A report by Fashion and Beauty Monitor finds influencers gaining ground.

It’s a Faustian bargain.

Luxury brands want to access influencers’ young and fashion-obsessed audiences. Influencers are willing to collaborate with luxury labels, but increasingly want more creative control over social media campaigns, an idea that’s anathema for many a luxury brand.

“The luxury market has always been very cautious,” said Priyanka Dayal, content manager for Fashion and Beauty Monitor, which published a study, “The New Face of Luxury.” “They’ve guarded their brands so closely that it’s been a struggle. Which is why you can see that 73 percent of luxury brands are actively using influencers, but almost half admit they’ve been doing it for less than a year.”

Beauty brands have been among the most successful at harnessing the power of influencers, perceived by consumers to be more authentic than celebrities or actors. While many luxury brands already employ influencers, 66 percent said they’ll increase spending moderately or significantly for the remainder of 2017 and 2018. About 47 percent of nonluxury brands concurred.

Luxury brands said they’ll be more purposeful with influencers, from finding the right fit and managing the relationship to determining return-on-investment for each campaign, the report said. Identifying the right influencer was considered the most important element of a campaign, and also the biggest challenge. According to the survey, 78 percent of luxury brands still search social media for potentials, which is a time-consuming process.

Demographics, social listening, brand affinities and other audience data can help luxury firms mount successful influencer marketing campaigns. The report broke down the audience data of Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad as an example of the depth of information available, showing the age range of her followers, their interests, favorite brands and hashtags.

Almost half of the luxury brands, or 46 percent, queried for the report said they’ll spend more money to manage influencer relationships compared with 18 percent of fashion and beauty brands, a sign that the luxury sector is set to go all-in to explore the potential of influencer marketing.

The report suggests that the relationships between brands and influencers in the not-so-distant future will take a longer-term view as trust builds on both sides. “Brands will also be more willing to hand over creative control to the influencers they’re collaborating with.”

That may seem unlikely for luxury players, which protect their image compulsively. Ceding control of the narrative of influencer-led campaigns was very challenging or quite challenging for 59 percent of luxury brands. “Letting go of creative control is still a big risk, and requires a complete overhaul in mind-set and culture,” Dayal said. “The whole advertising model has changed. If you look at social media, Twitter has become the new newspaper, and Instagram, the new magazine. Luxury brands know they need to be on Instagram and Twitter.”

Dayal said YSL Volume Effect mascara sold out with a single post by Arielle Charnas of Something’s Navy, who published a Snapchat story that resulted in $13,500 in sales. “Luxury brands are embracing this. If they don’t, they’ll loose out on those eyeballs.”

Micro-influencers have established areas of expertise and are vocal in sharing their opinions and points of view. While micro-influencers don’t have the large numbers of followers of better-known social media personalities, the attraction for luxury brands is their creativity, knowledge and devoted and authentic audiences, which could translate into high ROI. “Brands aren’t looking to replace a celebrity, they’re looking to expand their audiences,” Dayal said. “They want to talk to a younger generation than they’re speaking to already.”

Over the next 12 months, look for new partnership models such as Influencer Squared to emerge. With cross-collaborations, an example of Influencer Squared could be connecting an influencer with an airline, a yacht brand and a luxury fashion brand and having the influencer document the journey. Brands cosponsoring such content could reach more people for a reduced spend.

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