In today’s world, the right partnership with a key digital influencer can make or break a new product launch or campaign for luxury brands. While historically, the accessibility of social media seemed to be in conflict with the sense of exclusivity that defined many luxury brands, the emerging space of digital influencer marketing is changing the rules of the game.
Today, we explore and highlight the ways in which luxury brand marketers can seize the potential of digital influencer marketing while avoiding the pitfalls.
Influencer Marketing Growth Is Being Driven By Instagram
The shift of influencer marketing to the digital world may have ignited with YouTube and bloggers, but the true star of the show is Instagram. The fastest growing social media platform since 2011, Instagram has captured 700 million global users today and has given rise to a billion dollar per year influencer marketing industry that is expected to exceed $2 billion by 2019 (Instagram).
Embracing Instagram influencers for their perceived authenticity and voice, while harbouring a growing skepticism for anything even resembling an advertisement, consumer perception of luxury marketing is undoubtedly going through a transformation. As a matter of fact, an unprecedented 92% of consumers say that they trust the opinion of a digital influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. With the clout that influencers now carry, Luxury marketers can no longer stick to traditional forms of advertising and need to adapt to a new “breed” of influencers as well as consumers.
Tapping into the potential of Instagram is the key to understanding the heart of the influencer marketing industry, and it is where luxury marketers should focus their attention. The opportunity for luxury brands to build authenticity, increase brand engagement, and even heighten its aspirational value through influencers is vast. And, as long as luxury marketers are smart about their approach, the resulting relationship is a win-win.
Luxury Brands Need To Be Informed Before Engaging With Influencers
As luxury brands shed their reservations and turn towards influencer marketing as a driving force behind their overall brand strategy, marketers must remember to do their due diligence before diving in.
The influencer marketing industry has reached a state of maturation in which there exists a handful of Instagram celebrities boasting millions of followers. Understandably, top-tier influencers are attractive to luxury brands looking to stretch their reach. However, these elite influencers often have inflated rates, with some charging an upwards of $5,000 USD for one Instagram post. The most common pitfall for luxury marketers is focusing on total reach and only considering influencers that have the largest following.
Contrary to assumptions, the reality is that when it comes to choosing digital influencer partnerships, engagement and quality of content are as significant, if not more so, as reach. In order to successfully engage the right collaborators, luxury marketers need to understand the influencer’s past brand partnerships, the type and quality of their content, as well as the level of engagement with their community. And most importantly, influencers should feel a natural affinity towards the brand. Savvy consumers can smell a lackluster paid sponsorship from a mile away, and making sure there is authentic passion or interest in your luxury brand is a fundamental step that many fail to check.
Besides how to choose the right collaboration, luxury brands also face the dilemma of how to measure the ROI, especially as marketers look to increase investment in influencer marketing in the year ahead. Standard social media metrics like number of followers, engagement on social media, click through rates, web traffic generated, and content shares are the most popular key performance indicators used by luxury brands. However, the issue is that these data points can oftentimes be limiting when it comes to offering insights on the impact of a single influencer or capturing softer objectives that are essential for luxury brands such as building exclusivity, creating edgy content or generating aspiration. There is no standard, clear-cut way to measure success or the ROI of influencer marketing. Every partnership, depending on the overall objectives, will most likely require a tailored set of success metrics. This makes strategic planning and alignment with key members of the team prior to investing in a digital influencer all the more important.
Although influencer marketing in the digital realm holds immense opportunity, luxury marketers shouldn’t dive in blindly for a shiny Instagram celebrity and forego the needed research, strategic planning and alignment that is required before officially beginning a collaboration.
The Value Of Mid-Tier And Micro Influencers For High-End Brands
For luxury marketers that have been in the digital influencer marketing game for a while, more and more are actually preferring mid-tier influencers (a following that’s in the six digits) to top-tier influencers (Instagram celebrities with millions of followers).
