Back with a new episode of dataFORMAT, our monthly column in which we analyze in detail the new trends and the state of the market in the fashion and luxury industry. A project made possible by the collaboration with the Fashion in Process Research Lab (FiP) of the Politecnico di Milano, which provides precise data on the most relevant sectors.
This month we will focus on influencer marketing, a strategy that has been successfully used by thousands of businesses, increasing from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $16.4 billion in 2022., that involves a collaboration between brands and influencers. The increasing popularity of short video formats on TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube; the effect of the global pandemic on consumers, which catalyzed social media consumption; and the optimization of data collection, which marketers used for ads on these platforms, are the main reasons for this growth.
Influencers are perceived by their followers as reliable experts in their field, thus conveying their purchasing decisions.
The main aim of brands is creating awareness during a campaign cycle, rather than increasing sales. As people seek truthfulness, meaning, and genuine connection, authenticity is becoming more and more important as audiences expect content to be multi-faceted, intelligent, and targeted. The majority of Gen Z is slowly losing trust in mega influencers and celebrities, in favor of peer-to-peer recommendations. For this reason, brands and retailers are looking for their next ambassadors among their consumers, using community casting campaigns that push wannabe ambassadors to post pics and tag themselves, while using or wearing products, with the hope of being noticed, feeding a thriving online community and a viral fandom.
The latest in this sector are virtual influencers, like Miquela, the 19-year-old Robot living in Los Angeles with 6 million followers across Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Contrary to what one might think, this phenomenon is not born with social media as Lester Gaba, a visual merchandiser in New York in the 30s, created Cynthia, the first virtual influencer ever.
Gaba wanted to revolutionize mannequin design to embody an ideal, something that the average person could see a part of themselves in, so he started shaping his mannequins after real, New York society women. Then he came up with an ambitious marketing scheme to promote his new mannequin line. After creating Cynthia, he began taking her out with him as his date at events. It was a success. When Lester appeared with her, both friends and strangers started playing along — talking to Cynthia, telling her the latest gossip, laughing at an imaginary joke. Big brands provided her jewellery, dresses, and accessories to show off at public events, exactly as it is with fashion influencers today.