From influencer brand to established brand


Amidst the competitive landscape of D2C brands, influencer brands have emerged to become an essential force. This trend can be attributed to a confluence of factors, driven by economic shifts, evolving consumer behavior, and the ever-expanding reach of digital media.

Mostly surged in 2020, influencer brands have risen to prominence as a novel and impactful business model throughout the pandemic. Beauty and fashion are the two most crowded sectors, taking up 63% of the influencer brands, according to Influencer Marketing Hub (2022). Early pioneers, such as beauty guru Huda Kattan with Huda Beauty and fashion influencer Chiara Ferragni with The Blonde Salad, paved the way for this innovative approach to entrepreneurship. This model has since expanded into various sectors, from food & drink to home & garden, and even tech. These influencer brands represent a fusion of personal branding, entrepreneurship, and digital marketing that has reshaped the way businesses connect with their audience.

A world beyond the influencer

At its core, an influencer brand is a brand founded by an individual who has the power to influence the opinions of a considerable amount of people. It is a unique blend of personal influence and entrepreneurial vision, a world beyond the influencer. Unlike traditional businesses, where products are developed independently of the individual behind the brands, influencer brands are closely tied to the personal and online presence of the influencer. Hence, building an influencer brand requires a more personal touch than an ordinary brand-building process. It necessitates a brand architecture aligned with the influencer, a lively and aspiring brand story inspired by the influencer, and a brand platform echoing the influencer’s aesthetics. It is like creating an aspiring world around the influencer’s values and aesthetics, with which you truly connect with the audience.

A double-edged sword

As influencers turn their strong presence on social media into a rocket ship for their brands, they are trading the trust and connections built over the years for brand growth. These brands, born with audience and attention, have almost low to zero customer acquisition costs. These brands usually grow rapidly, gain creditability, and access to immediate opportunities. But there’s a flip side - influencer brands can be more fragile. The fragility stems from a strong reliance on specific individuals. If an influencer makes a mistake, the brand can also take a hit. For example, any scandal that tarnishes an individual’s reputation could potentially harm the brand. Additionally, the world of social media and digital culture changes at lightning speed. What’s popular today might be out of fashion tomorrow. Since influencer brands heavily depend on the popularity of influencers, they can be more vulnerable to sudden changes in the market. The case of Something Navy illustrates how social media can rapidly shape and undermine customer loyalty to a brand. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a series of posts made by the founder, Arielle Charnas, led her audience to believe that she no longer embodied the brand’s values. Despite Charnas issuing an apology, the incident dealt a significant blow to Something Navy, resulting in the loss of several partnerships. That’s because the brand had been closely tied to the influencer and didn’t make enough effort to detach from the influencer to a certain extent. With all that said, how then should influencer brands best leverage their strength and mitigate potential risks? In other words, when should the brands depend on the influencer, and to what extent?

Leverage the influence bonus

During the initial stage of an influencer brand, the brand’s reliance on the influencer is at its zenith. This phase sees the brand leaning heavily on the influencer to attract customers, especially those who have almost zero knowledge about the brand itself. Customers often make purchases primarily because of their trust and connection with the influencer rather than any intrinsic brand recognition. The influencer’s ability to draw in customers directly impacts the brand’s customer base. Therefore, it becomes imperative for influencers to maximize their influence during this initial period. Here’s how influencers can strategically navigate the initial phase around brand launch. Before the brand launches, generate anticipation by teasing products and creating excitement. During the launch, act as the authentic voice of the brand, building trust and bridging the gap between the brands. After the launch, sustain engagement by showcasing product integration, offering tutorials, and sharing user-generated content. These moves by influencers contribute significantly to the success of influencer brands. In essence, in the early stage of an influencer brand, the influencer takes the crown of importance. So, it is beneficial and necessary that the brand is closely tied to the influencer in this phase.

Build up brand resilience

The umbrella of the influencer’s influence also has its limits. While followers might make initial purchases when an influencer launches a brand, it does not guarantee a loyal customer base. Even the most famous or impactful influencer must create a brand that can stand independently. When the time is right, it’s essential to gradually shift the brand’s focus from the influencer’s personal identity to a distinct brand entity for greater resilience. The transformation can be achieved through enriching the brand story and brand platform. Questions to consider include whether the brand story emphasizes personal aspects or core values and whether it's presented in the first or third person. It's also vital to evaluate whether the brand platform solely centers around the influencer or incorporates diverse representatives. Ideally, the best situation should be such that customers don’t even realize that it’s an influencer brand when they make a purchase. The most successful influencer brands demonstrate that the influencer’s presence is no longer the only focus of the brand. The influencer endorses a new series, selects a star product, and creates community content, but the brand itself can attract customers independently. At this point, the brand is valid and appealing on its own, while the presence of the influencer adds a final touch of allure.

And so …

Ultimately, finding a balance between the influencer's personal influence and the brand's identity is paramount. It's akin to nurturing a child: from birth, you provide the care and resources necessary for growth. Yet, as it matures, you must grant it the autonomy to shape its distinct identity and extend its influence further. If you crave further insights, don't hesitate to connect with one of our strategists!

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