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Opinion

The Aging Influencer: How Brands and Talent Can Leverage Evolution for Stronger Partnerships

What happens when influencers age? Do they outgrow campaigns or evolve? Here are a few strategies that brands and influencers can take to successfully withstand the test of time.

With the immense growth of influencer marketing in the last few years, brands are beginning to wonder: what happens when influencers age? Do they outgrow campaigns? After all, influencers are people too, and they evolve like the rest of us.

These questions are particularly pertinent as more marketers and influencers are realising that longer-term relationships are far more impactful than shorter-term, transaction-based partnerships. Instead of brands being forced to continuously identify new influencers that fit the current briefs, there is enormous value in evolving with their true partners from the start. 

Revolve is a brand that has pushed the envelope with this approach. Global influencer Aimee Song and the fashion brand recently collaborated on a unique permanent collection that is completely representative of who Aimee Song is as an individual. Aimee was one of Revolve’s first bloggers in 2012 and the brand was committed to investing in the next phase of her career: fashion design. As this is Revolve’s first ever permanent collection with an influencer, it is clear that the partnership stemmed from an authentic relationship and a deep understanding of each of their core values.

With true partnerships, there is ongoing trust and support for the influencer and also an authentic brand affinity on their end, which only strengthens over time. Here are a few strategies that brands and influencers can take to successfully withstand the test of time:

Brand authenticity is key

In order to choose the right relationships and make them last, brands must know themselves. By maintaining an authentic, concrete identity and unwavering core values, a brand can better identify influencers who are not only tailored to a specific campaign but who also match the brand’s values in a bigger picture way. This way, chosen influencers are more likely to remain relevant to the brand as they age and enter new life phases.

Staying true to personal brand

Just as a brand must know itself and remain authentic to its core values, influencers must develop a deep understanding of their personal brand. Knowing who they are to the core will be invaluable as they consider partnerships and contracts with an array of companies. If they’re living, speaking and acting from their true self, they’re bound to choose brand partnerships that align across passions, interests, communication style and values. With a clear and authentic personal brand, the right partnership opportunities should evolve organically, lasting long into the future as influencers age and grow their brand.

Focusing on flexibility

In our fast-paced, rapidly changing ecosystem, brands that can be nimble and adaptive with changing circumstances are proving to be the most competitive and resilient. To make the shift towards long term influencer marketing, brands will not only need to start thinking of the influencer as more than an isolated tactic but also think creatively about how to leverage and engage with the influencer over time in new ways. In longer-term partnerships, influencers will inevitably experience individual growth, change, new life phases, new interests and expanded personalities. Rihanna and LVMH have struck gold with a partnership that expands with Rihanna’s personal interests. 

Following their uber-successful Fenty Beauty partnership (through LVMH subsidiary, Sephora), their strong relationship gave way to the launch of luxury clothing line Maison Fenty, making her the first woman to create an original brand at LVMH and the first woman of color at the top of an LVMH maison.

Flexible and creative brands will embrace this kind of personal evolution and leverage it to find rewarding ways to work with it. Part of the beauty in partnering with influencers is that they are living, breathing humans, and brands that can showcase this humanity, in all of its rawness, are inevitably going to connect with audiences in authentic ways.

Leveraging ‘multidimensional’ selves

By embracing their being, rather than pigeon-holing themselves into a single self-image, influencers are more likely to find new ways of working with brands on a wider array of campaigns. Being human, consumers will recognise this multidimensionality as a relatable and positive quality. The more that brands recognise that influencers don’t need to fit into a single box, the more creative they can get with their campaigns, activations, and events. 

For example, Bri Emery is a multi-faceted influencer who has a product line at Target and a custom Keds line and is an interior and graphic designer by trade. Her passions empower her to be a flexible influencer that can deliver true impact across multiple audiences. Rather than using an influencer solely for a specific campaign, for example, a brand will find that the same individual can be effective for an experiential activation, or for a completely different touch point of the marketing funnel. In turn, both brand and influencer will be able to continuously explore exciting and novel creative avenues.

Influencer marketing is an integral part of the digital marketing mix and brands need to properly identify the influencers that truly fit into a larger marketing plan and can evolve and grow with them over time. Influencers themselves will decide how the industry is shifting, but the ones that are multi-faceted and authentic will be the drivers of the change.

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