LOS ANGELES — Revolve chief brand officer Raissa Gerona is sitting on the deck of the Revolve Social Club on Melrose Avenue.
It’s a place where everything — right down to the bathrooms — is Instagrammable in a way that’s calculated enough to have justified the space’s expense (used mainly for events and VIP hangouts rather than commerce) but in that buzziest of buzzwords, is “authentic” so as not to be off-putting to the very consumer it’s trying to reach.
That’s the challenge and the balance for Revolve, which is a case study in influencer marketing aimed at Millennials that has helped fuel growth expected to reach $1 billion in sales by 2018.
“It is like dating,” Gerona said of sussing out what influencers to work with. “We work with the same girls a lot of the times and it’s for a reason. They understand the business and they respect exactly what we’re trying to do and we respect exactly what they’re doing. But I hear all the time that brands don’t really understand influencer marketing and that is to me very shocking because you have to at this point. When people ask me what’s going to happen with influencers two or three years from now, I say unless YouTube or Instagram are going out of business, they’re going to be thriving.”
That reality’s helped Revolve create one of the most covetable social media followings (1.6 million Instagram followers) where posts show girls having fun, traveling and wearing the best fashions. It’s also aligned with some of the largest influencer “It” girls including The Blonde Salad’s Chiara Ferragni, Song of Style blogger Aimee Song, Julie Sariñana of Sincerely Jules and Shea Marie of Peace Love Shea, among others. So while the Revolve Social Club may serve as the nerve center for the company’s marketing, its efforts have ballooned to include major productions such as Revolve Around the World, which for all intents and purposes is Revolve traveling with a handful of influencers, sometimes plugging product from partner brands and documenting the whole experience. The company has hosted a total of 13 to date.
“I was really able to prove that this concept of traveling is something that Revolve as a brand should go after from a branding standpoint. Revolve is really aspirational and travel is synonymous with that,” Gerona said. “Who doesn’t want to be cute and cool and have a jet-set lifestyle? You can’t hate on someone who’s in Positano, [Italy]. I’m sorry; you can’t.”
There are also the Coachella parties, which this year saw the company strike a deal with Billboard to team on various events throughout the year beginning with the annual music festival in Indio, Calif. This year’s Coachella experiences also saw the company for the first time take over a hotel and re-brand it as Hotel Revolve for its crew to stay, party and post at.
“I think about what we can control or make sure what feels good and looks good is the experience and the environment and the vibe. That’s why the Revolve Social Club, for instance, was born,” she said. “It’s everything we think Revolve should look like and feel like. So when we bring influencers in here I don’t have to tell her anything. She’s going to [post to social media], but it’s because everybody provided her with the canvas to do her job. And that’s the thing with the extension of Hotel Revolve or going on a trip: We’re curating these experiences.”
There is much more competition in the influencer space than when Gerona first began working with influencers around 2011 when she was building the line Lovers & Friends, which was started as a side project of Revolve cofounder Michael Mente and herself after her own collection ran out of funding and had to wind down during the recession.
So in this fast-moving world where brand loyalty is fleeting and consumer attention spans are nearly nonexistent, the pressure is big for the company’s brand and marketing teams to stay ahead of the competition.
“The pressure to be better is good because I think a lot of times brands that are killing it or doing a really good job, you become stagnant,” Gerona said. “I think for me personally I want to make sure we continue to elevate ourselves and challenge ourselves and continually come up with new, fresh ideas and ask, ‘What’s everyone not doing right now?’”
For More on Revolve in WWD:
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Nicole Richie’s House of Harlow 1960, Revolve Team on New Collection