. The super-influencer needs to feel like the customer, but they also need to produce something that people can afford.
Super-influencers know their value and in a world becoming immune to sponsored posts it requires brands to think deeper and bigger. Tying them into a proper contracts or investments, but also allowing them to create what they want and then promote it is a major attraction to brands. The super-influencers get a deeper financial, creative and more fulfilling relationship and the chance to be part of something that could be really big. Having both invested parties pulling in the same direction and making product for the same audience is the ultimate in influence.
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