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Opinion

Further Than the Grid: the Success of Influencer Founded Brands

From Kate Hudson’s fitness apparel line, Fabletics, to Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, influencer-founded brands are not a particularly new concept. However, the volume at which other creators are following suit, is testament to the consistent success stories that can be viewed in this space.

Within the sectors that were early adopters of influencer marketing and have often led the way, such as fashion and beauty, long have creators themselves pursued paths to become at the heart of their very own brand with successful track records. Looking at a few of the extreme success stories such as Kim Kardashian’s Skims, which is currently valued at $1.6bn and Emily Weiss’ Glossier that is reported to be worth a not-so-modest $1.2bn, when influencers get it right, a founded brand by the creator themselves can really pay off.

However, it’s not just the mega-influencer and celebrity space that is seeing success with influencer-owned brands. Cult fashion brand La Veste is an influencer-founded label, created by influencer and stylist Blanca Miro and designer Maria de la Orden, which has grown significantly since its 2018 creation, along with several other similar smaller scale European fashion brands. 

But why are influencer-founded brands so successful?

Influencer marketers are all too familiar with the quest to hit that winning formula of the right influencer, brand, and campaign execution to achieve the desired KPIs. But an influencer endorsing their very own brand provides a ready-made figurehead and authenticity of messaging naturally exists without having to be navigated between brand and influencer, which is an incredibly powerful tool of persuasion. 

In addition to this deeper, immediate connection to the product, the knowledge that an influencer has to their own audience and potential customer base is unrivaled. Creators should be able to garner a detailed understanding of what works and doesn’t work for their audience based on their own long-term anecdotal experience of social content performance and first-hand data to validate. It is this rich knowledge that, when executed well should be fed straight back into product development and strategy for any brand.

Similarly, when it comes to inviting other influencers to amplify the brand’s message, creators themselves are in a prime position to know their peers and understand what works for the brand. Soon after its launch, La Veste’s statement school blouses were seen in the feeds of many fashion-focused influencers across Europe and the UK, such as Pandora Sykes, Sabine Getty, and Angela Scanlon. The hyper-connectivity that these influencers have within targeted niches, allows them to create a buzz around the brand that is targeted, consistent and authentic.

This could well be why the recent appointment of Molly-Mae Hague as the creative director of fast fashion brand, Pretty Little Thing, could be an intelligent move if this appointment is genuine, and less like the short-lived previous appointments such as Lady Gaga’s move to Polaroid. As it seems, the brand plans to not just hand over the reins cautiously for an isolated eponymous capsule collection but instead is placing an influencer at the heart of the brand and hand over creative control. Time will tell as to whether this move will pay off, but ultimately the move to mirror the positioning that talent would have at an owned brand to tap into this success could be something we see more of going forward.

Do brands rely on influencer partnerships?

The dependency on brand partnerships for revenue and shake-up that has happened due to marketing budget disruptions through the pandemic is inevitably one of the reasons creators are seeking a greater diversity of revenue streams. In addition to the paid-for content models that have started to emerge with the help of platforms such as Patreon, Twitch gifts, or TikTok’s tipping functionality, the growth of influencer-founded brands only looks set to increase, giving creators a wider revenue opportunity and greater control. 

This is particularly relevant as direct-to-consumer selling becomes increasingly simple, with the inevitable platform releases and developments within social and creator commerce meaning purchase journeys are becoming shorter and easier to manage in each app. This move will also make D2C selling increasingly accessible for small businesses to manage, and so we may see increasingly that more niche tiers of influence with less hefty investment pots will engage in this model too. 

So what does this potentially mean for brands? 

As creators demonstrate success and best practice via varying opportunities, this is an opportunity for brands to challenge their strategy and diversify their practice and relationships with influencers. 

There is already a trend for brands to increasingly enhance the depth of their influencer work, with partnerships that are collaborative or even integrate talent fully into the brand, such as with Kendall Jenner’s recent appointment at FWRD and this is likely to only become something audiences see more commonly.

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