How to Grow Your Clothing Brand with Influencer Marketing (Yeezy Case Study)
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
Yeezy is a luxury streetwear brand and the infamous brainchild of Kanye West, netting $1.7 billion in sales in 2020 and collaborating with brands as large as Adidas and The Gap. Of course, having the reach of a celebrity Kanye can create significant awareness for his products with just a single tweet. While you may not have the same level of impact, understanding the overarching strategy he's used will help you understand how to use both influencers and scarcity in your own marketing and boost your clothing brand to a new level.
1. Celebrity Endorsement
To begin, what do Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, and Barack Obama all have in common? All of them were given a pair of Yeezy sneakers as a gift from Kanye West as he was on the hunt to promote his brand.
Influencers and endorsements are essential to any fashion brand's success. The key here is to find influencers that align with your brand's image. This is why Thrasher didn't want Rihanna wearing their clothes: she's not famous for skateboarding and didn't at all align with their image.
On the other hand, Chanel using Kira Knightly for their YouTube ads is a much more appropriate and successful use of influencers. Blogger Alexis DeSalva says "Knightley is a Hollywood style icon, known for her glamorous but timeless and effortless style, something the house of Chanel made famous."
That said, did the celebrities that Kanye used for his Yeezy endorsements align well with its branding or could he have done better?
To find out, first we need to consider what defines the Yeezy brand. The question each fashion founder needs to answer at some point is what do you want your brand to be known for? With Yeezy's success, this was pretty clear from the outset: comfortable luxury or refined streetwear
People like Kylie Jenner and Pharrell Williams align exactly with that image, and these are the same people that Kanye chose to represent the brand.
In general, all you need to do to create a luxury brand is to:
Make products of luxury quality
Target a high-income, luxury audience.
To that extent, any celebrity that lives a lavish lifestyle would be a fitting endorser for Yeezy.
The verdict: Yeezy hit the nail right on the head with its choice of influencers. And most of the celebrities that receive the sneakers as gifts wear them gladly, which isn't surprising seeing how exclusive they are regardless of your status.
2. Scarcity and Exclusivity
Scarcity is another essential part of Yeezy's branding. Note that every major release from the brand sells out within a matter of hours. That was certainly the case earlier this year.
This last Yeezy Day on August 2nd, their biannual release, many people used bots to enter the website and buy up as many Yeezys as possible for the purpose of reselling. The site got shut down for days due to the overwhelming amount of bot traffic.
Scarcity makes Yeezys more infamous and ultimately more valuable. Creating scarcity artificially is rather common among luxury products, in fact. Chanel took a similar approach in the '70s when they pulled their inventory out of thousands of stores. It worked wonders for the brand, and to this day—even in spite of COVID—the only way to get access to all of their products is by visiting one of their 300 or so boutiques. Good luck trying to buy a Chanel handbag from the official website.
But creating artificial scarcity is not a bullet-proof tactic. To do so is to skip out on a fraction of your production and let some of your resources go unused, which in turn forfeits some of your profits. This can pay off if used as a long-term strategy, making your brand known for scarcity, as with Supreme. In the short term, however, scarcity will most likely not increase your overall demand.
Judging by how quickly their releases sell out, their radical resale prices, and ruthless customer buying behavior, Yeezy is an example of a brand with potential to make more profit by increasing either the price or quantity of their products. Instead, their use of scarcity has backfired as they miss the opportunity for more profit.
Lessons from Yeezy
Yeezy has relied almost exclusively on influencer endorsement to establish itself as a sought-after luxury brand. Here's what you can learn from them for your own clothing brand:
Reach out to influencers that exhibit the lifestyle and goals associated with your brand.
If you want to make a luxury clothing brand you need to make a set of luxury-quality products and target a high-income, luxury audience.
Unless you can use a long-term strategy to make scarcity a part of your brand image, stay away from it to protect profits.