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- 6 May 2014
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Are Fashion Blogs Effective Marketing Tools For Luxury Brands?


Suzy Menkes and Anna Wintour share the front row with Bryanboy and Tommy Ton (Masters of Media)

‘The golden era of ‘fashion blogging’ is over’ according to Robin Givhan, in what is perhaps the most comprehensive account of the rise of social stars in the fashion media realm. Yet the continued presence of digital darlings within the marketing mix of major luxury brands suggests they have not yet been rendered obsolete.

Fashion blogs came to particular prominence in the mid-2000s. At the forefront were Scott Schulman (The Sartorialist), Susanna Lau (Style Bubble), Tommy Ton (Jak & Jil) Bryan Yambao (Bryanboy) and –then 13-year-old -Tavi Gevinson (Style Rookie). Their one uniting feature: a distinct point of view, whether they were shooting ‘real people’ on the street or self-casting themselves in dreamy editorials.

They were at once personal and accessible. They were not models, they were not airbrushed (in most cases). They were not concerned with what was cool or on-trend. They had their own ideas. In 2005, Tavi described herself as a ‘tiny 13 year old dork that sits inside all day wearing awkward jackets and pretty hats. Rather cynical and cute as a drained rat. In a sewer. Farting. And spitting out guts.’

Free from the constraints of traditional journalism, their ‘normal’ way of communicating was personable and attractive to an increasingly wide and democratic audience. And before the more recent parade of placed content and free handbags, consumers believed-in and appreciated their stories.

 They were not models. They were not concerned with what was cool or on-trend 


As Givhan points out, this new wave of fashion media conveyed “an earnest and raw truth that did not exist in traditional outlets”. The underdogs garnered the respect of this new digital audience, by producing highly engaging content without access to extensive closets of free clothes or shoots by big name photographers.

As the Internet began to change consumer expectations regarding the delivery and frequency of content, real-time bloggers were first to market as print magazines stammered about their online strategies. On blogs, consumers were greeted with product that was already in stores (therefore, able to be purchased) or gaining access to important fashion events as they happened.

In so facto, they no longer had to wait one month to receive a magazine, which communicated products that they could not purchase for another three months. And for once, readers were part of the conversation. These social media innovators understood the need to respond to their communities across multiple channels, building advocates and viral shares in the process.


Rumi Neely (FashionToast) and Susannah Lau (Style Bubble)

Simultaneously, brands began to tell their own stories online, somewhat negating their dependence on traditional media. And to make matters worse for the glossies, consumers became more and more aware of the relationship between advertising and editorial. Understanding that the ‘point of view’ that was curated for them was either directly or indirectly funded by the brands themselves.

At the time of inception, fashion bloggers offered an authentic alternative. Before the big houses courted their attention (and column inches), they garnered significant audiences based on their own personal style or their ‘eye’ on the street. Essentially, they had a comparatively ‘pure’ point of view when it came to fashion and style, unaffected by advertising agreements or gifted incentives.

And their audiences became undeniable. In 2011, six years after launching The Sartorialist, Scott Schuman’s street-style photography site had garnered approximately 13 million page views in one month, a 44 percent increase over the same month the previous year (BoF).

 In 2011, The Sartorialist garnered approximately 13 million page views in one month 

In the same year, WWD penned an article entitled The Bloggers Who Matter, which claimed that Bryanboy, Fashion Toast, Man Repeller and Style Bubble were all averaging between 1 and 1.5 million page views per month each.

The majority listed advertising as their main source of revenue – suggesting legitimacy in terms of traffic – with brand partnerships, modelling and styling gigs also bringing in additional income. The Business of Fashion estimated that Schuman was potentially earning up to $100,000 per month in revenue in 2011, from advertisers that included Tiffany, Coach, and Ferragamo.

