While Influencer Marketing has been credited for transforming the advertising and marketing industries, the marketing technique itself has transformed immensely in recent years. What was initially viewed as a mere tactic brands use to reach audiences, has become a measurable marketing staple, growing into a billion dollar industry in just over ten years. The market which is estimated to be worth $2 billion as of 2018 and set to reach $10 billion by 2020 will continue to see more growth in the industry and become an even more efficient marketplace.
Over the past few years, we have witnessed the rise of social media influencers, not just in popularity, but in personal revenue generation. Brands have had to increase their budgets to accommodate the growing demand for influencer spend. While this may not necessarily be the case locally, influencers are breaking bank through sponsored social media posts globally. According to the BOF’s: Business of Influence issue, influencers like Kim Kardashian-West charge up to $500k per paid Instagram post. Last year, influencer Aimee Song earned $500k for her year-long, nonexclusive contract to promote cosmetics brand Laura Mercier as reported by The Fashion Law. The Business Insider listed Dan Middleton, as one of the highest-paid social media influencers, bringing in around $16.5 million per year through his YouTube gaming channel.
A twist to this rise? Influencers are no longer content with promoting established brands, they are recognising their value beyond earning money via ad revenue by building their own brands. As the industry matures, more social media influencers are launching their own product lines in the beauty and fashion categories.
Below is a list of Influencers turned moguls:
One of the pioneers of #OOTD, 30 year-old Chiara has evolved into a social media mogul by turning her fashion blog into an e-mag and then into an e-shop. Ferragni’s ‘The Blonde Salad’ which was launched in 2009 eventually became the focus of the first study of bloggers by Harvard University. In 2013, Ferragni, together with her team, made a call to transform her blog into an online lifestyle magazine and to build its positioning as a high-end brand. That same year, saw the new mom launch her eponymous shoe line, the Chiara Ferragni Collection, sold in over 300 stores worldwide. In addition to being featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 list twice, Chiara recently opened her first Chiara Ferragni Collection store in Milan.
According to Forbes, YouTube prankster Jake Paul, earned $11.5 million in the year to June 1st 2017 . Paul also runs a management agency for YouTube stars called Team 10 earning him a percentage of his clients’ deals in the process. According to multiple sources, a huge amount of Paul’s earnings are thanks to the merchandise he moves. Forbes estimates that he sells millions of dollars of T-shirts, hoodies, and phone cases each month to his devoted fan base.
34 year-old American make-up artist, Huda Kattan used her social media popularity to establish her multi-million-dollar cosmetics line, Huda Beauty in 2013. Her first product, a series of false eyelashes instantly sold out after they were worn by award-winning Influencer, Kim Kardashian-West. “I’ve been put in multiple boxes as blogging and as an influencer and not really perceived as a businesswoman, and that’s something that I’ve really had to grow into,” she recently told Fast Company. “I didn’t necessarily plan initially to be the CEO of the company. This transition of being a woman and a breadwinner–it took some time for my dad to get used that. It took some time for my husband. I was like, gosh, I’ve worked so hard to be here, and then all of a sudden I don’t know if I feel comfortable being here.”
When Mirsalehi started her Instagram in 2012, she couldn’t have imagined that six years later, she would be the CEO of a now multi-million-dollar company. At 29, the Amsterdam-based influencer earns up to $20k per post from brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Kiehls. In 2015, Mirsalehi launched Gisou, a hair care line that contains honey or bee products, inspired by her parents: her father is a bee farmer and her mother is a hairdresser. Gisou’s launch range generated $1.5 million in sales in its first full year and reportedly reached $3 million in sales in 2017. Mirsalehi’s personal brand is still pulling in big bucks, she reportedly raked in more than $2 million and an estimated $3 million in deals in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Kristen Noel Crawley
Founded in 2016, KNC Beauty was inspired by an influencer trip to Tokyo with luxury fashion house, Dior. “I saw these amazing lip masks in Tokyo, but they were filled with chemicals so I decided to make my own version that’s completely natural,” Kristen Noel Crawley said of her Instagram famous hydrating collagen Lip Masks. The mother of two, who’s also a jewelry designer and gallery owner, said Kim and Kanye casually strolling into her launch brunch for KNC Beauty was the biggest surprise she’s had since launching the brand. Two years later, the brand launched their new Star Eye Mask which is an all natural retinol and gold infused eye mask, which has been in influencer favourite since its launch.
