The Year Ahead: The Alluring New Face of Influencer Marketing

Jan 08, 2024
The Year Ahead: The Alluring New Face of Influencer Marketing
From Gstaad Guy to Remi Bader, a new guard of creative personalities is revamping influencer marketing, The State of Fashion 2024 reveals.
Capturing consumers’ attention online isn’t about to get any easier for fashion businesses.

On Instagram, engagement rates have fallen, by roughly 30 percent year on year in 2022, while the reach of posts has diminished. Consumers are showing signs of fatigue towards traditional influencer marketing after years of being bombarded with product promotions and brand announcements. The BoF-McKinsey State of Fashion 2024 Consumer Survey found that 68 percent of respondents were unhappy about the high volume of sponsored content on social media platforms and 65 percent were turning less to fashion influencers than a few years ago. Young consumers are becoming particularly adept at tuning out the noise. One study found Gen-Z loses active attention for advertising after just 1.3 seconds.

Even in this environment, influencers continue to be a powerful channel for brands to break through the noise and connect with consumers, with the influencer-marketing industry forecast to reach $21.1 billion in 2023, up from $16.4 billion in 2022. However, the influencer landscape has been evolving in the past few years as consumers increasingly demand authenticity, entertainment and relatable personalities, with this trend likely to gather momentum in the year ahead.

According to the BoF-McKinsey consumer survey, consumers are gravitating towards relatable and authentic influencers far more than other attributes such as an aspirational lifestyle or celebrity status. Marketing and influencer firms echo these findings — a 2023 survey found that, although beautiful and aspirational content was effective, social media users were more likely to follow influencers whom they deem authentic and fun.

The changing dynamics are reflected in where users spend their time online. TikTok, often regarded as a platform that promotes authenticity, has taken the lead among some user groups. A March 2023 study estimated that US adults spent nearly 56 minutes a day on average on TikTok. By comparison, US adults spent just over 30 minutes on average on Instagram. TikTok’s success, which has prompted Instagram to emulate the platform with its Reels video feature, is based largely on how it surfaces content, emphasising measures such as the time users spend on a post and whether they return. As a result, any creative and entertaining content can reach a wide audience, even if the creator doesn’t have a high number of followers. The platform BeReal, meanwhile, saw surging user growth in 2022, and while there are doubts about its longevity, its emergence may well be a response to the perceived inauthenticity of social media’s large incumbents.

The New Guard
Though consumers have rewarded greater authenticity online for some time, it is becoming more pronounced as influencers emphasise their individuality. Gen-Z in particular value pursuing their own unique identities and appreciate diversity among other attributes, according to a Stanford University study. This generation’s favourite platform for following influencers is TikTok, which was also deemed the best platform by Gen-Z respondents for promoting a product through influencers in a 2022 survey, surpassing both YouTube and Instagram.

While traditional influencers who convey an aspirational lifestyle and command large audiences are likely to remain important for fashion marketing, other influencers who come across as less scripted or polished are already gaining audiences. Quirkiness, humour and vulnerability are helping this cohort stand out. A case in point is Alix Earle, who has built a following of nearly 6 million on TikTok, not with any sort of viral hit but rather with her apparent relatability and willingness to be herself. Madeline Argy’s TikTok confessionals, which take the form of funny, rapid-fire videos such as a tearful questioning of what DJs actually do, have earned her roughly 5 million followers. And Sabrina Bahsoon, who goes by Tube Girl, shot to fame posting TikTok videos showing her dancing in the London Underground, an act that’s been called “unapologetic self-expression.”

While the styles of these creators differ, what unites them is their off-beat, personal approaches to creating content, which reads as being authentic to who they are rather than pursued purely for “likes” or to convey an unattainable ideal. The most-followed personality on TikTok is Khaby Lame, whose content featuring his humorous silent commentary on ridiculous online videos has attracted roughly 162 million followers.

Fashion brands are embracing these personalities and seeing the benefits. Bahsoon featured in Hugo Boss’ most-viewed TikTok post, which has garnered more than 144 million views. Lame and Argy have fashion partnerships as well. For the debut of creative director Sabato de Sarno in September 2023, Gucci asked Amelia Dimoldenberg, who became popular conducting awkward interviews at a fried-chicken establishment, to attend the event and interview other guests.

Brands are also going down the path of creating deeper partnerships with influencers than one-off videos or fashion show invitations. For example, luxury brands Loro Piana and Audemars Piguet are working with the creator known as Gstaad Guy, who built his following parodying the tastes and attitudes of the ultra-wealthy. Both brands now dress Gstaad Guy and regularly invite him to events, such as Loro Piana’s Spring/Summer 2024 show in Milan and Audemars Piguet’s Tokyo launch of its collaboration with 1017 Alyx 9SM. Outside of luxury, online retailer Revolve has created a size-inclusive line with Remi Bader, a TikToker with 2.2 million followers who became popular for her humorous, unfiltered accounts of trying on clothing as a plus-size woman. Realising the importance and reach of these personalities, brands are investing significantly in their engagement — for example, Lame reportedly closed a $450,000 contract with Hugo Boss to walk its Milan Fashion Week show in 2022.

As this new guard of creators joins traditional influencers in fashion week front rows and in brand marketing, it offers consumers contrasting viewpoints and another channel for communicating a brand’s message.

Be Creative
To be sure, capturing and holding the attention of consumers online in 2024 will likely require fashion marketers to break free of tried-and-tested initiatives. In addition to collaborating with celebrities and mega-influencers, they may also need to dedicate resources to identify talent that might not be on their current radars but offers untapped possibilities.

When creating content, brands might want to look beyond highly polished product promotions and push boundaries by developing innovative and surprising campaigns that resonate with followers and reach new audiences. This will still require campaigns to align with a brand’s core image and values. In its own guidance to brands, TikTok recommends creating “actionable entertainment” that holds users’ attention and can gain greater reach from the platform’s content algorithm, among other benefits. Brands should also consider incorporating humour, self-awareness and unfiltered tones into short videos and other popular social media formats.

Because some of the most successful creators build their own online worlds, brands that partner with them might want to empower them with a degree of creative control. Rather than simply gifting items or sponsoring posts, they can collaborate closely to integrate the brand’s presence into the influencer’s content style. In the most ideal collaborations, a brand finds an avenue to convey its message and perspective in a manner that feels seamless and authentic. Gucci, for example, partnered with TikTok influencer Francis Bourgeois, who shares his passion for trainspotting with his followers, in campaigns such as the latest Gucci Gift and fashion week activations inspired by the scenic countryside, as a way to convey the joy and nostalgia of train travel.

Of course, fashion businesses should still exercise diligence to minimise potential image risks when taking new creative directions. But new directions are also likely to lead to some of the greatest rewards.

Source: businessoffashion