Influencer marketing has proven itself to be the new frontier in the ever evolving landscape that is digital media. Take for example TikTok’s rocket fueled surge of popularity among fashion and lifestyle industries, and growth since its launch in 2016, making it one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world. In particular with young people, 41 percent of TikToks 800 million monthly active users are aged between 16 and 24. These are percentages, and statistics that fashion brands can not ignore. Especially, as this one platform is of interest to a demographic group that is known to be fickle and incredibly diverse when it comes to their purchasing power. The domain of influencer marketing has created an industry that is expected to be worth $9.7B this year alone!
Our dependency on our handheld devices has launched a million and one meme's - but there is no denying the power of the smartphone, as well as our inability to function in the modern world without them. At its root, this is what influencer marketing is about, how digitization of our lives changed how we interact with the fashion brands we love. Brands have learned that the best way to dial into a consumer's attention is via the palm of their hand, but this also creates challenges when it comes to different regions around the world. Now more than ever, a one size fits all approach to marketing does not work for consumers. Customers expect, if they are to give brands their time, it would better be in the language, tone, and with the faces and personalities they identify with, and want to hear from.
Over the past twelve months, the industry saw 380 new influencer marketing-focused agencies created. One of the pioneers of the influencer marketing space has been Open Influence and their visionary CEO Eric Dahan. Both the company and the man, have been industry leaders in working with cutting edge companies across the spectrum from fashion and automotive to entertainment and pharmaceuticals to maximize exposure for brands across social media platforms.
Is not surprising that Open Influence phenomenal business growth has been awarded Inc. 5000 listing. By setting themselves apart from the virtually crowded swimming pool of influencer marketing firms Open Influence's CEO and co-founder Eric Dahan have carved out a unique business formula where creativity and data analysis collide. In 2019, Open Influence made $30 million dollars in revenue for their innovative efforts and creative insight, no easy feat in the hyper competitive race that is influencer marketing.
L'Officiel Austria sat down with Eric Dahan to get his insight on influencer marketing, what he sees are areas of growth in this industry, as well as what 2020 has been in reality for the fashion influencer community.
What are some of the key differences between influencer marketing in Europe vs USA? Are the way brands approach these markets differ? If so, how?
E: Europe is made up of many countries each with their own language and culture. Therefore influencer marketing is a lot more segmented than in the US. Germany, the UK, and France have a combined population of over 215 million people, but each of those countries have their own distinct languages and cultures which means, decision making happens at a country level. Then as each region is segmented i.e Austria and parts of Switzerland are German speaking, they still have their own dialects, and regional interests, which limits the talent pool on the influencer side. A limited talent pool means that brands have less ‘supply’ to choose from. The net result is influencers in these regions have more pricing power, compared to their counterparts in the US market.
What are some of the biggest trends that have emerged during the unprecedented health event of 2020 that you have seen across the fashion influencer space?
E: I believe it's two-fold.
One: Consumers have had more time at home, with their families than ever before. Our lives have changed dramatically, albeit not necessarily for the worse. Everyone was forced to slow down, and our habits are simply different now. This change in lifestyle has created a clear change in demand. Consumers for example are no longer demanding formal attire or clothing that they can wear out like they once used to. This means that what influencers are promoting has clearly changed. It’s not all sweatpants of course, but there has definitely been a huge spike in athleisure wear and a general slowdown in many aspects of the apparel industry overall.
Two: Additionally concepts like fashion week, have all gone digital. Pre-COVID, fashion influencers were always on the move, but without big industry gatherings or the ability for many influencers to travel, that has changed. This shift to digital and the new normal though is pretty interesting and exciting, as fashion influencers, and what we have known as *traditional* fashion has shifted, and will emerge into something new. Helsinki Fashion Week took the digital concept of a virtual fashion week into the ether this summer. UK based Damara Inglês debuted an experimental collection that transformed the fashion show experience.. Attendees at the event which was called "The Fabric of Reality" could float around the runway (virtually of course) all from the comfort of their laptop.
As with the rest of innovative Helsinki Fashion Week, these shows were entirely digital. The plan for Helsinki Fashion Week was not for it to be digital, but with the onset of the pandemic, the format was rethought, and it gave both designers, and event organizers a chance to explore the world of a virtual fashion week, essentially taking a cutting edge event, and making it even sharper.
TikTok has become a platform of the year - what are your best practices suggestions for the tiktok influencers?
E: Stay in line with the ethos of the platform. Blatant brand promotions won’t work well. Keep it fun and light hearted and find a creative way to weave in the brand message. Consumers are more savvy than ever before. While they know brands are working with influencers, across social media platforms, they still want to be entertained. Tik Tok is designed to be fun, engaging, and even educational.
What social media platforms that are on the rise you believe could become the next big thing for influencers?
E:Tiktok and Twitch are the most interesting new platforms to challenge the incumbents. Creating content that is fresh, and authentic has always been, and always will be a challenge for wannabe influencers whose goal is to earn income from the content they create and publish.
Do you believe influencers are here to stay? After all, every day there are another 10,000 influencers with 1 million followers around the world.... soon everyone will be an influencer by the current definition?!
E:Yes for sure. The world is now built on the idea of peer to peer communication. The idea of a digital influencer is a byproduct of that. It isn’t going away. With so many people creating and sharing information, the challenge for people is determining what information to pay attention to. It is also equally difficult to assess the trust or validity of information or an information source. Influencers are those trusted peers that people turn to and seek out for content discovery and social validation. That is why brands partner with people of influence.
How do you choose which brands to work with?
We work with many brands across many industries and I like to think that they choose us. The truth is that there are influencers in every industry and for every audience. It’s a lot of fun helping brands craft the ideal influencer strategies.
Who are some of the fashion companies and influencers you personally follow?
E: Many, I grew up with my family being deeply entrenched in the fashion industry and we work with thousands of influencers. I won’t name drop as that list can get pretty long.
Could you offer an example of an effective campaign that your firm procured that included an important CSR component? And another example where you focused on social causes?
E: We launched the "In My Scrubs" challenge with several partners. The challenge was focused on raising money to supply healthcare workers with meals during the onset of COVID-19. I am really proud of the work we did and the awareness we have raised. We all have a responsibility to be conscious of each other, and help the communities in which we live, and the planet that we share. Statistics have shown that consumers are more and more aware of CSR commitments and brands recognize that community involvement can no longer be in gesture only, with the internet at our fingertips, brands need to commit to their social responsibility and follow through with it.
You have developed a special US (Global?) tracker - do you have any unique data insights that could inform our european readers on the way markets are reacting to the current state of affairs? Based on that data what advice would you give to those wanting to engage with influencer marketing?
E:The tracker is a great way of seeing how certain industries and businesses have been affected by the crisis. The big takeaway is that advertising is always key to help businesses generate revenue. The decisions shouldn’t be whether to work with influencers or not but more so, how to work with influencers.
What is the biggest challenge in your daily work? How do you overcome it?
E: Everyday presents new and fun challenges. Open Influence is successful because of the people that I am fortunate enough to work with. No matter the scenario, or the volume of experience, no one person can have all the answers, which is why it is key to surround yourself with smart, sharp, articulate people who can help you to overcome any situation that would otherwise leave the cart stuck in the mud.
Text by Stephan Rabimov
About the Author: Stephan Rabimov, Editor-at-Large.
Stephan Rabimov is an award-winning American journalist and fashion critic.