Beauty influencer Marianna Hewitt and fellow influencer/business partner Lauren Gores turned their social media prowess into a new business. The duo hit the influencer spot with the launch of Summer Fridays, a direct-to-consumer skin-care brand suitable for the life of a jet-setter. The first product, a hydrating cream Jet Lag Mask, quickly sold out after going on sale on their e-commerce site as well as the on-demand Sephora online platform. “A lot of us are realizing we know how to market a product. We’ve tested and tried everything, we know what we like and don’t like,” the tv presenter-turned-blogger told WWD Beauty CEO Summit.
Tshegofatso Manche or Ms Manche as she is affectionately known by her 136k Instagram followers, is the founder and CEO of one of Joburg’s most popular fashion boutiques, La Manche. Her brand, La Manche, is positioned as a brand that prides itself in providing fashionable lifestyle experiences to women seeking a “stylish resolution to their wardrobe needs”. The stylish 27 year old recently revealed that she made her first R1million at only 21. In addition to collaborating with brands such as Lux and Standard Bank, the pint-sized fashionista is currently in LA pursuing a fashion qualification.
While Conna may not have started as a social media influencer herself, she does credit social media as one of the key factors to building her hugely successful brand, House Of CB. “Without it, it wouldn’t have been possible. It has been key to our growth. We don’t post any classic advertising—we don’t do TV ads, we don’t do any paid advertising in that way. So it’s all quite organic, and I do think that is truly because of social media,” she told Elle Magazine in a 2016 interview. Walker’s big break for her House of CB fashion brand, which she founded at 17 by selling items off eBay, came when Kylie Jenner wore the Alessa, a striped, high-neck bodysuit on an episode of KUWTK. “In terms of numbers, I mean, the Kardashian Effect is very real, so whenever they wear anything it sells out immediately. I really respect their household. I know a lot of people say that they don’t work, but I think they really have created this whole pop culture about them, and that is actually really incredible.” she added. The now 26 year-old’s company reportedly made £9million in profit last year and has four stores in the UK, two in the US and about 50 concessions in Topshop.
Sarah Langa Mackay
In our exclusive interview with one of SA’s leading fashion bloggers, Sarah Langa opened up about her new journey, which sees her take on the world of luxury fashion. Finding a gap in the market was the easiest part of getting her online fashion brand, Luvant, started. “First we identified the characteristics of our marketplace: We noticed that South African’s are drawn to clothing brands that are fashionable, on trend, status driven and rich in quality.” According to the 25 year-old fashionista, Luvant provides quality luxury goods from well known international brands such as Hermes, Kenzo, Miu Miu, Jimmy Choo, etc… at market related prices or even below the market prices, from previous seasons, new and pre-owned.
As a hairstylist, Atkin’s clientele which includes the Kardashians, Chrissy Teigen, Camila Coehlo, Aimee Song and many other influencers, is very much responsible for the huge awareness her two year old brand has generated. Ouai’s shampoos, stylers and supplements are carried in 351 U.S. Sephora stores, as well as in a variety of other retailers across the country. Its global footprint extends to Canada, the UK, Australia, France, the UAE, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Industry experts estimated Ouai’s net sales to have been at $15 million in the year 2017.
It’s quite clear that influencers are the next wave of brand founders. We can’t wait to feature more South African influencers on such lists. With this new direction, we can only hope that more influencers will be inspired to think broader when it comes to revenue generation. There is so much potential to create owned brands through leveraging one’s audience and connections. But as with anything in life, it takes immense clarity, intention and hard work.