The Role of Influencers for Luxury and Wine Brands

Capture d’écran 2018-10-09 à 08.20.12
(This post is the Executive Summary of the report “The Role of Influencers for Luxury and Wine Brands” published by VitaBella Luxury & Lifestyle in October 2018 and written by Guillaume Jourdan. Reach him via info@vitabella.fr or LinkedIn)
The headline of a survey“Social media influencers aren’t actually influencing our holiday decisions”, caught my attention recently. For, when it comes to travel planning, the survey suggests that in the end travelers are more influenced by online booking or travel websites, word of mouth recommendations and online comments from other travelers, than by social media. I found that surprising, because in the world of luxury and prestige wines it works quite differently.
Currently, Gucci and Louis Vuitton are the most dynamic luxury brands according to the  consulting firm Interbrand’s ranking. What explains this performance? “They have managed to immerse themselves in street culture and provide levels of access that, while retaining their authenticity and a level of exclusivity, have made their brands more desirable to more customers,” says the Interbrand report. So how do they do it? Part of the secret of their success lies in their collaboration with influencers and celebrities, particularly on social media.
With more than 95 million photos or videos posted every day, Instagram is the reference platform in 2018 and its influencers are the voice of Generation Z. In truth, Instagram is a powerful influence marketing tool due to its ease of use, its integrated analytics and its hashtags.
I can already hear people saying – and most particularly in the wine world – that this is all just a passing fad that will soon be forgotten. Of course, platforms will change over time, communities will evolve, and new influencers will appear, but this is a trend that is deeply rooted, because Generation Z will always maintain close relationships with influencers. They have grown up with them, they are an integral part of their daily lives. And social media influencers are not just ‘trendsetters’ in the traditional sense of the term, but advocates that have devoted followers.  
At VitaBella Luxury & Lifestyle we work more and more regularly with influencers for the brands that we advise. For example, this week I was at Epernay in the magnificent mansion of the Venoge Champagne House with some of the greatest Food & Wine influencers in the world. (photo caption: Gilles de la Bassetière, Champagne de Venoge,  @lady_uzine South Korean influencer, Guillaume Jourdan, VitaBella). But why should we be concerned with these influencers when there are already journalists that specialize in wine and lifestyle? Because they are not mutually exclusive, but complementary. Influencers are not specialists, but that’s the whole point – their interest lies in the new perspective that they bring to a brand. They are ‘in the moment’, they understand the expectations of the new generations and know how to reach their communities in a way that no brand could ever do. They know their platforms and their communities better than anyone and bring a real breath of fresh air to the brands that they put in the spotlight. 
But, just as with media planning or press relations, it’s essential to map out in advance a real influencer marketing strategy and ask yourself the right questions.
1) Is it better to concentrate on micro-influencers (between 100,000 and 250,000 followers on Instagram) rather than those with a bigger follower count? A partial answer to this question is to be found in this recent study.  
2) Is it better to focus on long-term brand ambassadors or influencers who will publish single posts? Certain brands launch “capsule” collections with influencers or co-branded products within the framework of long-term partnerships. Whatever the choice, the essential thing is to collaborate with influencers who are on the same wavelength as your fundamental convictions, where there is respect for mutual values. 
The real issue is correct targeting, and that’s where the difficulty lies, because finding an influencer who can associate themselves “naturally” with your brand is not easy. This advance thinking and strategic planning on influencer marketing is of crucial importance. Without it, the whole authenticity of the relationship between influencer and community will be compromised, and consumers will begin to mistrust influencers in the same way that they mistrust traditional media and advertising today. Those same traditional media that are themselves undergoing major changes and are becoming more and more innovative in meeting the needs of their readership.   
(This document was written by Guillaume Jourdan. Reach him via info@vitabella.fr or LinkedIn)