Internet trendsetters display their unique experiences in branding

Brand Ambassadors serve as the heart and soul of BrandGram’s mission. Their creativity and Internet prominence provide companies a link to their intended millennial market.

The following trendsetters each have opposing experiences working for companies, and reveal why BrandGram fills a necessary void in the business and consumer relationship.

UW-Madison student, former Brand Ambassador for Southern Tide shares story

Written by: Lauren Summers and Kristin Washagan

Claire Lumen’s experience as a Brand Ambassador revealed to her that the connection between Brand Ambassadors and their brands needs to be more open for communication and guidance.

Social Media Influencers Are Shaping Trends, But Are They Impacting Overall Sales?

Written by: Liv Schreiber

For a rookie in the fashion industry 10 years ago, entry into the world of style was near impossible without a connection to an insider or a degree from Parson’s School of Design.

The introduction of Instagram 7 years ago broke this invisible barrier. The digital platform has provoked the democratization of fashion, making the voice of the public louder through the reach of individuals with mass social media followings, also known as “trendsetters.”

Fashion rookies of the past have become, and continue to become influences on Instagram, or trendsetters, for the world stage. But the title of trendsetters should not be mistaken with the role of a celebrity.

Unlike A-List celebrities, most trendsetters achieved fame through their unique sense of style and an unmatched individual aesthetic. Trendsetters are not movie stars, yet they have the same following, or a more populated one as a celebrity.

Eva Rago, a fashion trendsetter with 2,000 followers on Instagram, said that her virtual fame can be attributed to simple human attraction techniques, as trendsetters possess personable skills that make them seem relatable.

“I’m speaking on behalf of a large category of influencers, but I truly believe that it is our authenticity that attracts and impacts our like-minded followers. Many followers view me as a friend even if we have never met, and they employ their trust in me,” Rago said.

In the age of constant advertising, the trust of the consumer comes at a price for brands looking to attract a larger audience. Trendsetters are living, breathing marketing tools. Large and small companies seek to utilize the skills of trendsetters in exchange for free products and payment for a single Instagram post.

This product placement technique on Instagram has led to the growth of monetization in fashion blogging for trendsetters. Many flourishing trendsetters of Instagram have successfully turned their digital influence into full-time job, generating substantial income through partnerships with brands.

But are the benefits of facilitating collaborations with trendsetters solely one-sided, or have these influencers impacted the sales of the fashion industry?

Paul Schreiber, owner of the handbag company Latico Leathers, thinks Instagram influencers have the “upper-hand” when exchanging social currency with his brand. He also disproves the claim that these trendsetters are even able to generate sales.

“I have yet to see an influencer impact my business’ sales online,” he said. “They generate conversation, but I think that the overpopulation of advertisement has backfired on trendsetters, thus restricting their promotions from actually provoking revenue success.”

Although online brands like Latico Leathers see no difference in profit margins, in-store environments are impacted differently. Many customers look to trendsetters for inspiration and have developed styles based off their favorite Instagram users.

Free People employee Alina Benun explained how the voice of the trendsetter impacts the creative process of the fashion industry, specifically in retail stores. However, she agreed with Mr. Schreiber that it is difficult to decipher the impact trendsetters have at Free People on a monetary level.

“By facilitating a false sense of intimacy and dialogue, trendsetters make advertisements seem like suggestions that from a friend, for a friend. Instagram influencers don’t directly impact our sales but they do make people feel included in the fashion world. It is not uncommon for a customer to show me a photo of a famous Instagrammer and ask for the exact outfit.” Benun said.

Due to the overpopulation of advertisements on Instagram, most trendsetters on Instagram have not been recorded to have any immediate effects on retail and online-based brands like Free People and Latico Leathers.

However, trendsetters like Eva Rago are the new dictators of what is “in” and what is “out” in fashion. They consistently present end-result feedback for brands, enabling large companies to hear directly from the user.

