Luxury fashion's top 50 social winners and what we can learn from them
Gucci may have decided it needed a change of guard as creative chief at the start of this year (the Kering flagship brand replaced star designer Alessandro Michele with the little known Sabato De Sarno of Valentino signalling a new, perhaps less exuberant, direction) but it still easily topped the charts when it came to the luxury fashion social media winners over the past 12 months.
Influencer marketing platform CreatorIQ measures social success for brands, using its unique EMV (Earned Media Value) metric and, on behalf of TheIndustry.fashion, it has compiled the below list of the Top 50 most successful luxury fashion brands on social media. Gucci achieved a whopping $392.3 million worth of social media value, comfortably ahead of LVMH's Dior which came in second with $351.1 million.
What's interesting though, is that while it's riding high, that value has declined 14% year on year. That doesn't necessarily mean that Gucci's star is losing its shine and can be a factor of the performance of the sector as a whole or the relative performance of others in the sectors (Dior and Chanel also saw declining EMV value).
Luxury Fashion by EMV: Numbers 1-25
But perhaps this decline in EMV can be seen as an early indicator, along with Gucci's slowing sales growth, that unless the brand takes action now (which is precisely what Kering has done), then it could find itself falling down the charts in future and it's a long climb back up again. The excitement about De Sarno's appointment and his first collection to be shown in Milan this autumn, however, will be certain to keep interest and social mentions high for the time being.
Of course, not all social mentions are positive. Take a look at Gucci's Kering stablemate Balenciaga. It climbed to number three in the CreatorIQ chart with a whopping 70% growth in EMV to $346.2m, positioning it just behind Dior and ahead of Louis Vuitton. On the face of it that's a stunning performance but the reality is much, if not all of that growth, will have come on the back of the brand's ill-judged marketing campaigns of last year in which teddy bear bags in bondage gear were featured in childrenswear advertising campaign (just what was it thinking?). Likely as not, it will slump back down the charts next year and, while the controversy appears to have died down for now, we await to see how the brand works to repair its image this year.
Luxury Fashion by EMV: Numbers 26-50
Another interesting factor when considering EMV is that it doesn't necessarily follow that the bigger your brand, the better you will perform. If you are creating content-worthy fashion and moments and engaging with the right social creators you can punch well above your weight. Simon Porte Jacquemus' eponymous brand, founded in 2009, is taking on some of the most storied houses in fashion when it comes to social media punch.
The brand, which put itself on the fashion map with its micro bags and its stunning fashion shows, comes in at number 11 in the charts, nestled between historic superbrands Tiffany & Co and Hermès. There's much that smaller brands, whether in luxury or more mainstream markets, can learn from Jacquemus and how to mix it with fashion superpowers.
To learn more about how to interpret the chart, and what brands can learn from it, we spoke to CreatorIQ CSO Conor Begley.
First of all, can you please explain EMV and how it is indicative of a brand’s ‘social’ success?
Earned Media Value or EMV, is an influencer marketing metric that’s used to quantify the value of social media content. EMV measures engagement with social media content about a brand that is created by a third party. This third party is typically an influencer, but EMV also accounts for posts from publications, retailers, and other brands.
EMV captures all earned media: that is, any content about a brand that’s not created by that brand. Influencer endorsements and online word-of-mouth recommendations, like customer reviews, are both examples of earned media with the potential to drive serious sales conversions. Relative to other forms of social media marketing, earned media is especially valuable to brands because of its trustworthiness in the eyes of consumers. As the creator economy grows, influencer marketing is becoming increasingly integral to any brand’s success. Robust influencer programs are the most effective way for brands to increase the volume of earned media created about them—and, correspondingly, their Earned Media Value.
Can you draw a direct conclusion about a brand’s success in general from their EMV rating?
Generally EMV will give you an accurate picture of a brand’s health and overall virality within its vertical, but it shouldn’t be taken as a holistic, one-size-fits-all success metric. EMV is best understood as a relative metric, and should be used within an ecosystem of other metrics to assess a brand’s success. For example, a brand’s long-term EMV trajectory and year-over-year stats are best assessed in context with the long-term performance of this brand’s competitive set, or its vertical as a whole. These comparison points will provide greater context for EMV levels, and offer more meaningful directional takeaways.
The top two brands saw a drop-off in their EMV, yet they are still top two, what can we read into that?
It’s not uncommon to see top-ranking brands by EMV claim year-over-declines relative to previous totals. This usually indicates several things: that the relevant vertical as a whole saw declines; that other top brands declined at a greater rate; that rising brands simply haven’t yet accrued a wide enough following to replace the brands that are declining.
