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  • Writer's pictureHenry M Green

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In marketing, word-of-mouth is the most secure way of selling products. However, for a very long time, this method has not translated efficiently from a localised set-up to a global marketplace. That is, until the advent of the age of the influencer! Social media has made it easier for brands to personally connect with its customers and one way that has proven particularly effective is with the use of social media influencers.

In recent years the social media influencing industry has grown into a multibillion dollar industry. The role of an influencer, operating across multiple social media platforms, has revolutionised the way brands can connect with their target audiences. Not only changing how products are marketed, but how they are sold. The fashion industry is at the forefront of growth in this market with huge fashion houses now taking to these online platforms to promote their product and brand. As a result they have truly dominated social media advertisements by way of celebrity sponsorship and digital promotion. It is therefore unsurprising that in recent times, fashion brands are targeting their customers more directly through social media influencers. For example, the global revenue of luxury conglomerates from the likes of Louis Vuitton Moeh-Hennessy (LVMH) produced over £58 billion in 2019 alone.

Social media has become an integral aspect of promotion and customer following within the fashion industry. In a report by the Telegraph it is stated that brands spend over £1 billion on sponsored Instagram posts year on year. The normal fee for an Instagram post with a brand mention from a social media influencer with a 50,000 person following, can charge a minimum of £1000, with cost increasing along with follower-base. For example, an influencer/celebrity with around 1.5 million followers can frequently charge up to £58,000 per post. These figures display the expense that brands will go to for the publicity these well-known influencers can bring. Often, there is a surge of employment opportunities for social media influencers during and around fashion weeks and other high profile events. As a result, during these periods, some media stars can often post up to 8 advertisements per day. Well-known social media influencer Danielle Burnstein, stated that she charges between $5000 and $15,000 per instagram post, which contributes to a large proportion of her immediate earnings, and six figure average salary per year, mainly from influencing.

Before the dawn of social media influencers brands would exclusively use super-models to promote their products. An example of this is Naomi Campbell’s campaign for Gianni Versace, in the nineties. Nonetheless, it was Anna Wintour that first started to utilise celebrity actresses for her American Vogue covers in the late nineties which was a game changer in the fashion world, pioneering the relationship between the fashion world and hollywood.

Undoubtedly, you cannot explore the topic of social media influencers without coming across the Kardashian/Jenner operation. The ‘Kim effect,’ has totally transformed the industry, and has propelled the employment of celebrities and social media influencers to the forefront of modern advertising and brand promotion. The kardashians attach themselves to brands for huge monetary gain. According to the Instagram marketers Hopper UK, a post on Kim Kardashian's instagram will set you back $750,000 and a further $1 million for a single post on Kylie Jenners. Although these payout figures seem extravagant, companies still profit hugely from the use of influencers. Brands that attach themselves to the Kardashians have seen a huge increase in sales and customer followings across the globe. For example, UK online retailer Boohoo’s UK sales grew by a third in the last four months of 2018, to one hundred and eighty million. This growth coincidental to their partnership with Kourtney Kardashian who clearly has huge influence on the industry and over ninety million followers on instagram. Other brands that have had adverts with the Kardashian/Jenners, such as PrettyLittleThing and NastyGirl, have also seen vast increases in sales following their partnerships. Sales increased an astounding 95% at PrettyLittleThing and 74% at NastyGirl. This is striking evidence of the impact the Kardashian/Jenner influence is insurmountable within the industry and could change a company's financial stance with each influential individual that is seen to use products and promote the brand.

Despite being a lucrative operation, it is by no means a business transaction without risks. Not all influencers make the right decision when partnering with a brand for easy cash. In 2017 the Fyre Festival scandal emerged, signifying the extent to which influencers can be unreliable. Fyre Festival was promoted on social media as a major exclusive music festival in the Bahamas, boasting major artists, gourmet cuisine and luxurious accommodation. In reality the festival was a catastrophe, resulting in the festival goers stranded on the island once owned by Pablo Escobar. They were greeted to tents that were half put up as accomodation and served cheese and salad sandwiches, for a main course! The reason it was so heavily popular was down to the marketing strategy, subsequently how the company used influencers to promote their party. Major fashion and lifestyle influencers were dragged into the mess for promoting the so-called “festival of the century”. Kylie Jenner, major celebrity and influencer was set to have been paid $250,000 to promote the scandal. The question is how can so many millenials be sold something so untrue, on such a vast scale. The power influencers have on the public may be stronger than we imagined. However, brands and organisations are finally locking on to it, only partnering with influencers based on their values rather than how big their audience reach is.

More substantial brands particularly are now only promoting with influences that share the same values as their brand. Brands will choose to do this not just to endorse sales, but also increase brand loyalty. Studies have shown that using a celebrity in advertisements can cause customers that have positive feelings about them, will grab an audience's attention and encourage impulses significantly more than a standard advertisement. For example, Lancome chose Zendaya to be the face of their summer 2019 perfume launch idole. This partnership was so successful as Zendaya is a head-strong millennial, artist, activist and leader which represented the fresh and innovative product brought to an extremely competitive and crowded fragrance scene. For instance, the bottle was cleverly designed as the thinnest fragrance bottle in the world so it could be held as a phone and feel part of the everyday millenials life. Moreover, it is a scent completely unique to anything Lanome has released in the past. Zendaya as an icon, is a visual representation and frequent activist for racial inequalities in the fashion industry and for equal opportunities so that everyone is able to follow their own dreams and aspirations. It is clear from this partnership just how celebrities can add themselves as a brand to solidify the meaning and ethos of the brand as well as speaking to new audiences.

While stereotypically worldwide names such as Kim Karadashian and Kylie Jenner may spring to mind while thinking of influencers it is suggested that micro influencing is the future of social media advertisements. The term ‘Micro Influencers’, is associated with influences that have around ten thousand to one hundred thousand followers, and characterised by having a specific niche. For example, Lindsay Holland, a fashion instagrammer from the United Kingdom started whilst working as a physiotherapist for the NHS in 2016, she has now amassed a following of ninety one thousand followers has left the NHS and is working full time earning money by collaborating with brands and sponsors. Brands are now targeting micro influencers over your standard influencer because they are able to target the chosen audience more effectively. Micro influencers 85% higher engagement than those having 100,000 followers, and as the number of followers increases the engagement tends to decrease. With a smaller following count, there is a more seemingly intimate and personable connection between influencer and followers. This is following a recent survey stating that 84% of consumers choose trusting recommendations from friends or family members over advertisements.

To conclude, it is clear to see that social media influencing is a trend that is here to stay. With the revolution of the digital age, online platforms, and media marketing, it is difficult to see how high street brands and particularly fashion houses will survive in the future without the use of social media influencers and celebrity promotion. Even on the ground in high street shops, visits from local celebrities boost immediate interest and revenue. Therefore, throughout this article it has been emphasised the need to know in more depth about the logistical and financial aspect of social media influencing as I believe that this could influence consumer habits. Furthermore, how we may be seeing many more influencers in the future, and a growing number of people may be calling this kind of work their full time employment. I believe that it will be particularly interesting to observe how this rapidly changing industry will evolve in the future as more and more social media platforms are utilised and as brands are forced to utilise digital marketing and online shopping websites.

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