In a world that’s saturated with choice, consumers have more options than ever when it comes to where they spend their money. According to a 2018 study by PR firm Edelman, two-thirds of consumers worldwide make purchases based on their beliefs, with purpose-driven brands outperforming their conventional counterparts. 

What are these socially conscious consumers looking for exactly? It varies. Some want sustainable clothing. Others seek “clean” beauty products. But no matter the reason, one thing remains clear: the rise of this trend is being amplified by influencers. Across the beauty and fashion industry, these promoters represent far-reaching implications for how brands will select campaign partners and launch products.

Social responsibility is top of mind for influencers and their audiences
According to Traackr data, mentions of sustainable fashion among influencers have increased by 55 percent from 2018 to 2019 and mentions of secondhand fashion have increased by 137 percent, with audience engagement rising in tandem. Engagements on sustainable and secondhand fashion posts have increased 150 percent and 106 percent, respectively. 

And this call for sustainability doesn’t stop at fashion. Beauty influencers are increasingly vocal about wasteful product mailers, calling out brands that send them irrelevant or ornately packaged products. From 2018 to 2019, there was a 100 percent increase in hashtag mentions, such as “#wastefulpackaging” and keyword phrases like “too much packaging.” 

Frustrations regarding beauty product overload and product accumulation among influencers manifested in an 86 percent increase in mentions of product decluttering and purging exercises, while beauty-specific posts containing phrases such as “eco-friendliness” and “sustainability” increased 25 percent. 

Sustainability creates positive associations for brands and influencers alike

Some brands have already succeeded at seeking attention and mentions from influencers, as well as linking up with programs that promote social good.

When outdoor apparel brand Patagonia pledged to use their $10 million tax break to help save the planet, they did so by donating the money to various nonprofit environmental groups working to solve the climate crisis. They also used Black Friday, last year, to push an ad to discourage people from shopping fast-fashion. Additionally, they participated in 1% for the Planet, a movement in which brands pledge one percent of annual sales towards pro-planet issues, helping them to develop a consumer-facing reputation as a socially conscious brand.

Meanwhile, shoe brand Allbirds foregrounds their use of natural materials to create their products. The company proactively imposed a carbon tax on their operations in early 2019 — donating $0.10 per sale to offset their impact. As a result, Allbirds raised at least $200 million in 2019.

Additionally, both of these brands are certified B-Corps, which means they meet B Lab’s high standards in transparency, social and environmental performance as well as legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. 

Another example of brands focusing on social cause, Skincare company Tatcha is not only a clean beauty line, it’s the most popular skincare brand in the United States amongst influencers, earning the highest Brand Vitality Score (VIT). As we’ve developed it, VIT measures the visibility, impact and trust of influencer content for a given brand. In fact, three of the five most popular skincare brands among influencers, as measured by VIT, market themselves as “clean”: Tatcha, Ole Henrikson and Drunk Elephant.

Finding influencers who align with your purpose

Considering the examples above, the question becomes, how can brands doing similar things to align with social causes actually connect with the influencers they’d like to work with?

One way to do this is by leveraging data to identify and evaluate influencers for product mailer lists and paid partnerships. These are just a few of the key performance indicators that should guide selection and budget decisions:   

  • Brand affinity: Does the influencer mention the brand on an organic basis? How strong is their engagement on these specific posts? 
  • Product affinity: Does the influencer mention the brand’s product category or speak to their key topics (i.e., clean beauty, sustainable fashion)? 
  • Brand safety: Is the influencer aligned with the brand’s values, whether that be socially, politically or otherwise? 
  • Brand vitality score:  How valuable is an influencer’s mention of the brand, relative to other influencers’ shoutouts?
  • Audience alignment & quality: Does the influencer reach the brand’s potential consumer, and how authentic is that influencer’s audience? 

The preoccupation with social responsibility is clearly on the rise and brands that both talk the talk and walk the walk are outshining the rest. By making thoughtful, data-driven decisions about influencer programs, brands are more likely to successfully and authentically earn the attention of their most effective allies.