Macy’s and Revolve graduate their influencer marketing strategies into more institutionalized forms.

What happened

  • Influencer marketing continues to blossom—in 2018, 84% of advertisers noted that influencers were included in their marketing strategy and in 2017, more ad spend was directed at digital platforms than TV. But as the trend has grown, it has also raised some red flags. Specifically, consumer brands have had to adapt to influencers’ rising service rates, the whims of social media sites like Instagram that can change their platform interfaces at any time, changing FCC regulations, and the way different influencers might misrepresent brand image.
  • Though many brands are using influencers to some degree, some companies are now taking steps to institutionalize the marketing strategy. Macy’s launched a pilot program called Style Crew in March 2018, incentivizing employees to market the brand on social media—the program now has more than 300 people on its U.S. roster. Revolve, a data-driven fashion ecommerce brand founded in 2003 that just filed to go public, created an “influencer relations team” back in 2014 that now allegedly accounts for approximately 70% of the company’s sales. In July 2018, SoulCycle also launched a talent agency comprised of its own instructor-influencers.

Why it matters

  • One of the main critiques of influencer marketing is the lack of authenticity in an influencer’s promotion of the brand. Macy’s set out to address this problem with its Style Crew, only giving pre-existing employees a megaphone to speak for its brand. Just as many brands hire some of their first adopters or most loyal customers in order to create positive company feng shui, using employees as brand ambassadors is a way to maximize authenticity—if these employees are happy at work, they’re more likely to enjoy talking about it. Plus, as “ordinary people,” they’re more relatable than a celebrity face. Macy’s has also established a section on its site to house social media videos from its Style Crew, providing links to the featured products to facilitate shopping.
  • Revolve, which started gifting clothes to bloggers back in 2009, now employs 2,500 influencers, both high- and lower-profile, whom the company pays to attend events like Coachella and represent the brand, in addition to hosting private events and parties for its influencer relations team. Together, these influencers come with billions of Instagram followers—a huge boost to Revolve’s own 2.6 million. Not surprisingly, the word “influencer” or “influencers” is mentioned a grand total of 79 times in Revolve’s public filing, highlighting the ability for influencer marketing to promote and expand the brand abroad. Though this seems like it would come at a huge cost to the brand, Revolve claims that 75% of its marketing spend is sent to other, more traditional forms of advertising.
  • The main difference between these two influencer strategies is that Macy’s is asking members of the Style Crew to do extra work while Revolve’s influencers can focus solely on marketing. Macy’s off-the-cuff Style Crew videos—makeovers in the beauty section, anecdotes or quick mirror-selfies—may be more authentic than a group of Revolve influencers at an exotic beach location, but the company might get more hurried videos than it would like, while Revolve’s influencers party at Coachella. Macy’s also mentions that finding influencers from within lets the company exercise more control over its social media, which could be problematic. The incentives that the company offers to its Style Crew are undisclosed, but it couldn’t be much given that most of its members have fewer than 1,000 followers and thus limited reach. On the other hand, Revolve’s attention to cultivating positive experiences for its influencers highlights that the brand values them highly and sees influencers as carrying the brand forward, especially now that it is filing for an IPO.