LONDON — Is it just a numbers game?
In the ever-changing dynamics of the influencer marketing landscape, it looks as if the “all-star” influencers, whose numbers of followers are in the millions, are back in favor.
“Up until last year, nano-influencers were the belles of the ball, but in 2020 brands have been working more with macro-influencers. We’ve seen this in fashion, but also in other industries such as beauty and hospitality,” said Eve Lyons, vice president of marketing at Traackr, a data-driven influencer marketing platform.
According to a new report by Launchmetrics, all-star influencers saw a rise from 10 percent to 25 percent in the media impact value they generated in the luxury and premium fashion sectors. Micro-influencers, whose followers tend to be below 50,000, were the only influencer tier that saw their value share decrease compared to 2019.
That trend, alongside increased visibility and engagement on celebrities’ social media sites (media impact value for celebrities went up 71 percent) highlights an “overall trend toward these larger, more authoritative voices,” according to Launchmetrics.
What’s happening now is very different to what was expected to happen earlier this year, when much of the world went into lockdown and declared the influencer industry pretty much dead as brand-sponsored trips and gifting dried up.
Widely reported incidents, such as the falling out between the mega-influencer Arielle Charnas of Something Navy and her audience, gave rise to an overall sentiment of fatigue with the saturated influencer space and the mostly polished, branded content it’s been relying on.
At the time there was much talk about a shift to smaller influencers and more value-driven posts as a result of the pandemic. But it turns out that’s not what luxury consumers are looking for: They want to see familiar faces, a fair share of glamour and great fashion content instead.
It’s why established names like Chiara Ferragni, Leonie Hanne, Caroline Daur or Camille Charrière have only seen their popularity rise this year, with brands relying on them even more.
“Macro-influencers drive extraordinary impact, far outweighing even a large group of micro-influencers,” Lyons added.
Case in point: When Dior was launching its new Dior Bobby bag, the brand turned to such digital talent to help it tell the story of the new bag. The result was “soaring sales in a matter of days,” according to the label.
The likes of Ferragni, a long-term “friend of the brand,” as well as Blackpink singer and actress Jisoo and American actress Kat Graham, all featured in the campaign.
“With more than 300 digital talents taking part in the promotion of the bag and the resulting commercial success, the engagement exceeded our expectations,” said a Dior spokesperson, adding that the brand looked at the situation each market was facing and timed the launch accordingly.
“It was vital to ensure that the timing was right, not off-message, and that the potential audience and clients would be ready to welcome this new bag,” they added.
Indeed, at a time of economic uncertainty it’s challenging to talk about high-priced handbags — or reach consumers through traditional modes of communication. Brands had to tone down their own p.r. efforts in response to the current climate, while magazines were harder to get hold of.
That’s where these far-reaching, online voices came in handy: Speaking to communities that still had an appetite for luxury fashion and online shopping, these influencers managed to strike a balance between communicating on global issues while still posting more lighthearted, fashion content from the comfort of their homes.
With more at stake, the size of an influencer’s audience became one of the most important factors in determining whether they would be included in a social activation, particularly for sought-after luxury houses with access to top-tier talent
“Big luxury houses have always worked with established influencers. Highly followed influencers are great to raise awareness around a product launch. It’s more impactful. It gives more visibility to the brand and the product,” said Linda Saieb, founder of LHS Consulting.
That’s not to say that it’s all just numbers. For Dior, working with a variety of talent and with influencers who have established long-term partnerships with the house were other key priorities.
Louis Vuitton, which launched a global social media campaign to accompany the debut of its new Pont Neuf bag, adopted a similar approach, turning to the likes of Chau Bui, a Vietnam-based influencer with a wide following across Asia; Emma Chamberlain, who reaches a younger, Gen Z audience; Sharon Alexie, who is also an anti-racist activist, and U.S.-based influencers Sami Miro and Kristen Noel Crawley.
The aim was to reach as wide a clientele as possible and to increase the desirability of the bag by having these influencers style it in their own way and present it in their chosen surroundings. It was mission accomplished for Vuitton, which said its digital campaign generated more than 250 posts in the influencers’ feed, 280-plus stories and more than 20 million likes on Western social media.
“Targeting the right influencers who can style a bag the right way surely helps raise its desirability,” said Saieb, adding that in the current landscape high followings and a sense of style also need to be accompanied with “a point of view on society, on the evolution of the world, and everything that’s happening outside of fashion.”
While the tide is definitely turning in favor of all-star names and the idea that smaller followings equal higher engagement rates is now largely dismissed, marketers agree that there’s still value in investing in more nascent, niche talent.
“The small but cool influencers of today are the big influencers of tomorrow. They bring something else to the table. It’s just like advertising with InStyle [as opposed to] 032C. The readership is different, the audience is different, the editorial line is different, yet big brands advertise in both magazines,” Saieb said.