And indeed for brands, before blogs became well-oiled fully-staffed offices with agents and lawyers, exposure on these ‘grass roots’ sites was relatively low cost and comparatively uncomplicated. Unconstrained by the limits of print journalism, brands could work with these collaborative young things on new and exciting ways to convey their message.

In some ways, bloggers gave luxury brands an opportunity to test the digital waters they had so far been reluctant to swim in. To let their experimentation with content and coverage inform their own online presence and future marketing mix.


Jane Aldrige of Sea of Shoes (Teen Vogue)


When it comes to advertising, it has become evident that successful fashion blogs are just as capable of reaching large audiences as the websites of traditional glossies or major media groups. As with any media buying activity, the suitability of the platform will depend entirely on the audience the brand wishes to reach.

But when it comes to content, perhaps we have reached cynical-critical mass. Does the audience still believe in the integrity of said star-blogger head to toe in the newest collection from a luxury brand? Do consumers resonate with these images? And more importantly, is there any confirmation that product placement on these blogs actually shifts product?

A quick scan through the pages of numerous ‘influential’ fashion blogs uncovers an array of content involving Chanel, Burberry, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci, to name just a few. Some brands have even launched campaigns or microsites featuring fashion bloggers ‘interpreting’ a specific product in various ways, where the blogger then ‘shares’ said styling gig through their own channels.

 When it comes to content, perhaps we have reached cynical-critical mass 

On the one hand, having ‘normal’ people interpret luxury products and demonstrate their place in day-to-day life can certainly help brands in becoming more accessible to a public that was once cut off from their activities.

For a younger audience enamoured with luxury and the lifestyles these bloggers perpetuate, it certainly helps raise brand awareness, create aspiration and share the rich stories associated with these brands and products. But how many items does it actually help sell?

Browsing through the (public) media kits of the some of successful fashion blogs, the audience is more often than not 70% female, between the ages of 15 and 35 years old, an age bracket that currently represents Generations Y and Z.



According to a recent study by the Intelligence Group, these generational segments are interested in everything surrounding shopping – researching products online, curating wishlists, consuming content etc. – except the “exchanging of currency for goods.” Dubbed ‘fauxsumers’ they are making a name for themselves by never converting, despite high levels of engagement across a myriad of media platforms.

The argument is that these Gen Y and Z consumers are the ones of the future, regardless of their purchasing power now. And that brands must begin to build relationships with this group whilst they are young and hungry for content, to ensure their future revenue longevity. But are they perhaps ignoring the immediate impact of these blogger marketing activities on core luxury consumers?

Just as choosing a celebrity brand ambassador can be unifying or dividing, choosing to engage with a blogger says something about the position of your brand. Are ultra high net worth consumers, the heavy users of luxury goods, at all swayed by the postings of fashion’s new media darlings? Do they relate to the style of someone that mixes Céline and Kenzo with Zara and Topshop?

 Dubbed ‘fauxsumers’ Gen Y & Z are making a name for themselves by never spending 

“I think it’s about time luxury brands started thinking about who, exactly, their target customers consider celebrities,” recently mused Vanessa Friedman, following the news that Louis Vuitton had launched a men’s campaign featuring business leaders at Davos.

“Opposed to who, say, US Weekly and their target customers consider celebrities – odds are they are not the same people.” Indeed, Louis Vuitton has chosen authors Atiq Rahimi and Tom Reiss, political consultant Felix Marquardt, CEO Lourenço Bustani and Dr Gino Yu of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, as ambassadors of the porte-documents voyage briefcase.

“This simply pushes the envelope a bit more,” believes Friedman. “you really have to be a connoisseur not just to appreciate the product, but to know who those people are also appreciating the product. It’s almost like a dare: are you smart enough to recognise these influencers? It’s a clever subliminal ego boost.”


Louis Vuitton’s Visionaries campaign

Each leader was photographed and interviewed for an online ‘Visionaries’ campaign, discussing the new frameworks for understanding globalization and humanity. There was no mention of the briefcase itself, nor its craftsmanship or available colourways.