Balenciaga’s EMV shot up, was that down to recent controversies? Is it possible for EMV to reflect negative publicity, as well as positive?
It’s likely that Balenciaga’s rise was due to recent controversies. EMV is sentiment-agnostic; negative press about a brand, because it still constitutes mentions, will result in positive EMV gains. When a brand undergoes a controversy, it’s quite common to see a local surge in that brand’s EMV. However, it’s worth noting that with a steady accumulation of controversies, that brand will experience declining EMV rates over a longer time period.
What can brands do to keep themselves ahead of the pack in the EMV stakes?
Across different verticals and markets, the methods of securing high EMV totals tend to be fairly consistent. The goal of a winning brand’s influencer program should be to foster genuine brand affection among individuals with broad social platforms, who can then serve as evangelists by regularly posting about the brand and products to their followers. The more genuine the bond between a brand and its influencers (and the bonds between these influencers and their followers), the more successful this brand will be at driving inbound attention and heightening its social profile. Because savvy users can detect a sponsored, purely promotional attempt at an influencer partnership, a winning influencer program should engage individuals who share a brand’s values, aesthetic, and identity.
It’s interesting how relatively small or new brands can really punch above their weight, such as Jacquemus, which outperforms giants like Tiffany and Celine for instance. What can we learn from them?
We’re always on the lookout for the brands that punch above their weight—those are the brands we can learn from, and the ones that are driving the Creator Economy forward. In Jacquemus’ case, we’ve observed that the brand is particularly adept at leveraging events via high-impact brand ambassadors and media partners. For example, its spring 2023 “Ready-to-Wear” show, held on December 12 in Paris, featured supermodels like Irina Shayk (@irinashayk on Instagram) and Vittoria Ceretti (@vittoria), as well as VIP guests like BlackPink’s Jennie (@jennyrubyjane), French actor Vincent Cassel (@vincentcassel), and more. The brand’s top EMV-drivers were retained ambassadors Vogue France (@voguefrance) and Vogue US (@voguemagazine), which featured backstage exclusives of the show. Most fashion brands have splashy shows—but not every brand can claim such consistent content creation from its advocates.
When it comes to the creators brands should be targeting, what does this list tell us?
A range of our recent analysis has shown that consumers are craving candid, authentic, and eye-catching content. Instead of the highly curated, polished aesthetic often favored by influencers in previous years, today’s top creators place a greater value on unfiltered creativity. For brands looking to forge partnerships with new advocates, it’s important to consider the following principles:
- Let creators be themselves. Never expect conformity. While brands should always be clear and transparent about their expectations for a campaign, it’s important to never micromanage partners’ content. Instead, encourage partners to put their own original spin on a brand’s initiative. The resulting content will be far more interesting and impactful to viewers.
- Create opportunities for humor. Laughter is gold on contemporary social media, so campaigns with lighthearted or tongue-in-cheek elements tend to see strong performance. Avoid serious or overly sentimental messaging, and remember that creators and their followers are here to have fun.
- Keep inclusivity top of mind. Creators and consumers are quick to call out brands that don’t abide by this principle, so it’s imperative that a brand’s choice of partnerships don’t unintentionally exclude any group o based on skin color, size, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Luxury has stood up well during the global cost of living crisis, are you see more robust numbers in luxury than you are in, say, mainstream fashion?
Luxury’s rebound has been one of the key trends that we’ve been keeping our eye on over the past year. After being negatively impacted by COVID-era restrictions on the sort of large events that propel momentum for luxury, these brands are back to posting healthy numbers. While there were standouts within non-luxury fashion (Skims, Abercrombie & Fitch, YoungLA), overall, luxury posted stronger numbers: the top 50 brands averaged an 11% year-over-year EMV growth, while non-luxury averaged a 1% year-over-year decline. Additionally, the top 50 luxury brands saw their communities expand by 14% on average, compared to the 9% growth averaged by non-luxury brands.
Looking ahead do you have any key advice for brands when it comes to their influencer strategies this year?
- Put creators at the center of campaigns. The most successful campaigns we've observed actively involve creators in the campaign development process, rather than treating them as brand spokespeople.
- Increase investment in creator marketing on TikTok. As brands across industries recognize the impact of creator-led campaigns on the platform, we expect to see an even more pronounced focus on TikTok, with savvy brands placing it at the center of their overall marketing strategies.
- Prioritize long-term partnerships with creators over transactional, short-term activations. The longer a creator has demonstrated a consistent, genuine preference for a brand, the more likely consumers will be to trust that creator’s endorsement of the brand. For this reason, brands that prioritize long-term creator partnerships over one-off paid posts are far more likely to see a lasting impact from their creator-led activities.
Main image: Loewe Instagram
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