Millennial social media influencers are driving fashion more than they ever have before, and industry leaders are paying attention – especially in China.
Vogue China editor-in-chief Angelica Cheung (one of our top Statement Makers of the year) recently launched a new magazine called Vogue Me specifically to target millennials. The debut issue featured popular social media celebrities such as Chinese singer and actor Luhan, Japanese model Kiko Mizuhara and American model Pyper America Smith – Lucky Blue Smith’s sister – who between them have more than 10 million Instagram followers. Cheung has commented on the need to target different age groups, comparing her two magazines to a mother and daughter.
Calvin Klein’s ads have become a huge success with millennials, with their slogan, ‘I ___ in my Calvins’ and the involvement of brand ambassadors such as Kendall Jenner, Zoe Kravitz, Justin Bieber, FKA Twigs (see how to achieve her signature braids hairstyle) and G.E.M.
In addition 19-year-old actress Chloe Moretz is on her third season as a brand ambassador for Coach while heart-breaker Kris Wu was appointed as this year’s brand ambassador for Bulgari (catch him at the Shanghai International Film Festival red carpet).
‘Social media has allowed these girls to have a voice and a platform and not just be some random, anonymous model,’ said former US Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Amy Astley to WWD. ‘Young people today are totally open to a self-invented person who uses social media to launch their career and put their message out there.’
Tom Ford selected Lucky Blue Smith as the face of his SS16 campaign, while Versace chose Gigi Hadid as its AW16 ambassador, and Fendi chose Jenner. One of the most successful millennial branding revamps came when Gucci’s Alessandro Michele chose brand ambassadors such as transgender actress and model Hari Nef and musicians Olly Alexander for his AW16 collection and Florence Welch and Chris Lee for his watch and jewellery collections. They were the perfect people to match the colourful aesthetics of the newly reinvented brand. This resulted in a major global sales boost for Gucci owner Kering.
Harnessing millennial branding power means appealing to a generation that merges entertainment and social media, and chooses their role models for their attitude and perspective rather than simply their looks. And those millennials are set to have the highest spending power in history. Last year, according to WWD, the number of Instagram posts from fashion brands increased by 400 percent, while VIP events attended by millennial influencers have become fundamental for most brands. Brands are willing to spend heavily for 10 minutes of live vlogging from the right person, or for them to repost on platforms like Weibo and WeChat.
However, the millennial market is tough to tap into. They have more choices than any previous generation, and their media consumption habits evolve constantly, but they are also likely to follow and interact with a brand over a lengthy period of time, which brands can harness to create long-term relationships with their customers.
Brands need to make sure, however, that they stay focused on their target audience rather than chasing around this group of young people. Print magazines, for example, could struggle to keep their core audience. ‘People who still buy print media do not necessarily want to see these young kids,’ says former GQ China senior fashion editor Lian Ziqiang, who integrated the print and digital versions of the magazine. ‘They are buying print in order to understand something new, something more in depth with professional opinions.’
For fashion brands, Gucci shows the way forward; appealing to millennials is all about striking a balance and staying authentic to the brand’s roots.