Savage X Fenty: A Superstar’s Guide to Influencer Partnerships

Todd Crawford, VP of strategic initiatives at Impact, speaks to Jennine Matthias, director of influencer marketing at Savage X Fenty and uncovers the superstar path to selling lingerie using influencer partnerships.

Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty venture with fashion group TechStyle has cut an imperious path through the lingerie market since its launch in 2018. And as well as spearheading a new wave of underwear design for all shades and shapes, Savage X Fenty has learned a few things about influencer marketing. Todd Crawford, VP of strategic initiatives at Impact, spoke to Jennine Matthias, director of influencer marketing at Savage X Fenty and uncovered the superstar path to selling lingerie using influencer partnerships.

Work with influencers of all shapes and sizes

TechStyle had historically focused on the top and micro ends of the influencer range, says Matthias, noting Kate Hudson’s work with TechStyle brand Fabletics and a programme of giving away free products in exchange for micro-influencer posts. But her brief was to stake out more of the middle ground and, in the process, to drive sales. “We are very CPA-focused, we are always looking to drive sales, so my programme was set up to do that.”

Matthias’s prescription is for a broad range of influencers at all levels. “If you’ve got a budget, I would try to find one person who’s on the bigger end, who has a great fit and a really highly engaged audience in the right demo. I would try to bet on that, but I would hedge your bet by working with a number of smaller influencers. Because a lot of times you’ll find someone that surprises you and drives a lot of sales that you might not have expected.”

Consider choosing your influencers in-house

Having worked with influencer agencies and in-house with brands, Matthias strongly believes that brands are best positioned to select their own influencers. “I think it’s so valuable to have someone [handling influencers] who actually works for the brand and understands the brand, rather than pay an agency who might not always have the same exact understanding or the same interests. There’s benefits to working with agencies, but I think there needs to be at least one person in house who’s really spearheading.”

Influencer marketing is about sales, not just branding

“I think there are a lot of companies that still consider influencer marketing a brand marketing endeavour,” says Matthias. “They look at how much reach they’re getting, and the exposure, and even things like engagement. But as people are getting smarter about influencer marketing and realising that they don’t want to just spend a lot of money and hire an influencer and have them post and that be it, [they are learning that] there needs to be a plan to actually hit the KPIs that you’re looking for. So I think the smart brands and smart marketers are also thinking of influencer as a performance channel. I think there really are sales to be had here. People are getting more wary of spending a lot on influencers and having it not do anything and not being measurable, so I think that that’s the direction that this is headed.”

IGC is the new UGC

Influencers may be there to drive sales above all, but there is also substantial value in the authenticity and resonance of the content they create, says Matthias. “We are able to create, say, an Instagram ad with an influencer’s content and make that content go even further. Influencers are the best content creators. It’s like UGC but, you know, it’s IGC – influencer-generated content. Sometimes we have someone with a lot of followers and we create an ad and people recognise them in the ad, which is great. But we’ve also created ads with people who don’t and it still resonates because it’s someone that is relatable and really good at creating the content and explaining what the brand is, so we get a lot of value.”

Start from the bottom and work up

As with, say, pop stars, every brand starting out with influencers begins at square one. “I think the key is really starting out slow and building gradually, rather than going out and signing a million people,” says Matthias. “I think when you first start out there’s definitely going to be some failures and some wins. It takes a while to figure out who that right influencer is that fits your brand, and even what the right metrics are to look at when you’re evaluating the influencer and figuring out how much to pay them.”

Do your research, and look for influencers who remind you of your customers

“I guess the advice [for picking influencers] is to be on the platforms, watch the content, be there, looking at what people are doing and who’s doing it well and reach out,” says Matthias. “I think I have a huge advantage – this is a great brand – but, you know, as long as you can communicate and reach out and let people know what your brand’s value prop is, you can find those influencers that resonate with that. I would even look at you know, who is your target? Who’s your customer? Look for people like that, who are creating content, and find those people and reach out. There’s a lot of really great people in the 200,000 to 400,000 follower range that you can probably reach directly – a lot of them have their email listed on their social and they’re looking for great brands to connect with and do sponsorships with.”

Treat your influencers like human beings

Influencers aren’t like other media owners – in many cases, they may be living a little more hand-to-mouth. “It’s not like Facebook where, if you’re late to pay, they might charge you interest but they don’t care if you’re late – whatever,” says Matthias. “This is a human being and this is their livelihood and so you need to be able to reliably get them paid.”

Platforms bring a whole new layer of insight

“It’s really great for me to be able to see how many clicks an influencer is driving, and we have an API integration, so I can check leads and revenue and a bunch of other elements,” says Matthias. “And influencers themselves, or their agents, can go in and look at those facts, and I can help guide them [in terms of] which reports look at and what to look for. On days when certain posts went up, was there a spike in clicks? Was there a spike in sales? What was going on? So it’s really valuable information, and everyone knows they will get paid based on how many sales they drive.”