4 Things To Consider Before Engaging Influencers for your Creative Business in Nairobi

We feel the following factors are pertinent to a successful collaboration with influencers in Nairobi : 

1. Share Similar Goals

If you're reading this, chances are you're operating as a small business with limited resources, therefore it is important to have a specific goal or objective in mind when scheduling a campaign with an influencer. Remember, when you have limited funds, you’ve got to get really creative about the deliverables needed from the selected influencer, otherwise you may end up wasting your allocated budget and disappointed in the results, or lack of conversion. Larger brands to some extent have a wider budget, and deeper pockets, and can probably afford to “throw away” lots of cash on an influencer, so you’ve also got to analyse your positioning as a business, and decide how much you can afford to “give away” in order to “get back”. Influencers not only assist in pushing product to the masses which helps in clearing old or dead stock, but they also assist in new customer acquisition, whereby their audience gets to know more about your business for the first time, which then generates a novel interest in the retail experience you provide pre-purchase. 

In the fashion industry, after a garment has been manufactured, it is then held in a retail store for sale either on consignment or wholesale basis, after which promotion needs to occur in order to cultivate desire in the eyes of potential consumers which leads to sales. Additionally, influencers may also be a node in the fashion value chain when involved in collaborative design projects or creative processes such as capsule collections, but for the purpose of brevity, the advantages and pitfalls of this cannot be discussed in detail on this post.

Whether it's the promotion of an outfit post, a curated look book or a blogger-hosted event, these are all different ways to ensure that your creative business gains potential customers. For these to work, however, there needs to be some commonality between the brand’s ethos and those of the blogger/influencer. Influencers should understand where they fall in the commercial value chain, as the value chain also consists of numerous other laborers in the fashion industry (from fabric manufacturers, machinists, factory laborers to fashion designers themselves as well as retailers and potential wholesalers… It’s ONLY after retailers or designers reach out to influencers that their value can be materialized, therefore explaining why following deliverables given by the retailer is key, because it’s not just about making that quick sale, but also feeding BACK into the value chain, which then allows designers to keep producing and for retailers to re-invest their cash flow into other business activities. 

All in all, the real goal for both brand and influencer is to have a win-win situation. The brand receives creative content and has access to the bloggers’ audience and communication, whether short-term or long-term, while the blogger aside from being compensated monetarily, also provides their readers with access to various new styles and trends from your brand’s product portfolio

 

2. Understands the concept of visual communication and the history of fashion through the use of look books. 

In the case of a fashion business, a look book is an ‘industry concept’ that comprises of a collection of photographs compiled by the designer or retailer to present and display their complete collection of clothing, accessories or footwear in editorial or curated form. Traditionally, for buyers, or the press, they were and to some extent still are useful tools to help select key pieces for sale orders straight from a runway show or after the completion of designing, as each look is numbered and clearly shown. Look books were created long before the Internet, hence the name itself “look book” as it was traditionally produced in hard copy, back when press and sales people had to rely on their notes and memory when picking looks. With the advent of the Internet and digital communication, the concept of the look book has evolved to be useful in translating or communicating the visual identity of a brand online. 

Engaging bloggers or influencers as muses or models for look books is a crucial collaborative opportunity between the fashion company and the given influencer as it makes available new collections to a wider audience beyond the fashion company’s avid, loyal clients. Often times, fashion influencers do not understand this concept, purely because, they perhaps struggle with the idea of individual creativity and being perceived as “a walking billboard”. Because of this, tension may arise in the collaborative process when the influencer insists on maintaining their perceived authenticity. Furthermore, the lack of formal educational training regarding the business of fashion in Nairobi that should be geared towards the fashion industry fuels the blissful ignorance. Blogging, being a fairly new concept due to the rise of the internet, means that the history of the fashion industry is rarely studied or taken into consideration by the influencers themselves. 

Most times, fashion bloggers in Nairobi, have proclaimed themselves that they simply "stumbled into fashion" and "never really had a passion for it but it brought opportunities". Linguistically, let's stop and look at those two statements for a bit... Firstly, the issue with stumbling into any industry before doing research on the historical nuances is that one does what they see fit as opposed to adhering to industry standards or best practices that are in place to protect other industry players behind the works of art. Industry players in fashion globally consists of fashion stylists, garment machinists, pattern cutters, creative directors, designers as well as retailers, who most often are the ones that reach out to bloggers and influencers. 

Granted, with Nairobi's creative renaissance still at its early stages and new media democratizing the broadcasting field, anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves "influential" so long as their following is huge relatively and in comparison to others doing the similar thing. 
The fact that an influencer can also become an “expert through experience and not training” also means, that, judging from the second statement that, they might “sell out” simply because, they aren’t passionate about it, but that it “pays their bills’.

All in all, fashion brands must accept that indeed the times have changed and that while look books still offer an important avenue for showcasing one’s work, it also gives the influencers a chance to express themselves or how they would interpret the brand’s garments while at the same time creating endless content and therefore it is a win win for both parties. If a blogger is hesitant about working on a lookbook with you, they have NO concept of the history of fashion at all. Content is king, but research is queen. And every king needs a queen.

3. The ability to engages with one’s audience

This can never be understated. Numbers are something, but they are not everything. If you’re running a small fashion business, the influencer’s rate cards that circulate you have to make sure that you make your bang for every buck that you spend and most times you can’t measure this, likes and followers do not always translate to sales unfortunately. 

4. Doesn’t Try to Appeal to Everyone

There is a thin line between fashion blogging and lifestyle blogging. This is always a challenge when engaging a Kenyan influencer. It has been our experience that the most successful collaborations are always the most focused ones, and long-term ones. We appreciate it when an influencer whittles their brand strategy by crystallizing it into a super niche concept for the particular collaboration. Naturally if it is about an outfit post the narrative should not be for example, about FOOD or TRAVEL. This has been a challenge to communicate in the past but through our experience it has been fruitful to discuss this with any blogger who has approached us with their concept to ask, ‘How does this benefit the store?’ This is often a challenge because the blogger sphere in Kenya is not well defined; understandably there is no clear indication of what bloggers actually do and what their long-term value is to brands beyond sales conversion and visibility. Often times, you may pay bloggers only to receive little to ZERO conversion on their featured posts. As Einstein famously said, insanity really is… doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. 
Naturally, this has left us as a small business thinking, “Where did we go wrong?”. Is it our fault for not having provided a larger budget, or clearer objectives? This is always a process of trial and error. All in all, finding one person who can communicate your brand identity and niche is a major key, hence the reason brand ambassadorship model still remains a powerful tool up to today.

With love and labour, 
- Kung’ara Team.