Although the benefits of implementing trendsetters as a part of brand marketing strategy have not been cited to have a direct effect on sales, brands continue to employ trendsetters at growing rates.

University of Wisconsin-Madison students use Instagram as a business platform

Written by: Juliet Miller

University of Wisconsin-Madison students use Instagram to build their personal brand and make professional connections.

Instagram has become more than just another outlet for people to post photos of their personal lives. Students at UW-Madison are using the app to promote their public image and attract businesses for sponsorship.

A Pew Research study from 2015 found that 59 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 use Instagram and the average teen Instagram user has 150 followers.

UW-Madison students with over 5,000 Instagram followers manage their accounts very differently than the average user. They use the app as a platform to develop a public image.

“It’s a lot of work getting hundreds and thousands of people to follow my account but as I get more and more followers, I get more and more businesses asking to do partnerships. That’s why I keep posting,” Freshman Jake Fellmen said.

Fellmen has over 10,000 followers on his personal Instagram account. He always paid attention to the photos he was posting and creating a traditional East Coast aesthetic on his Instagram page.

Fellmen’s account caught the eye of the New England prep brand, Kiel James Patrick. The company offered Fellmen a summer position as a social media intern.

Last summer as an intern for KJP, Fellmen was featured on the KJP Instagram account several times which Fellmen thinks contributed to helping him gain new followers at a fast rate.

“Being around people who had a lot of followers and having those people post about you helped me gain followers and then when you post about them it goes back and forth,” Fellmen said.

Fellmen said he keeps a consistent color scheme throughout his posts and uploads images of a preppy lifestyle, which he has become notorious for. He said he learned how to cultivate this specific aesthetic on his Instagram account over the summer at KJP.

Sophomore Claire Grummon follows Fellmen’s Instagram account and finds the content he posts to be inspiring and intriguing.

“I’ve followed him ever since I saw he was tagged in one of KJP’s photos over the summer. I like how he mixes his preppy look with a super outdoorsy vibe. It’s unique,” Grummon said.

Fellmen said his secret to creating a professional-looking account is posting consistent content of pictures that have a cohesive look. He also said that over the summer he would post on his account four times a day which helped to rapidly grow his follower base.

Junior and current Miss Madison title holder, McKenna Collins has also gained a large following on Instagram. She believes her involvement with the Miss America organization helped build her public image on Instagram.

“Whenever I’d go to community events, I’d hand out my autograph card that had my Instagram on it and so that’s how I built a pretty big following,” Collins said “Every time I’d compete and get my name out there I’d get a wave of a bunch more followers.”

Collins used her growing popularity on Instagram to attract clothing companies to sponsor some of her posts. Collins has partnered with local businesses to promote their products on her page in exchange for free merchandise or commission.

“Every time I did a sponsored post I always reviewed it first and made sure it was something I actually liked because I found if I don’t stay true to myself I end up losing followers,” Collins said.

Fellmen said he turns some offers down if he feels they don’t fit with his personal brand or the interests of his followers.

Collins believes working with companies on promotions helped her gain real-world experience with decision making and connecting with professionals.

Fellmen also has been approached by companies to endorse their products on his Instagram page.

Fellmen has done sponsored posts with popular college brands including Vineyard Vines and Chubbies. However, unlike most college Instagram users, companies determined when and how often Fellmen would post.

“Posting is scheduled and very planned out. I had the times of day planned out too,” Fellmen said. “Most students use Instagram as an outlet for fun but for me it’s work and a way to hopefully get professional opportunities in the future.”

Collins and Fellmen are already thinking about summer opportunities that will build their follower count and lead to new partnerships.

“I’ll be competing in June for Miss Wisconsin and I’m sure I’ll get a couple hundred new followers from that, then hopefully in the fall I can attract bigger name-brands to sponsor me,” Collins said.

Fellmen plans to intern at BMO Harris Bank in Milwaukee this summer. He found the company on his Instagram and talked about his previous business partnerships through Instagram posts in his hiring interview.