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Influencers as Creative Directors: Future or Farce?

Sep 30, 2021

Influencer News

Influencers as Creative Directors: Future or Farce?

Influencers have well and truly infiltrated the creative processes of modern brands. Considering their ability to build, maintain and engage a loyal following on social media platforms, it makes sense that some brands have considered using influencers to grow their own online presence and taken inspiration from influencers in regards to content style and posting. However, a new trend we are seeing with influencers is taking their creativity to the next level. Influencers are no longer simply partnering with brands, but are now accepting high-level and coveted roles within brands, such as the Creative Director. 

It’s almost futile to argue that influencer marketing doesn’t have any impact anymore, but inviting influencers into high-level positions has seemingly split opinions down the middle. 

So, who’s hiring influencers in their highest positions and what has been the impact?

Molly Mae and Pretty Little Thing

22-year-old influencer Molly Mae was recently announced as the new Creative Director of UK-based Pretty Little Thing (PLT). This announcement was met with an outstanding amount of coverage across news outlets and organic social media conversations, for both PLT and Molly Mae.

Molly Mae already had a well-established relationship with PLT from previous collaborations, so a more permanent collaboration seemed like a natural progression for the relationship. Since the announcement, Molly Mae has confirmed that the role won’t be the traditional 9-to-5 Creative Director role we are used to seeing. In an Instagram Q&A Molly Mae stated that her position as the Creative Director would be a “24/7 role,” where she would be “sharing ideas, coming up with incredible new concepts, having input on shoots, events, you name it…” 

PLT itself has reinforced its decision saying: “Molly is the PLT customer. She is a great fit to join our team to work on our 2022 strategy, and we’re excited to have her input in terms of creative campaigns, signing new brand ambassadors and working on her own collections over the next 12 months.”

While Molly and PLT seem excited to get started on their next chapter, the decision was still met with a large amount of controversy online. The news sparked many conversations about whether Molly was actually qualified for the role—at just 22 will Molly be able to handle the pressure?

While we won’t know the answer to that question for a while, the decision to appoint Molly as the Creative Director seems logical—even if just to act as a PR stunt. Molly’s previous collaboration ranges with PLT have performed exceptionally well, showing that Molly knows what the PLT audience wants. Or is it that the PLT audience wants what Molly Mae has? 

Either way, Molly Mae has already had some major impact on the fast fashion industry and popular fast fashion trends. From the famous Molly Mae Bun to her statement neutral suits, Molly Mae is a fast-fashion trend setter.

Kendall Jenner and FWRD

Luxury e-commerce site FWRD announced Kendall Jenner as its Creative Director. Part of the REVOLVE Group, FWRD claimed that Kendall was the perfect candidate for the role due her position as “the epitome of luxury fashion” and her “style, creativity and overall exquisite taste.” Kendall’s role and duties include leading “The look and feel of the site, curations of brands sold on the site, monthly edits of must-have trends, styles, and looks, as well as marketing ideas, brand partnerships, and brand activations.

 

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A post shared by FWRD (@fwrd)

Just as with the Molly Mae and PLT announcement, Kendall’s new role received a large amount of organic conversations online. However, this time there was more bad than good. 

Many were frustrated with the choice, saying a role of this level should have been given to someone who worked within creative fashion and had earned the position with previous experience. Although FWRD claims that Kendall is the “epitome of luxury fashion,” many netizens believe there are many more “brilliant people in this business” that are more deserving of the role.

Kendall’s missing influence on luxury fashion - Influencers as Creative Directors

Other netizens also mentioned Kendall’s missing influence on luxury fashion. Although she is a runway model, Kendall herself doesn’t have much influence over fashion trends. As a result of her prolific lifestyle, Kendall also has a stylist to pick her own clothes, so any influence she does have doesn’t actually come from her own creativity. Furthermore, Kendall has been repeatedly criticized for poor choices in advertising (we all remember that Pepsi ad…) and for culturally appropriative fashion choices. 

While crowning celebrities and influencers as creative directors, it does reinforce the power influencers have. However, it also begs the question: is it not enough to be a celebrity ambassador?

Emma Chamberlain and Bad Habit

The internet’s sweetheart Emma Chamberlain was announced as the Creative Director and Global Brand Ambassador for skincare brand Bad Habit at the end of 2020. Emma’s role as Creative Director will involve her overseeing product development and the creative process. 

 

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A post shared by Bad Habit (@badhabitbeauty)

Emma joined Bad Habit for their launch at the end of 2020. Speaking on the brand, Emma said “Bad Habit is me in a skin-care brand — it’s honest, unapologetic and realistic about the fact that life is far from perfect,” and that she was drawn to the brand for its honest, real and positive stance on skincare. 

Throughout 2020, Emma’s content began to focus more heavily on skincare and lifestyle, likely as a result of the pandemic at-home skincare trend. Emma has always been open and honest on her YouTube channel and Instagram about her struggles with acne growing up and her stint on acne medication. The natural progression into skincare tips was welcomed by her audience following this honesty and openness on her own bad skincare habits. 

 

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A post shared by Bad Habit (@badhabitbeauty)


Emma’s venture into business wasn’t scrutinised by netizens as a result of the natural progression into skincare and the fact Emma has already created her own successful business Chamberlain Coffee and podcast, meaning she already has experience growing new businesses from scratch. This is also likely why her position wasn’t criticised—there were no pre-existing fans of Bad Habit before Emma joined. This means all the brand’s success has come from Emma’s own effort and strategy (and probably her own audience). Since launching with Emma’s assistance, Bad Habit has gained over 133K followers on Instagram.

Influencers as Creative Directors: Good or bad?

There isn’t really a definitive answer as to whether influencers should be appointed the coveted title of Creative Director or not; it entirely depends on the brand and the influencer. From previous reactions online, it seems to be that brands with an already established audience will likely receive criticism online for appointing an influencer as a coveted role. 

While influencers should be given credit for their ability to draw in and maintain a large and loyal audience, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best choice for leading a company’s creative visions. Netizens are just to question the credibility and expertise of influencers when they are given positions like creative director. Being a creative director involves more than just posting artsy and aesthetically pleasing images and videos online at the right time. It’s a demanding role that requires past experience in trend spotting, consumer behaviour, sales, social media and marketing. 

Launching a brand with an influencer as a creative director seems to have the same impact as launching a brand with an influencer as a global ambassador. Consumers are yet to form their own opinions on the brand and haven’t seen the brand perform without an influencer leading them. Launching a brand with an influencer at the creative helm may give the brand a speedier growth rate as the influencer can bring across their own audience. But this still begs the question: why not just make influencers brand ambassadors? This will give brands the same impact and growth opportunities while being directed by an industry professional who has the required experience. 

It is likely that we will be seeing more and more influencers be appointed highly coveted positions within brands. It’s also likely that we will be seeing more and more criticism from netizens over these decisions. 

So, to answer the question of whether having influencers as creative directors is good or bad… It seems to be good and bad. 

Each of the brands mentioned above experienced a huge amount of organic conversations online but the mentions were mixed. While some see the move as innovative, others see it as a robbery—people that have worked hard for those positions have had their chances taken from them. 

One thing is for sure: we’ll be keeping a keen eye on how these positions play out…

Our Influencer marketing agency and Social agency are located worldwide, with our agency network based in the USA, UK, UAE and China.

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@ Socially Powerful

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Author

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James Hacking

Writer

Socially Powerful, founded in 2017, stood as pioneers of the influencer marketing industry. Today we are a global social marketing agency and technology company.

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