The Influential Brand: Does Who You Are Matter More Than What You Make?

The Influential Brand: Does Who You Are Matter More Than What You Make?

By Ashley Tibbits

 Illustration by @marinedequenetain for @sortofobsessed

Illustration by @marinedequenetain for @sortofobsessed

For—ahem—many reasons, we live in an unprecedented time. For as long as most of us reading this can remember, the public has had some obsession with the rich, famous, and beautiful, but what’s different now is our accessibility to those once unreachable, practically intangible creatures. Nowadays, we can watch our idols eat cereal on Instagram Stories, we can see glimpses of their children moments after birth, and every intimate life moment in between—whether because it’s captured candidly by paparazzi or strategically shared on social media. All that said, it’s not surprising that some would use their rank to do big business. Lately it seems like the most buzzed-about brands are those backed by faces with an impressive following. This begs the question, does who you are matter more than more than what you make?

 

One of the most obvious examples of a brand that launched into viral territory due to the influencer behind it is Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics. While the Kardashian/Jenner family has been putting their name on products for some time now, the youngest sister has been the one to reach otherworldly levels of financial success—to the tune of $386 million this year alone, according to Time Magazine. The makeup mogul can attribute no small part of this success to her image—specifically her admittedly enhanced lips. Jenner managed to use the tremendous attention to the questioning of whether or not she’d gone “under the knife” to her advantage with her first-released lip kits. With nearly 100 million Instagram followers, she was in a clear position of influence.

 

In a similar way—but with a decidedly different demographic—is another mega beauty brand, Glossier. Yes, the brand’s millennial pink packaging, use of relatable models, and friendly “hey girlfriend” marking voice has surely helped it reach its status as a multi-million dollar company, but it’s hard to imagine Glossier getting there without Emily Weiss at the helm. Before launching the brand in 2014, Weiss already earned a following as the face behind product-focused blog Into The Gloss. Fans began to associate her with an approachable type of beauty, which largely fed into what she created with her line: cosmetics that didn’t intimidate makeup novices, those who couldn’t afford to splurge on more expensive brands, and those who favored a more natural (read: not heavily contoured) aesthetic. For many of her brand’s 811,000 (and growing) followers, Weiss is Glossier.

 

It would be difficult to have a conversation about brands born out of the “cool factor” of their creator without bringing up LPA’s Pia Arrobio. In late August, The New York Times published a polarizing story about the meteoric rise of the clothing label as a direct result of the designer’s following. This is probably due to the fact that the story paints an image of Arrobio as precisely what LPA’s 108,000 Instagram followers love about the brand: she’s a party girl with famous friends and certain nonchalance about what she wears—despite the fact that it’s always arguably modern, cool, and sexy.

 

So what exactly does this trend mean? And is a brand that’s not backed by an influencer doomed to failure? One takeaway for budding brands is utilizing the aspect of transparency (or at least supposed transparency) that’s unique to social media like Instagram and Snapchat. Kylie Cosmetics, Glossier, and LPA—along with many other successful contemporary brands—can thank a large part of their appeal to providing followers with a face they can identify with or relate to. Perhaps that’s the page to take out of these moguls’ playbook.