Ah, the ever-elusive “London Look”: an almost timeless fashion, beauty and culture buzzword. The look itself is always changing, fluctuating, encouraging us to be brave, stylish, take chances, go big. It has involved mascara, eye shadows, lipstick, nail varnish and countless clothing staples: you name it, the London Look has had it - at some point. In the past, it has always been celebrity ambassadors such as Georgia May-Jagger or Kate Moss telling consumers how to get it. But now it’s not only the Look that’s changing, but the faces behind it.
The new #LiveTheLondonLook campaign by beauty brand Rimmel London released in late January has chosen to break the mould by including Lewys Ball in their makeup campaign. And it’s not just groundbreaking because a man is selling makeup either.
Popular YouTuber Lewys Ball is only 17-years-old. The videos on his channel, "lookingforlewys" are all about makeup and beauty. In his own words, he was driven to create these tutorials after realising he couldn't find good makeup advice when he felt a need for it. By the time Lewys was just 16, his online makeup tutorials had over 1.2 million views.
Following successful endorsements for renowned beauty brands such as Sephora, Lewys was approached by Rimmel to take part in their #LivetheLondonLook campaign. While most who watch this ad would focus on the fact that a makeup brand has chosen to feature a young man and highlight their products as unisex, anyone connected with the marketing world would tell you that there's something even more impressive going on here.
Rimmel has chosen to hire a social media personality to promote their campaign rather than a celebrity or model. Lewys is what those in the know would call an influencer: not only is he popular on social media but his opinions and insight are well-respected by a loyal audience. Bloggers, video bloggers, Instagram personalities, Twitter celebrities: influencers are the creme de la creme of social media and the internet. They matter and brands are starting to realise that. Lewys Ball's channel has more than 158,000 subscribers thanks in huge part to his engaging personality and uniqueness, but what characterises influencers and sets them apart from regular brand and campaign ambassadors is their consistence.
The relationship between an influencer and their audience is almost intimate: viewers and readers know these people's opinions, tastes and values very well already. It's up to discussion whether someone would choose to team up with a brand they didn't genuinely believe in, but an influencer's audience would have been able to tell if the endorsement was genuine. The close interaction between influencers and their audiences promotes a new level of interaction, an immediacy that had been impossible before the days of the internet and is still unusual for traditional flavours of celebrities - at least for those whose social media accounts are managed by assistants and image makers.
But it gets more interesting than that: in many cases, brands actively collaborate with influencers rather than ask them to passively promote their products. The concept is co-creation, and it's an up-and-coming one. Influencers do not only lend their face and name to the products they choose to endorse but actively work with the brands to incorporate them into their personal style, create new variations of the product or even ideate new ways to present it to audiences.
Products are often not even necessarily in the influencer's niche: beer brand Corona Light teamed up with flash sale site Gilt Groupe to showcase a range of “Light Looks” - outfits put together by fashion bloggers as ideal choices to enjoy a bottle or two of Corona Light in. The chosen influencers were bloggers Talun Zeitun, Ryan Clark, Alyssa Lenore and Lauren Gould, whose popular internet presence includes Styled & Smitten and The Marcy Stop respectively. The looks were chosen to reflect or complement the beer's "lite" style, low calorie count, and light gold colour - ultimately, to visually represent the brand in a language these influencers' audiences speak. Moreover, these internet personalities' fans were also encouraged to get involved, submitting their own looks to the Corona lookbook in order to win a $200 shopping card.
Influencers are gaining more and more attention from marketers and brands. And they are certainly gaining more and more sway with younger generations. Brands keep exploring new ways to use this power, including signing up key bloggers to work with them just as they did with the supermodels back in the '80s. Rimmel isn’t the only brand to have recently gone down this road: make-up artist James Charles has been hired by CoverGirl, while Maybelline has teamed up with Manny Gutierrez, aka Manny MUA, who has more than 2.3 million followers on his YouTube channel.
omggggg I'm so happy to say that I'm one of the faces for Rimmel's 2017 campaign pic.twitter.com/l02DaYZycC— lew (@lookingforlewys) January 18, 2017
If the "London Look" is a metaphor for something new that we'll all want to have soon, influencers are the new London Look for brands all over the world. The potential for co-creation and interactive promotion presented by these charismatic individuals is simply too massive to miss - plus, they come with their own audiences. Rimmel and Corona are two of the brands to get on board, but this new marketing revolution is certainly going to breathe some fresh air into big-brand marketing, if not the sector in general.