Share the Week - February 9, 2018

Jonathan Gardner

A weekly wrap-up of valuable insights from the world of visual content, social media, and influencer marketing.

Battle of the Social Media Network Stars

Brands work with us to understand the performance of the visual content and earned media across all social media platforms and the web. Each network has unique capabilities, offering different engagement and audience building opportunities. As we’ve noted, Instagram has typically been great for building brand awareness. Pinterest is a somewhat under-appreciated but awesome channel for brand discovery and product engagement. Think of Instagram as a media broadcaster and Pinterest more like a visual search engine.

As marketers have a wealth of channels on which to entice consumers with their visual content, this doesn’t need to become an either or situation. However, it doesn’t mean that the platforms will stop innovating -- or perhaps, trying to encroach on each other’s turf.

This week, as Josh Constine reported in TechCrunch, Instagram purposefully lacks a “Regram” button to promote original sharing, but it’s easing up on that philosophy when it comes to Stories. Instagram now confirms to TechCrunch that it’s testing an option that lets you share public feed posts from other users to your Story. This could let you add commentary and overlaid stickers to a meme, celebrity post or even a friend’s photo. For users whose lives aren’t so interesting, resharing could give them something to post.

It’s pretty easy to see how this ups the ante for Insgtram as a marketing platform for brands looking to raise visibility, virality and engagement for their visual content. For now, this test is limited to the Story stream but even so, that’s a new opportunity for brand content seeding and sharing.

Not to be outdone, visual content virality machine Pinterest is enhancing its utility as a “visual search engine for brands.” Tim Peterson noted in MarketingLand that Pinterest’s Lens feature has become so capable of parsing what an image contains and what a person is searching for that the company will now use it to support text-based searches.

Starting next week, people will be able to attach images to textual search queries on Pinterest to have Lens aid in finding what they are looking for, the company announced on Thursday. The new option will first roll out to Pinterest’s iOS app and will eventually make its way to the Android version.

The idea is that the images will serve as an additional parameter for a search to better mimic how people might seek things out in the real world. Consider how you might walk into a furniture store looking for a living room rug and show the salesperson a photo of your couch and coffee table to help pinpoint a match. Or how you might be at the grocery store shopping for salsa ingredients, see an odd-but-inviting type of pepper and ask an employee what other salsa ingredients it would complement. Now you’ll be able to put those questions to Pinterest.

Fashion’s Life After Death

As we’ve noted on many occasions (just one can be found here) a combination of factors are shaking up retailing, and the fashion industry in particular. Challenger brands are a huge threat to established major big-ticket companies. Those brands market more with social media and more efficiently than big brother. Tastes are changing quicker than ever, and there is more seismic disruption yet to come. As noted in a blockbuster report this week by Bloomberg, apparel has simply lost its appeal. And there doesn’t seem to be a savior in sight. As a result, more and more apparel companies -- from big-name department stores to trendy online startups -- are folding.

The fashion industry used to have a lot of sway over how people dressed. Retailers, magazines and high-end designers were fashion kingmakers. From their lofty perches, they dictated a season’s trends, and shoppers largely abided. A decade ago, teens wore Abercrombie & Fitch from head to toe.

But in today’s consumer-driven economy, social media influencers often call the shots. These online personalities build followings with posts of their outfits, makeup routines and lifestyles. And they’re less loyal to upscale brands.

An Instagram celebrity might combine Tory Burch, T.J. Maxx finds, consignment wares and basics from Target. Consumers have discovered they can invest in certain pieces and buy runway knockoffs to put together a unique, selfie-worthy look. With smartphones, these same shoppers easily compare prices, even using apps to snap a picture and find a cheaper alternative.

Retailers are devoting more of their marketing spending to digital ads, developing a social media image, paying for promoted posts and conscripting influencers to endorse their products. The hope is that these ads seem more authentic and intimate than a television ad featuring a celebrity.

But because there are now millions of tastemakers online -- with a hodgepodge of aesthetics -- it’s harder for new trends to really break through. That’s made many apparel brands gun-shy and less prone to taking design risks. Designers used to spend months working on a collection of boundary-pushing styles in an attempt to make a statement for the brand. The variety came with the risk of sinking a lot of time and money into a design that flops. To cut costs and speed up products that are known to sell, many brands now buy fabrics in bulk that can be made into multiple designs and patterns, resulting in fewer, “safer” options for consumers. With fewer fashion changes, there are fewer reasons to replenish wardrobes.

One way forward is for struggling brands to emulate the model of the new challengers. The upstart brands (think of Everlane, StitchFix, or ModCloth), are not constrained by history and are less reliant on traditional marketing channels like paid media. While still laser-focused on brand building, they find more efficient ways to accomplish it. They have a built in tilt toward using data-driven insights on how a younger, more plugged-in audience navigates the discover-to-buy process, what type of content they’re motivated by and what type of influencers they respond to. At ShareIQ, we see that most of these brands are highly engaged in leveraging the power of earned media through smart marketing programs on platforms that can be critical purchase drivers, like Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

The obstacles faced by major fashion brands will not be overcome simply with tweaks to social media strategy. However, they can  thrive through a wholesale reimagining of the discover-to-buy pathway. It’s time for brands to learn how to optimize their entire earned media strategy and prepare to market like challengers.

The Best of the Rest

Fashionista - 12,000 Influencers had their Data Leaked by Marketing Firm Octoly

The Cut - The Affluencers: Influencers who have actual influence

Business of Fashion - Shandong Ruyi Buys Swiss Luxury Brand Bally - How designers are collecting data directly from the runway

A weekly wrap-up of valuable insights from the world of visual content, social media, and influencer marketing
Jonathan Gardner

Jonathan is vice president of marketing for ShareIQ, based in New York City.