Now Trending: Little Sneakerheads!
Some Observations on How Trends Take Hold and Grow
I was shopping with my daughter Mary Catherine several months ago and we wandered into Foot Locker and spent a good hour looking at ALL the shoes. She hand’t been particularly interested in footwear to date other than functional uses so I was so excited that she finally decided on a pair of Air Force Ones Mids. Decidedly old-school and uber fashionable, she wore them with pride; for a week…
One day at school, one of her classmates commented that she was wearing ‘boy shoes’ and that was it. She wouldn’t wear them again no matter how I tried to explain to her how seriously cool they are. Pre-teens aren’t particularly inclined to listen to their dad’s fashion advice even if their dad does social media consulting in the Sneakerhead space directly and personally knows some of the most impactful influencers (and trends) in the industry. She was not having it. Until last week.
I was checking in with the Mary’s on a recent business trip and they we’re shoe shopping. “Mary Catherine wants some high tops,” my wife said.
“Huh,” I replied. “She has some awesome Air Force Ones in her closet.”
“Yep, evidently all of the girls and boys in her class are now suddenly crazy about sneakers and she wants some Jordans,” my wife told me.
Being a marketer I was immediately curious. What was the trigger for a change in attitudes? After exploring the subject a bit with Mary Catherine (with ‘I don’t know’ being a common answer), I was able to discern that one of the cool girls (read influencer) began wearing them and now the trend is expanding. The most interesting thing I learned is that the young lady that is likely leading the trend is a new student this year, bringing outside ideas into a very tight-knit group of students. It wasn’t popularity, it was real influence that moved the fashion needle in the 4th grade. Imagine the size of marketing budgets dedicated to media that fail to achieve anything near this impact.
It stuck me that the effect of influencers is very misunderstood. I most of my discussions with other marketers, influencers in a digital age are thought of as the most popular (usually measured by followers) or celebrities. I believe this is a fundamental misunderstanding of how influence works rooted in traditional media approaches. Real influence has some emotional connection that creates a bond between the influencer and their audience. Social Media influencers with millions of followers and celebrities are great for raw numbers of audience but often, influencers with much smaller audiences can have a much greater impact in terms of engagement, especially when working with similar influencers with a shared passion point. Kanye builds the Yeezy brand, sneakerheads have made it explode!
I read my first book on influencer marketing, The Influentials, a few years before social media platforms gave rise to scaled audience building. The book was fascinating in detailing the 1 in 10 people who were influencing their networks about what restaurant to try or what movie to see. Ed Keller and Jon Berry created a fine detail on the hallmarks of people influence including social activity such as participating in their PTA or church groups, a thirst for lots of information and perhaps the most important, their use of word of mouth as a way to learn and disseminate ideas. In my experience, these folks are both the glue and the driver of their social circles. Digital channels have given true influentials the ability to expand all of the activities that drive their influence from learning to sharing.
The great thing about influencers is they exist in every category, sector and community and thanks to digital channels, they are not hard to find. Want to find an impactful knitting influencer? Google and Twitter are standing by to help. Look for places where real conversations are taking place (hint: this is frequently not on branded channels, not that brands can’t participate in these conversation) such as forums, groups and chats. You’ll quickly find people who are creating great content and conversations about your category and you’ll learn which of these folks creates vibrant communities around passion points. Increasingly you’ll find ecom channels centered around these conversations (like this Knitting example). I truly believe this content+commerce approach is the future of retail.
Thanks for the education Mary Catherine! Rock those kicks!