How an empowered creator economy is challenging marketers

    Earlier this month, the D’Amelio family, famous for having a combined 200 million-plus followers on TikTok, announced the launch of D’Amelio Brands, a venture that will build off the family’s experience marketing to consumers to create brands of their own. The family — Marc, Heidi, Charli and Dixie — said they’re slated to launch two brands by the end of this year, with plans to expand in 2023.

    “I would be concerned if I were in any category that the D’Amelio’s decide to go after with their new brand development fund,” said Dylan Conroy, chief revenue officer at The Social Standard in an email. “They have a combined audience of 300M viewers across social media, that’s 3x the size of the Super Bowl audience every time they post. Brand building takes time, but they have a massive advantage in any category they launch into.”

    The D’Amelio family’s ability to create a business, which has recruited execs including Apple’s senior vice president of services, Eddy Cue, is a far cry from the family’s media presence just a few years ago. The marketing machine that is the D’Amelio’s began with Charli and Dixie, both who joined TikTok in 2019, taking to the Byte Dance-owned platform to film dancing tutorials and lip-syncing videos. Over time, they’ve repped brands including Prada, Hollister, Dunkin’ and Amazon, to name a few. Before long, posts that were earning them about $50 rose to six figures a piece, according to details Marc D’Amelio shared with CNBC.

    In 2021, Charli and Dixie earned $17.5 million and $10 million in branding and endorsement deals, respectively — making the two the highest earning TikTok creators in the world. In exchange, brands unlocked key customer insights from their following.

    But as the D’Amelio’s lay the groundwork for other influencers to perhaps round out their efforts via namesake enterprises, marketers run the risk of losing access to the data points that so often make influencer marketing worth the steep spend — a total predicted to reach $5 billion, a 28% growth from the year prior, according to Insider Intelligence.

    Authenticity sells

    There’s no one reason the D’Amelio’s have become so successful, but their ability to relate to and connect with an audience has certainly never hurt. As the sisters and other influencers began taking to social media around the COVID-19 timeframe, a period that begged empathy across the board, influencer marketing took a shift away from a standard marketing scripts and instead relied on forming relationships.

    Followers and likes have increasingly mattered less, with marketers instead looking at the revenue creators are generating for them. The shift has made it vital for influencers to center in on the interests and desires of their following, and for marketers, it’s meant ditching the script, said Nicolette Trebing, director of influencers and talent partnerships at agency Movers + Shakers.

    “What actually resonates much better with audiences is if you come to the influencer, and you’re saying, ‘We know you’re a fan of our brand, we’d really like to build something with you, here’s our ideas, what do you have in mind?’” Trebing added.

    The competitive edge of relatability is clear — 73% of consumers age 18-40 in the U.S. trust product reviews from people who “seem like them,” according to a study by Whalar. Further, 70% of consumers enjoy and feel loyal to creators.

    Following the trend, brands are increasingly forming entire collaborations around influencers who have managed to capture the eyes of their target audiences. In March, e.l.f. Cosmetics and Dunkin’ created a themed makeup collection and enlisted creator Mikayla Nogueira, a makeup-obsessed influencer with 13.5 million and 2.4 million followers on TikTok and Instagram, respectively, at the time of publication. A native of Massachusetts, Dunkin’s home state, Nogueira had previously posted about loving the chain on her own. To date, the campaign has made over one billion impressions.

    Similarly, Nature Valley enlisted sustainability-driven influencers Stephen “tWitch” Boss and Allison Holker-Boss to help boost their #ReTokForNature challenge, which invited users on TikTok to share their sustainable efforts using the hashtag for a chance to win free back-to-school gear from like-minded brands.


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