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Are genuinfluencers the new influencers for niche and luxury brands?

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Relevance on why the genuinfluencers are replacing the traditional luxury influencer model

The influencer marketing industry is on track to be worth $15bn by 2022, with many mass-market and ultra-luxury brands alike considering influencers as a crucial part of their social strategy.

Despite this, more and more of us are starting to experience influencer fatigue, with just 3% of consumers found to be influenced by celebrity influencers to purchase specific products in a recent study, and influencer engagement rates taking a hit on Instagram in recent years.

Why traditional influencer marketing no longer aligns with HNW and UHNW brands

In the luxury market, using influencers has always been fraught with concerns about authenticity and cheapening the brand, with HNW and UHNW audiences only responding to brands that align with their values and social image.

Many luxury brands have been able to enact brilliant and highly successful influencer campaigns by ensuring the influencers that they partner with truly represent their brand. Look at Chanel bringing on 22-year old Lily Rose Depp as its new face, helping to attune to an elite generation Z audience, or Alex Hirschi (supercarblondie) helping to unveil the $9m Bugatti Centodieci and driving a flurry of excitement around the car.

Today, however, with an over-saturated influencer market seeing many posting glossy yet homogenous content, and the need for brands to prove their social conscience and authenticity ever more important in the post-Covid era, we are witnessing fatigue with the typical influencer model taking over the luxury market.

Concern about fake accounts – those that buy followers, don’t declare sponsored content, or profit off fake engagement – is also on the rise, and for good reason. A recent study by cybersecurity company CHEQ found that 15% of all influencer ad dollars are spent on fake followers, while other studies have found cases where the influencers engaged by major brands have follower bases estimated to be up to 70% fake.

It is clear that the traditional luxury influencer model isn’t working anymore, leaving the social landscape ready for a new wave of content creators. So what’s next?

Genuinfluencers: the influencers of the future

Don’t be put off by the gimmicky-sounding term; genuinfluencers are serious business. Coined by trend forecasting company WGSN in December 2020, these passionate individuals are more interested in sharing advice, discussing their passions and spreading unbiased information than selling brands or products. They often identify as creators instead of influencers, and would rather be noticed for their high-quality content than their follower count.

Predicted to be one of the biggest trends for 2021 and beyond, genuinfluencers are typically topic experts in a certain niche, whose followers are genuinely interested in what they have to say, trusting their knowledge and seeing their advice as valuable and relevant to their interests. You typically wouldn’t see a genuinfluencer promoting a wide variety of incohesive products, for example appetite suppressants one day and Michelin-star restaurants the next.

We are also seeing traditional influencers cross over to becoming genuinfluencers, adapting to the mood of their followers or simply choosing to use their large follower base for good. One example of this is Instagram fashionista and best-selling author Aimee Song, who during the outbreak of the pandemic posted feel-good #stayathome content with no promotional message.

WWD defines genuinfluencers as being wholly focused on making a positive impact, with their priority being their social activism and their moral and ethical beliefs, and brand collaborations playing a secondary role to their overall goals. This means that they will always fully vet a brand, including their history, partners and practices, before working with them, and won’t collaborate with anyone who doesn’t align with their cause.

Why do genuinfluencers work?

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 63% of marketers intend to increase their influencer marketing budget in the next year. However, finding the correct influencer to partner with is often not given the attention it deserves. Brands should also be vetting content creators before working with them, knowing that the reputation of the influencer they choose to work with deeply affects their image.

Working with genuinfluencers allows brands to show their support of social issues through a trusted external voice, making their views seem authentic and reassuring their audience that their activism is not simply a marketing ploy to sell more services or products. Genuinfluencers can also help brands do better by adding clarity to complicated topics that a brand may not understand the intricacies of. In today’s ‘cancel culture’, having an expert on your team to make sure that your messaging is flawless goes a long way.

Two successful HNW genuinfluencer campaigns to take inspiration from

Gucci and Gerald the ‘Veg King’

Retired fisherman Gerald Stratford loves gardening – specifically ‘big veg’ – and spends most of his time living this passion, be it planting, pruning, weeding or feeding. Last year, however, he became an unexpected social media sensation thanks to his impressive selection of vegetables and his optimistic thoughts, which he shares over his 303,000-follower Twitter and 16,000-follower Instagram.

Gucci chose Stratford to be the star of a collaborative video shoot with Highsnobiety for Gucci’s Off The Grid 2021 collection. Gucci Off The Grid is the brand’s more environmentally-focused collection, made mostly of ECONYL, a type of Nylon regenerated from abandoned fishing nets, old carpets and offcuts. The collaboration makes sense due to Stratford’s passion for self-sufficient vegetable growing and love for nature.

On Facebook, the video got 1.2k likes, 53 comments and 89 shares, while the story about the so-called ‘Veg King’ working with Gucci was covered positively by a broad selection of publications including the Telegraph.

Royal Malewane and Chelsea Kauai

Luxury traveller and pro diver Chelsea Kauai consistently discusses sustainability and animal welfare as part of her content, and so when it came for South Africa’s Royal Malewane Spa & Lodge to partner with someone to showcase their experience, Kauai was the perfect fit. Offering her opinion on the HNW resort’s ethical safari offering, Kauai posted a series of images and videos talking about the treatment of the animals and the beauty of the wildlife retreat.

Kauai having 1.1 million followers, the post gained around 50,000 likes. More importantly, though, over 300 people engaged with comments, with some expressing their feelings around leaving as little trace as possible and others describing it as a dream trip.

For ultra-luxury brands, working with genuinfluencers should play a vital part in your 2021 social media strategy. Get in touch to see how my HNW and UHNW marketing agency Relevance can help.

Rumble Romagnoli is chief executive officer at Relevance.

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