Instagram is a part of everyone's everyday life. With almost 300 million profiles, users have the ability to interact with one another but also follow celebrities and brands on a more personal level. Through Instagram came a new method of marketing, and for some developed into a career. The evolution of “Instagram Brands” and the “influencer” has changed the way we buy commodities. In this paper I will explain how Instagram has changed the fashion marketing world and how people have made a career off of Instagram.
Instagram was introduced in 2010, with 25,000 users within the first day of its launch1. Within two months 1 million users had signed up. Celebrities started accounts which gave fans a personal insight to their lives. Now almost everyone you meet has an Instagram and it's one the most common ways to keep in touch with one another. Brands and marketing agencies had previously used different methods of selling a product and spent millions of dollars developing a campaign. TV commercials and billboard ads were the most common channels of reaching an audience, but reaching their targeted audience was always a challenge. Advertisers soon realized that Instagram was a great way to reach an audience.
Fashion blogs had been around for a couple years prior to the rise of Instagram. “Bloggers” as they're called, post outfits and the brands where you can buy their clothes. Bloggers create content for their blogs that are usually planned and then posted. Instagram became a crucial part of their careers, giving them the opportunity to reach new people and post more day-to-day outfits and insight on their daily lives. Influencers build their own brand that followers identify with. They build a relationship with their followers through original content and honest reviews of products. Their followers trust their opinions because they have similar interests. Brands started developing marketing strategies that included working with these bloggers to create sponsored posts. Brands soon realized that they can use people that have a large following to post products at a much lesser price than paying a big-name celebrity. E-commerce marketing had an incredible shift in the way they could reach new consumers.
People began their own fashion blogs via Instagram. Since Instagram is a free app, they don't have to pay or build a website to gain a following. A critical component to having a successful blog is to create a specific aesthetic that appeals to people. Having a carefully curated feed is guaranteed to get you more followers and with more followers comes more exposure. Brands started working with these people and thus began the “influencer” career. Influencers could work with brands to gain exposure and showcase products at an efficient price that benefits both the brand and the influencer. People gravitate more to influencers feed rather than a celebrity because of the more authentic and candid content that they create. Influencers are more interactive, which gives the sense that they are a friend rather than a paid celebrity trying to sell you a commodity.
Instagram culture became a huge aspect of people's everyday lives. The question of “can I Instagram this?” became a factor in what would be considered mundane posts. Fashion brands caught onto this idea of advertising their clothes so that people can post in them. The new digital marketing model is: Is this Instagrammable?
Along with brands working with influencers, new brands emerged on Instagram. These new brands would gift influencers their clothing so that they gain exposure. More and more clothing brands seem to emerge on a daily basis, with Instagram as their only form of marketing. These brands rely on influencers and stylists to gain a following. In 2016, Instagram rolled out a new feature that allows brands to tag the specific product in the post. This gave consumers a more direct way to shop and explore new brands. Most brand Instagram's are mainly posts of influencers and celebrities who wear their products.
Brands started having events that these influencers would attend and post about to generate buzz around their brand. Much like fashion week, brands will have an event to showcase their new collections and invite celebrities and influencers to all post about with a creative hashtag relating to the brand. Revolve, an e-commerce brand, is well known for curating lavish events that influencers attend. Revolve houses many fashion brands, like LPA and Nicole Richie's House of Harlow to name a few. Revolve also works with influencers who want to start their own label. They reach out to popular influencers to create collaborative clothing lines and sell them through Instagram. Starting your own label is extremely costly, but since Revolve is a huge company, they make it to start a label. Instagram gives the opportunity to skirt around previously necessary skills to market your own brand.
One brand that utilized the Instagram market was a beauty brand called Glossier. Glossier emerged from a beauty blog called Into the Gloss, a blog that interview's celebrities about their beauty routines. Glossier gathered information from their users to develop simplified beauty products and their main marketing strategy was to use Instagram. Glossier's success grew rapidly and brands took note of their marketing strategy. One aspect of their marketing strategy was to be more interactive with their followers. A brand that seemed to be your “friend” and more approachable appealed to consumers. Glossier encouraged people to post photos of their products and their followers did in hopes of their photo being reposted by the brand. This gave their audience the feeling of being a potential influencer if they got reposted. Their signature “#glossierpink” made them stand out along with their aesthetically pleasing packaging and Instagram feed.
French influencer, Jeanne Damas, started her own label, Rouje, after becoming successful because of Instagram. She utilized Instagram to market her clothes simply by posting a photo of herself and using a hashtag. Her clothes sold out within hours and people took to Instagram to post photos of themselves wearing the clothes and used her hashtag. Another brand that utilized Instagram was Realisation Par. They launched the brand 3 years ago and used influencers to gain exposure. Their clothes became wildly popular among influencers. By using influencers to market their clothes, they immediately sold out when their clothes became available. Their infamous leopard skirt kept selling out every time they would restock it and their only marketing for it is posting it on Instagram. They repost pictures of girls wearing their clothes and use the hashtag “#dreamgirl”. Acknowledging someone wearing their clothes by posting them provides fans the idea that they can be influencers too. This is an important approach to drive sales and gives consumers a more personal experience. Consumers want to identify with the brand that they are buying from. When they identify with a brand, they are more likely to stay loyal to it.
Engaging with your audience is an important factor. Instagram gives brands the ability to get feedback and grow as a brand. Knowing the story behind a brand gives a brand an enhanced image. Women owned fashion brands are immensely popular because consumers want to feel good about supporting another woman. Transparency is also another key to having a successful brand. Instagram gives brands the chance to show their consumers where their clothes are being made and how it impacts the world. With environmental issues on high alert, fashion brands are becoming more transparent about their carbon footprint. Reformation, a sustainable fashion brand, is one of the most transparent brands when it comes to providing information about their waste. The fashion industry is one of the top contributors to waste and carbon emissions. Reformation uses deadstock and sustainable fabrics to produce their clothing. Their Instagram gives further insight on how they practice sustainable production. By buying from Reformation, consumers feel good about buying from a brand that practices sustainability while also looking good. Everlane, a brand committed to transparency, showcases the factories and cost of producing their clothing. Their main ethos is to show their customers how much it costs to make clothes and compare them to a designer's price tag. They make their clothes affordable while maintaining great quality. They show their followers how they maintain sustainable practices and how ethically made clothing is. “#TransparencyTuesday” gives their followers the opportunity to ask questions about where their clothes are coming from. Building a personal experience by engaging with their customers with Instagram is a huge factor in Everlane's success.
Because of the way Instagram has changed digital marketing by working with influencers, the Federal Trade Commission has cracked down influencers violating rules about paid sponsorships. If an influencer is paid to post something, they must state it in the post. In 2017, Instagram introduced a feature that lets users know when a specific post is sponsored. According to the FTC Guide, ads should be truthful, and any paid content should be disclosed for the consumer. As consumers who trust influencers opinions, it is important to know that they are being paid to promote a specific product and not misleading us to believe they truly endorse a product because they love it.
Instagram has become one of the main channels that marketers use to reach an audience. The introduction of the “influencer” has given brands the opportunity to target a specific audience at a fraction of the cost. Instagram has given brands free marketing by simply having a profile and has increased engagement with brands that use Instagram. Instagram has made it easier for people to start and promote their own brands and learn more about where they are buying from.
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