Welcome back to the next in our #StateofInfluence series, featuring insider interviews with major players in the influencer marketing world – taken from our State of Influencer Marketing . This week, we are featuring Lisa Benson, Vice President of IMG Models, New York. She oversees the careers of several of the industry’s top names, with a focus on developing each of them into 360-degree brands whose careers evolve alongside the fast-paced and increasingly digitally-driven fashion industry.
During her tenure, Benson has secured countless covers for her clients in top publications such as Vogue, V Magazine, Sports Illustrated, CR Magazine and Vanity Fair. She has also been at the helm of several deals with industry leading brands including Victoria’s Secret, Estée Lauder, H&M, Google and Bobbi Brown.
#StateofInfluence: An Interview with Lisa Benson
Could you tell us a bit about your trajectory and how you began working with social media influencers at IMG models?
In 2002, I started at IMG as a receptionist though eventually landed a job as Ivan Bart’s assistant, now the President of IMG Models and IMG Fashion Properties. Ivan’s energy is incredible; he is so passionate about the industry. Under Ivan and with more and more hands-on experience, I learned the importance of shaping a model’s image and voice, beyond core fashion work. It’s key that each model’s career can grow and adapt to the ever-changing fashion industry, and to do so, they need an identity that people can connect with. Technology has revolutionized our ability to forge those connections, giving models the opportunity to expand beyond their core business and build brands of their own.
One of the first major models I worked with was Chrissy Teigen. From the moment we met, I was captivated by her personality and I knew Chrissy was going to be a star. With time, we collaborated with her broader team at WME, her publicist and her manager, to shape Chrissy into the All-Star influencer that she is today. I think Chrissy’s relatability, humor, and unique voice are what make her so influential, she is appealing to everyone.
According to you, how has influencer marketing evolved over the past few years?
People learn about new brands, products, and trends from social media now more than ever. To me, the concept of an influencer is so powerful. Groups of people choose to follow a person based on their image, opinions, personality, and values. Through digital influencers, brands can then tap into specific demographics and leverage the power of personality to target their ideal consumer.
In the past few years, we’re seeing that consumers are getting savvier about how they’re being marketed to, and they know which influencers merit their followings. Talent and substance matter in cultivating influence, and as followers get smarter, they’re looking for real expertise that shows up both online and in real life – now more than ever before.
From your experience at IMG, are brands increasingly looking to work with models who are influential in the social media space?
Brands are absolutely looking to work with influential models to capitalize on their passionate and devoted followings. I have found that brands value models who are influential, but more importantly, have a high engagement with their followers. If a company is going to dedicate resources to working with a certain model, they want to ensure that their content is really resonating – and fortunately, models have some of the most engaged fans and followers around.
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In fact, several of IMG’s models rank among the top digital influencers out there! Just look at Gigi Hadid, Ashley Graham and Chanel Iman – they have revolutionized the influencer space by pairing real fashion credibility with access to their lives and work, using their voices and connections to create a purpose that resonates with their followers. These models are setting the bar for influence that inspires action.
For brands, what is the key to maintaining authenticity when working with opinion leaders? What defines a great influencer marketing campaign?
The key to maintaining authenticity in a brand influencer campaign is to identify talent who genuinely live by the brand’s messaging and beliefs. An organic fit benefits both the brand and the influencer. Followers can sense when a campaign feels forced, and on the other hand, they place trust in influencers who make sure their collaborations are truly in sync with their values and community. When the strategy feels natural or ‘on brand’ to an audience, the company promoting their product can achieve long-term success. This concept of an organic fit is what defines a great marketing campaign – seamlessly engaging with an influencer’s audience so that an influencer is as emotionally invested in the brand as the brand is financially is ideal.
Do you think influencer marketing will continue being as effective in the near future?
I do believe that influencer marketing will be as effective. Brands will continue to use social media as a primary way to attract customers, and as a digital-native generation grows into a core consumer demographic, influence online will continue to be an increasingly important tool for brands to leverage.
Measurement is still a challenge for brands: What factors do you think brands should take into account to judge whether their campaigns were successful with models or influencers?
First and foremost, engagement is important. Not only does engagement provide a brand with statistics, it shines a light on how consumers feel about the brand and the chosen alignment with talent. It is key to solidify a positive response from new consumers as brands want to build long-term relationships, which ultimately result in profit.
What challenges do you foresee for fashion, luxury and cosmetics brands in terms of influencer marketing?
- Fast fashion: bloggers purchasing clothes just for the Instagram shot and never re-wearing. This perpetuates a culture of waste.
- Finding the right voice for your brand: determining whether an influencer is the right fit for both your brand’s audience and the messages a brand wants to convey is an ongoing challenge.
Do you want to improve your influencer marketing strategy?
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