The campaign was inherently less-sexy than the myriad of luxury advertising that fills our daily lives. But it seemed like a shrewd move from a brand that is trying to scale back its accessibility and recover from overexposure. And much more likely to resonate with the Baby Boomer generation – who still fuels the majority of luxury consumption – than endless reels of placed product on a slim twenty-something blogger.

There is the issue of media consolidation. Nowadays when you land on Style Bubble, FashionToast, Sea of Shoes or Bryanboy, you land on a website hosted by Now Manifest, a ‘union’ of sorts for prominent voices in the fashion blogosphere. Christian Remröd and Elin Kling founded the collective to better leverage advertising deals across the network and give bloggers a steady income.

 Louis Vuitton recently launched a men’s campaign featuring business leaders at Davos 

Now Manifest was then purchased by Fairchild Fashion Media in 2012, which is a subsidiary of Condé Nast. All bloggers maintain their editorial independence and remain the owners of their content and brands, but in some ways, the blogs have become part of the system that they once helped revolutionise.

Now Manifest was purchased largely due to its significant following and the profile of its ‘voices’ but also so Fairchild could better develop the digital presence of its own titles. Following the acquisition, appointed Christian Remröd as managing director of Fairchild Fashion Media Business Development, to work with existing leadership to incubate fresh digital concepts for current and new businesses.


Bryanboy, Tommy Ton, Garance Doré and Scott Schuman (WSJ)

Going Forward

As with most new media platforms, fashion blogs seem to be useful tools for raising brand awareness within a Generation Y and Z audience. Where fashion blogs also seem effective is in the validation of what is desirable – usually at an individual product level – and for convincing consumers that luxury fashion products have a place in day-to-day life.

Often blogs will represent a low-cost, low-barrier-to-entry marketing opportunity for luxury brands, which can be best used to create buzz around events or product launches or heritage stories. Collaborating with a blogger appears to be simpler than negotiating a multichannel campaign with a media group, which will eventually result in complimentary editorial coverage.

The partnership also allows brands to tap into the digital native knowledge of the blogger and better understand what is happening at the frontiers of new media. But increasingly, luxury brands have poached exceptional creative and technical talent from all kinds of industries to bring this focus on innovation in-house.

There is no doubt that these platforms reach a large global audience that often rivals traffic to big name media brands. Though there is little to no evidence that these blogs reach an audience with the purchasing power to consume luxury. If the Intelligence Group’s research is to be believed, they reach the audience with the least propensity to actually spend.

 Often blogs will represent a low-cost, low-barrier-to-entry marketing opportunity for luxury brands 

And their influence seems to be somewhat on the wane in popular culture, as the lines that once rigidly separated independent fashion bloggers from traditional media megaliths continue to blur, threatening the authenticity and influence of social media stars.

As Scott Schuman explained to Robin Givan, “We’re getting to a tipping point. People are starting to push back. They want to be able to believe what [bloggers] are saying. Who am I to say don’t take the handbag, or don’t take advantage of the opportunities? But don’t expect people to respect what you do.”

Going back to basics, blogs rose to prominence because consumers wanted more than the print media system had to offer. But now print media has caught up online and bloggers have become part of the system where advertising and editorial are linked.

And nearly ten-years on, fashion blogs and bloggers don’t necessarily represent what is new and next for consumers. As Macala Wright once decreed;

“While I know it’s scary for brands to engage with new tastemakers and rising affluentials, it’s necessary. The digital personality that could move your customer’s perception of your brand in the digital space is someone you probably haven’t discovered yet because you’re not looking.”

“You’re following, not leading. Take a stand and look for new influencers, they may not necessarily be bloggers…”

To further investigate our For & Against series on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:__

- Do We Really Need The Fashion Show?
- Luxury Brand High Street Collaborations
- Celebrity Marketing in Luxury Communications