The announcement that influencer Molly-Mae Hague was recently appointed as the new UK and EU Creative Director for fast-fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing has generated equal amounts of praise and criticism online.
More generally, the announcement has sparked a wider conversation about the increasing influence that content creators have over the brands they work with.
To gain some clarity on what it could mean, I recently spoke with Aaron Brooks, who is the co-founder of global influencer marketing and branded content platform, Vamp. We discussed how the role of the influencer is evolving, and how wider consumer and digital trends are impacting the industry.
A smart way to capture the customer’s attention
From merely posting an image of the brand on social media to having real creative input in designing a collection – the role of the influencer brand ambassador can be varied. For Molly-Mae, who released her first PLT collection back in 2019, her alignment with the brand appears authentic. Posting on social media about her new role, Hague said: “PLT have had faith in me from the VERY start and to now be a Director within the business feels like a complete dream come true.”
So, will we see more influencers stepping up from ‘ambassadors’ to more strategic roles as a result?
Aaron Brooks says that Molly-Mae and PLT is “more of a sign of the times than a turning point”, with the suggestion that it could be more of a coup for the brand than the influencer, who has managed to build a large and invested audience in just a couple of years.
“Molly-Mae’s 6.1 million-strong Photo Editing Services Instagram following is proof of her ability to build a young, fast-fashion loving audience,” he says. “PLT understands the value in the huge influence she has and appreciates her eye for imagery and trends that can capture their customers’ attention. Having that influence and skillset on board will be a huge asset for them.”
So, despite the insistence that Molly-Mae will have an ‘active role’ in PLT, in reality, is it more of a marketing stunt than a business-focused move for PLT? Brooks says that this doesn’t necessarily matter.
“Without knowing the true nature of the role, it’s hard to say how much of it was a marketing opportunity and how much is genuine. She has worked with the brand ever since leaving Love Island, so there’s a lot of authenticity in that. Even if it was a marketing opportunity, it has paid off because we’re all talking about it. A smart move either way!”
Not all publicity is necessarily positive, of course, with influencer involvement often leading to more intense scrutiny (and potential backlash). This month, on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, PLT shared an image of the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers and the words ‘never forget’ in PLT’s signature colours and font. While PLT was condemned for being ‘tone deaf’, Molly-Mae also received backlash for her decision to share the image, highlighting the precarious nature of consumer opinion about influencers.