Influencers undeniably run the mass-market social media world. According to a MediaKix study, the estimated figures for global influencers on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube combined are anywhere between 3.2m and 37.8m, with the large range accounting for fake accounts and other discrepancies. However, while successfully dominating the world of FMCG and other mass-market consumables, influencers have traditionally been more problematic in the world of HNW and UHNW brands, which require truly authentic ambassadors to capture the trust of their elite audience.
Now, on the brink of Instagram’s ‘like’ disappearing, and with the need for brands to prove their social conscience on the rise, we are seeing the influencer balance tip even further toward authenticity and positioning (quality) over fame and likeability (quantity).
The highs and lows of traditional influencer marketing
The 2010s were arguably the golden years of influencers and influencer marketing, with image-led Instagram launching in October 2010. More than any other social media platform, Instagram allowed people to curate and project their desired lifestyle to anyone who might be interested, and those who created captivating feeds quickly gained followers and influence. For most brands – including those with very different audiences, spanning all the way from mass-market to UHNW – an opportunity to get their name or products promoted by Instagram’s most loved personalities was was incredible.
However, as time has worn on and the number of influencers has grown, some consumers have become tired of the traditional influencer model. Why? One key issue is that as influencers grow in popularity, their content, which may have started out with the aim of connecting with people, often becomes more impersonal. This has led to some influencers posting glossy yet fairly homogeneous content, which no longer captures people’s hearts or attention.
For luxury brands in particular, this growth in influencer popularity is also a problem because of the lack of guarantee that their target audience will make up the majority of followers. Often, a wide range of people will follow luxury influencers to observe the beautiful imagery, with many never having the means to purchase what they promote. While this is still a good way of building brand awareness, it can mean that there is little noticeable ROI from influencer campaigns. Of course, this is not always the case – brands who take care to work with influencers whose follower base matches their audience well will still be rewarded with successful campaign results.
Another reason is that as a society, we are becoming more focused on political and social issues and reliable information. This shift was already underway before the outbreak of COVID-19, although the pandemic has certainly accelerated it; influencers who posted out-of-touch shots while the world was in lockdown came across as uninformed about how some people were experiencing the pandemic, even if they were pictures taken before the health crisis. Successful influencers were those who changed their content to fit the current needs and mood of their followers, with skincare routines and at-home leisurewear fashion videos resonating much better than high fashion imagery and #TBTs at glamorous destinations.
What are genuinfluencers?
Enter genuinfluencers. Coined by trend forecasting company WGSN in December last year, the term refers to influencers who are more interested in spreading truthful information and offering advice than they are selling products and promoting brands. Tipped to be one of WGSN’s five key trends for 2021 and beyond, genuinfluencers typically carve out a niche for themselves on social media based on their own expertise, sharing their valuable knowledge and opinions with their trusting audience. However, they can also be highly popular influencers who decide to partner with an organisation and use their power to do good – for example, TikTok sensation Charli D’Amelio’s #DistanceDance to promote social distancing, or ITV’s Love Island stars promoting the UK’s NHS Test and Trace program.
Why use genuinfluencers to market high-value products and services?
This type of truly authentic content – which provides actionable insights for its viewers, rather than being overly glossy, posed and promotional – is exactly what today’s audiences are craving. You may well be thinking that while genuinfluencers work well for government bodies or certain organisations, they make less sense in a luxury context – perhaps you believe that brands do not need to promote their ethics in order to be successful. However, in today’s climate that is simply not true.
In 2021, high-value brands must prove their social acceptability as a key part of the purchasing journey. For example, many UHNWI are aware that their spending and behaviour have an impact on the environment, and that they have the power to change mass behaviour through their decisions as early adopters. As such, they actively look to buy from brands that are leading the charge in eco-friendly policies. A Luxe Digital report states that Millennials and Generation Z consumers are driving 85% of global luxury sales growth, while a Nielsen study has found that 73% of Millennial respondents were willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable or socially conscious brand. Businesses who don’t show their sustainability, on the other hand, are likely to be left behind.
Promoting ethical values is a necessary ingredient to your success. And while your brand needs to talk about its social values itself, genuinfluencers will help deliver this message in a much more authentic, unbiased way.
Working with genuinfluencers for your HNW and UHNW brand: Advice from our experts
1. Review your brand and the communication issues you need to overcome from a corporate social responsibility perspective. For example, a private yacht charter brand may need to show its commitment to recycling materials; a luxury car brand may need to show its commitment to elimination of emissions and scrap; a jet charter company may need to show its commitment to double offsetting of carbon footprint.
Your choice of genuinfluencer will flow naturally from a review of your communication issues. Not the ‘buy this now’ messages but the more deep set issues of social acceptability and responsibility.
2. Spend time researching and consuming content to understand the different styles of genuinfluencer campaigns already out there. For example, brands that hold animal welfare close to their heart could check out Instagrammer Chelsea Kauai’s feed, who, alongside posting a lot of genuine, unsponsored content, works with sustainable businesses including luxury travel resorts, recently working with the five-star Royal Malewane & Spa lodge to offer her opinion on their ethical safari experience.
Consider what type of campaign could work well for your brand, based on your knowledge of your audience and their preferred platforms and content styles. When you find a genuinfluencer that you think could work well for your campaign, take great care in evaluating their follower base to ensure it matches up with your brand’s target audience.
3. Remember, even more than traditional influencers, genuinfluencers’ value comes from their unique storytelling methods and honest opinions, so they will likely take the lead on how the content looks and sounds. This may seem strange for those unfamiliar with this style of marketing, but genuinfluencers know what their audience wants, meaning that trusting them will likely produce much higher engagement and better results.
If you would like help in creating a genuinfluencer campaign, don’t hesitate to contact Relevance’s expert team. We will help to secure and propel your brand’s social acceptability, gaining you new devoted followers and potential clients.