The Kardashian Effect - What is Real Influence?

Digital Marketing

To capture the attention of your audience, look no further than someone who already has their ear.

Influencer marketing is often misunderstood. I think it comes from a place of envy – who wouldn’t want to get paid to post branded content on their socials, it seems simple enough, right? Delve deeper and it becomes a lot more complex than you might realise. 

Sequoia Etti, Digital Marketing Manager of Sommer Swim, knows the power of influencer marketing better than most. The global swimwear brand’s success has been accelerated by the star power of Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner and Gigi Hadid – just to name a few. 

“The first time Kendall posted herself in Sommer Swim, she was doing the viral bottle cap challenge. It got picked up everywhere; the Daily Mail, Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan. It just took off!” 

Though exciting, Sequoia acknowledges that without a proper strategy behind the scenes, this unparalleled reach wouldn’t have amounted to much. Instead, embracing influence requires a healthy balance of paid, owned and earned media.

Paid, Owned and Earned Media

A quick refresher:

Paid media ~ anything that involves an exchange of money with a third party, think any type of advertising

Owned media ~ anything that your brand owns the rights to, including email lists or your content hub

Earned media ~ publicity as a result of content that is voluntarily shared without payment 

In the case of Sommer Swim, all of the Kardashian and Jenner content is earned media.

“Earned media like this allows us to create awareness amongst audiences that we might not already be engaging with. People want to be like them and will invest in avenues that bring them a step closer to emulating their lifestyle.

For Sommer Swim, a framework that integrates all three forms of brand media allows them to capitalise on exposure to drive commerce.

“When customers first come to the Sommer Swim site, they are prompted to sign up to our mailing list. After they’ve shown interest in our products we use data-smart marketing to create personalised experience across other channels.

“The brand also works with micro influencers to create paid media. This is really about nurturing awareness in more specific audiences through branded content. It also complements our earned media nicely, positioning us an international swimwear brand.”

User Generated Content (UGC) is also an integral part of their digital strategy.

“UGC reflects how our brand persona is resonating with the target audience. We go as far as featuring UGC on the site, allowing customers to see our product on different girls and on different body types.”

This powerful mix of paid, owned and earned media has further developed since starting with Clue in 2020.

“We’ve also started embedding SEO and keywords into our storytelling and blog content. By arching the brand in this way, Sommer Swim has become a gateway into a lifestyle; chasing the sun, enjoying good food and wine, and embracing travel.

“All of this is genuinely linked into our brand, and allows us to start conversations beyond swimwear.”

Learning from Sommer Swim

Beyond the Kardashian effect, Sequoia and the team have a dynamic strategy that complements influencer exposure and reach. So what are some key takeaways that your brand can execute on?

Get Clear on Your Media

Start outlining what an integrated paid, owned and earned media approach looks like for you. Maybe you need to start developing a content hub. Maybe a renewed focus on collecting first party data will do the trick. Or maybe you need to put together a micro influencer strategy to generate brand awareness. Either way, Sequoia emphasises finding your point of difference and building around it, especially when it comes to developing an influencer strategy.

“It's so loud in the digital space, it can be hard to feel seen or heard. Take advantage of different tiers of influencers, research their profiles and ensure they align with your brand identity.” 

Optimise Your Social Community Strategy

Much like how Sommer Swim uses UGC, it goes without saying that your audience can become a steady source of content. Strategise around how to incentivise your community to create UGC, and develop processes to collect and share them over time. Empowering your audience by embedding them within your content creation turns them into active advocates for the brand, costing you nothing.

Invest in Gifting

Sequoia believes that gifting products is vital for getting your brand out there.

“It is all part of the process of getting your brand seen through earned media. Identify the celebrities and influencers that align with your brand and get your product to them. It might cost you money but you might see it styled on them one day.”

And when that moment comes, the rest of your strategy will kick into gear allowing your brand to capitalise on its new found reach and exposure.

The Power of Influence

“Influence means connecting with people,” Sequoia states confidently. For the often misunderstood world of influencer marketing, she believes there is a level of authenticity that determines success.

“To be influenced by someone you must really buy into what they are saying. We’ve never paid any celebrity to post, which is a true testament to the brand. It is a genuine connection.”

If people are trusting you with their time and money, influence exists. Therefore all brands – even yours – have a level of influence. It’s about trust. It’s about caring. It’s about connecting with people in the right way.

Having a comprehensive and integrated strategy brings you a step closer to cultivating that.


This article was first published in Campaign Brief on 23 February 2021.

Category: Digital Marketing