Scrolling through my Instagram feed, between all my friends’ posts, I see Topshop posting a slew of images of their new denim collection, Kylie Jenner posing in a mirror selfie using a Fit Tea body detox wrap and Arielle Charnas of Something Navy posting an Instagram Live story of the latest pieces she has received from Bandier.
Once marketing was limited to advertising on print and television, and now it is infiltrating our social media feeds. The nature of advertising is changing as once brands were once paying thousands of dollars for a two-page spread in the latest Vogue or hoping their design is noticed on the red carpet, now an entire collection can be posted to the brand’s Instagram profile or a celebrity or blogger can be paid to incorporate the brand into their everyday posts. Mike Heller, CEO and founder of Talent Resources, reaffirms that based off a data analysis of Instagram feedback, “It doesn’t make sense to do a traditional advertisement anymore.”
Marketing teams are smart to capitalize on social media, particularly Instagram, due to the “constant and inexpensive interaction” with consumers. Instagram allows for a one-on-one connection despite being a method of mass communication because it allows for response and conversation. E-commerce is responsible for creating a visual portfolio and establishing brand awareness. As the fashion industry, designing in particular, has become more and more consumer driven, this type of engagement is key. Brands are rewarded with instant feedback by simplifying scrolling through the comments section and seeing reactions, rather than waiting to see a sales report.
Brand identity is much more than the designs. To have a successful marketing campaign, the company must also promote a certain lifestyle of their ideal customer. For example, if a brand is trying to relate to millennials, they might feature a well-known figure eating a piece of pizza while wearing their design. Free People shows their bohemian vibe by posting quotes and imagery that go along with their brand.
Marketing campaigns are also changing in the fact that instead of picking brand ambassadors based on who best fits the collection, they are looking at candidates that have a strong social media influence. A celebrity with a large following that posts an endorsement that is not an obvious paid-for ad is likely to have a strong influence over their followers because of the trust and bond the celebrity has established with them.
Jo Piazza, author of Celebrity Inc., puts this idea in perspective by sharing this example:
“You are following someone and it’s like you are friends with them. Would you go see your friend’s movie? Of course you would go see your friend’s movie! It’s just another step removed from reading about someone in a magazine. It’s like you actually know this person because you just saw of a picture of what they ate for breakfast.”
The #MyCalvins campaign was conducted in an intimate way with simple photography. When Justin Bieber posted a casual photo with his Calvin Klein underwear peeking over his baggy jeans, the brand gained 3.6 million followers across its social media platforms, and Bieber wasn’t even paid to do the post. Hashtags are particularly important for enagament and interaction, and allows brands to have an organized system of feedback.
How much of these posts are authentic? The art of the game has become so good that it is sometimes hard to differentiate when a public figure is promoting something they genuinely use in their everyday lives versus someone who is promoting for the paycheck. I have a lot of respect for celebrities, particularly fashion bloggers, who turn down offers based on whether or not the product fits their personal brand. Danielle Bernstein of WeWoreWhat, for example, talked about how she is very selective when posting products that are sent to her. She showed how she stayed true to her brand when she was sent a bag that didn’t exactly embody her style, so she wrote back to the designer,”I love this bag, but do you have it in black?”
Though proving to be a successful and convenient tool, marketing teams and public figures must be careful that they do not corrupt the platform for sales. Celebrities can quickly lose the trust and following of the public if they stop appearing authentic. Brands must also be careful that they choose the right people to represent their brand, because one slip-up on a unrelated post on the part of their ambassador, and the brand could be facing a PR nightmare. All-in-all, the use of Instagram to drive sales is reinforcing the changing nature of the fashion industry as “instant” and “consumer-driven.”