is influencer marketing dead?

Anyone working within the fashion and beauty industry will be well informed of influencer marketing. Both the fashion and beauty industry have been prominent users of influencer marketing, but the lack of due diligence from both private companies and influencers has led to huge scandals that have raised question marks over its viability as a marketing strategy. We’ll be taking a look at influencer marketing to gauge if it really is an effective marketing strategy for fashion and beauty brands.

An industry riddled with scandal…

Like most marketing tactics, influencer marketing is not one without its fair share of scandals that have tarnished both the influencers and companies’ reputation. One of the most prominent scandals was that of fashion brand; Lord and Taylor back in 2015. As part of their Design Lab Collection launch, Lord and Taylor paid 50 different Instagram influencers to pose in the same dress which led to the dress subsequently selling out, as well as 328,000 engagements with the brands social media channels. They also paid lifestyle magazine Nylon to publish what appeared to be a genuine and impartial article and post on their Instagram page, which further promoted the companies products without disclosing that they were paid for. This hugely deceiving promotional tactic led to the brand settling charges from the Federal Trade Commission.

While this seemingly shown Lord and Taylor coming worst off, it certainly didn’t do their influencers or the influencer marketing industry any favours either. As part of the agreement, the influencers were asked to pose in whatever way they felt necessary whilst also mentioning the brands Instagram handle as well as the hashtag #DesignLab, but had been informed not to mention that the post was paid for. They happily did it, which not only damaged their reputation but also the reputation of the industry itself. How can consumers trust influencers if they’ll happily promote a product for money, without disclosing otherwise. It puts every post and piece of advice they give thereon into question.

More recently, the beauty industry had also been subject to prank by Youtuber JaackMaate, which exposed it’s untrustworthiness. JaackMaate had created a fictitious beauty range called Jaqmait, in which he had simply placed Johnsons baby lotion in his own tins with stickers on, highlighting the inauthentic promotions made by Love Island stars who frequently become social media influencers. In fact according to Trust Pilot, 65% of people describe their trust of celebrity influencers as “low”.

The state of the influencer marketing industry

These incidents as well as countless others have created a large amount of distrust of both companies and influencers alike. Despite this, the market has shown to be steadily increasing each year, growing from $1.7bn in 2016 with estimates to reach $16.4bn by the end of 2022. Analysis found that in the UK, over 34% of branded posts are for fashion and style and 23% for beauty. However, the study also found that engagement rates are on average 11% lower on sponsored posts compared to organic posts, with engagement on beauty posts reducing by 27% compared to organic posts. Of course it isn’t just these previous scandals that have caused this drop, naturally when Instagram introduced the “paid partnerships” this had an effect, but it can’t have helped.

This has created a large cause for concern for many fashion and beauty brands, and some have taken matters into their own hands by upskilling influencers so that they are better ambassadors of their brand. Beauty brand No7 partnered with the British Beauty Council to create an invite only education programme designed to upskill their partners so that they are educated with the right information and are better representatives of the brand. Nine influencers are taking part in the eight month programme, including names such as Marie Louise, Alicia Lartey, Zak Heath and Janet Adetunji. This is definitely a step in the right direction for both industries.

Is Influencer marketing still viable?

The answer is yes. Despite the lack of trust in the industry, statistics point out that influencer marketing is still a viable marketing strategy. Research from USP Solutions found that 40% of Twitter users made a purchase as a direct result of a tweet from an influencer, and purchase intent increased by 520% when exposed to brand and influencer tweets. This stat is particularly important as we see many fashion and beauty brands pretty much inexistent on Twitter. As we mentioned previously, there is a significant drop in post engagement for paid partnerships, and while we can’t account for how much of that percentage drop is due to distrust, we’d hazard a guess at it being very small. This is in large part due to “banner blindness” – A web user behaviour in which users ignore elements on a page that they perceive to be an ad. Just take the PPC click through rate compared to the organic click through rate as an example of banner blindness. On average, the click through rate for Google ads is 2%, whereas the average click through rate for the organic positions on the first page start from 2.3% at the bottom of the page.

How to get influencers to talk about your business

There are a wealth of influencer marketing agencies that can put you in the right direction for this. Paid partnerships are still affective, but as we mentioned previously, the statistics highlight that mentions of your business without paid partnerships are the best way to score lucrative engagement with your brand as it alleviates banner blindness. Moreover, consulting with these agencies can be fairly expensive, so how can you get influencers to talk about your business without the hefty price tag?

Affiliate partnerships

Affiliate partnerships are a great way to get influencers to talk about your business. Influencers are always looking to provide value to their audience as it keeps them engaged with their content. Discount codes offered through affiliate partnerships are a great way of getting influencers to talk about your brand. Of course this method isn’t without it’s drawbacks, firstly you’ll be providing a discount on any of the sales made through affiliate partnerships which can obviously have an affect on the initial revenue. Moreover, the influencer is likely to talk about your product when they feel like it, and not when you specifically want them to. If you’re a fashion brand with a newly released collection of garments, you’ll be keen for influencers to talk about the product then, but they wont always do this, however there are ways around this. You can offer higher reductions on this particular collection at the time of it’s release and offer the discount code to the influencer, which can encourage them to speak about it, but there is never a guarantee. Affiliate partnerships are great middleground between paid and organic that can help you measure influencer marketing effectively. Whilst customers natural behaviour may be to ignore paid promotions like this, their “banner blindness” is likely to be alleviated after benefiting from a discount themselves.

The best way to get influencers to talk about your brand naturally is to engage with them on their social profiles. This method is completely “free” in the sense that you don’t pay anyone anything.  We will use the term “free” lightly as this method requires some serious man power behind it. Regularly commenting on influencers posts can get your brand noticed by their followers, but it can often be a long time before the influencer mentions your brand (if ever). This is a high-risk strategy in the sense that it’s quite common for brands to fail on this, and quite often brands just give up. General, vanilla comments just will not harness the results you’re looking for, but speed is also of great importance too. Your comment can often get buried in amongst the thousands of other people (and brands) looking to do the same thing as you. It’s not enough to just comment, you need to offer value in every comment and you need to be fast in doing it. This is not easy. And it is a reason why so many brands outsource this sort of stuff. Every comment you make should be looking to offer value or evoke an emotion to get the desired engagement you need. An example of a brand that does particularly well at this is Specsavers. Their content, particularly on Twitter offers value to customers by evoking emotion. They’re highly reactive to current trends and get people talking about them.

Specsavers were vocal throughout the Euro 2020 football tournament providing witty and reactive comments to key people such as Gary Lineker (above). Speed and quality is very important in this case.

Final Thoughts

Influencer marketing is still a viable strategy. But it is an industry with intense scrutiny, and as a brand you need to make sure you’re investing a lot of care and attention into your influencer partners, from thorough research beforehand to ongoing training. Maintaining your trust as a brand is absolutely vital, so steering clear of celebrities and focussing on specialists is what we’d personally advise, because if your influencer is perceived as untrustworthy, so will your brand.

Before you go…

It’d be rude of us not to instil a little bit of sales spiel, so strap on your seatbelts and get ready to be sold…just kidding. If you’d like to hear more about influencer marketing or how we can help you with our SEO services then feel free to reach out. We provide SEO in Wrexham, Chester, anywhere across the UK.