According to Beauty Monitor, out of 300 luxury respondents polled, 40% said that they would rather work with mid-tier influencers. Unlike top-tier influencers who have a following that is too large to allow for much personal engagement, mid-tier influencers are dedicated to connecting with their community on a daily basis. Many experts in the field agree that mid-tier influencers work particularly well for luxury brands since their judgment and opinion holds more credibility than someone who has already reached the height of Instagram fame.
Luxury marketers also need to keep in mind that this isn’t an either or scenario. Investing in mid-tier influencers doesn’t mean sacrificing reach. Instead, the choice is between engaging 10 influencers with 100,000 followers or one influencer with 1,000,000 followers. Without fail, industry experts will point to the former approach as one that will garner more engagement, clicks, overall traction and conversions. Part of this is perhaps due to the quality of content that is created from partnering with mid-tier influencers, many of whom are content creators, designers or even artists in their own right. The amount of time and effort they invest in creating innovative and relevant pieces of content for brand partnerships is an extremely valuable asset for luxury marketers.
There is another segment of influencers that has recently seen growing interest from luxury brands: micro influencers (following of 10,000 to 100,000). According to the same piece of research by The Beauty Monitor, 20% of luxury brands expect to work more with micro influencers in the near future. The potential of micro influencers to create truly unique content is notable, because they have often carved out a space within a particular niche. This situation is ideal for luxury brands that have a distinct appeal and are looking to connect with a particular scene, culture or a subset of consumers that are under the radar. Being able to identify budding influencers with a concentrated yet strong presence offers a rare opportunity to grow brand and influencer simultaneously and foster a potential long-term partnership.
Luxury marketers should, again, do their due diligence. Don’t go for the obvious choice. There are tools (like PeopleMaps) that can help marketers sift through, create lists and identify mid-tier or even micro influencers that offer a more meaningful relationship for luxury brands.
Luxury Brands Should Approach Influencers As Partnerships Instead of Sponsorships
As we’ve hinted a few times, new and authentic content from an influencer partnership is perhaps the most valuable takeaway for luxury brands. That said, one of the biggest mistakes luxury brands make is exerting too much control over the content that influencers create and share.
If influencers are thoroughly vetted and carefully selected for luxury brand collaborations, there should be considerable leeway when it comes to the creative content that’s produced. Granting influencers creative freedom to execute is something that almost 50% of luxury brands struggle with (Beauty Monitor). Although it might be a hard pill to swallow, this is the ultimate next step for premium and high-end brands, and it’s also the way to creating intriguing and authentic content. Luxury marketers need to keep in mind that the opportunity of influencer marketing inherently relies on the authenticity that an influencer brings to the collaboration. From that perspective, it is counter-intuitive to demand that influencers discard their own style in order to meet a luxury brand’s brief.
Influencer Marketing Should Be Part Of a Broader Marketing Strategy
Digital marketers of today know that luxury branding isn’t about focusing on just one channel. It’s about creating a broader marketing strategy that leverages a myriad of channels, all of which amplify and supplement each other to create a vibrant and buzzing digital ecosystem. When all that’s said and done, influencer marketing is simply one lever to pull. Luxury marketers need to be able to think holistically and ask themselves how influencer marketing can support or enhance its various other channels.
As we have previously mentioned, unique and authentic content is one of the main benefits of partnering with an influencer. Luxury brands should be looking at content produced as an overall brand asset and asking themselves how and when it can be re-purposed within its other marketing activities. This, of course, involves foresight and pre-negotiations with the influencer to ensure that the final contract covers needed usage rights for your luxury brand. Always think about the bigger picture, and understand how a digital influencer and the resulting brand assets fit into your overall marketing strategy.
With an understanding of the fundamentals in creating a successful digital influencer partnership, luxury marketers should feel confident to step forward into a promising new territory.
Interested in leveraging digital influencer marketing for your premium or luxury brand? Contact our team at mOOnshot digital.