As someone who thinks a lot about social media marketing strategy, I have to observe what other fashion companies are doing on Instagram. In general, most brands stick to a few general rules, which include posting an update once a day, being informative, and presenting the most beautiful imageries that appeal to their audience. Think Prada, Gucci, Nike, Zara. The constant aim for perfection in social media content is a priority.
Not for Balenciaga however. Since last year, the brand is now considered a meme page. Hardly any of the images are well-lit, well-focused nor well composed, at least not by industry standards. Gone is any semblance of opulence, nor Leibovits-tier aesthetics that people have come to expect from a luxury brand. Instead it looks like a private account of someone who parties at Berghain, only has coke and two year-old cheese in his fridge, often stays awake for 48 hours straight, and probably doesn’t know where he will live a month from now because he had spent his pay check on wine, makeup and three pairs of thrifted lurex pants to match his 90s dad sneakers.
It is however, highly engaging. The constant shitposting of low quality, off-the-cuff selfies-tier images are getting people worked up and passionate about the brand. For a luxury brand that has 3 million followers, getting almost 1% number of likes is far higher than the average number its contemporaries are getting. In comparison, Gucci, Prada and Nike receive an average of 0.3%, a measly third of Balenciaga’s engagement. The plunge into this aesthetics reminds me of Instagram’s users back when the app was in its infancy. People were taking selfies with their potato-quality camera phones. There was a sense of authenticity and imperfection that the audience can relate to. That was ten years ago. Influencers now have professional photographers tailing them to take beautiful images because that’s what their audience respond to the most. However it comes at the expense of spontaneity and genuine experiences. Instagram is almost a decade old now. The constant search for perfection is perhaps no longer relatable to young yet jaded Instagram users that are growing immune to staged imageries.
Make no mistake. The social media team knows exactly what they’re doing. Amidst the badly composed shots – which in actual fact are actually highly contrived and calculated to look bad – are Balenciaga’s signature tailoring, knife heels and neon spandex that Demna champions. They know exactly what the internet savvy Gen-Z wants: cats, shoes, irony and some semblance of post-modern authenticity. Even if they have received flak all over the Internet – yours truly is certainly not a fan of this marketing direction – the younger crowd fell for the meme-bait hook, line and sinker. 65% of sales came from the young Millenial crowd. On the streets of Shanghai, the young and old are wearing the Triple S regardless of its authenticity.
Under Demna Gvasalia, interest for Balenciaga has risen sharply, thanks to the hype machine he has created. Its bad taste aesthetics is perfectly in line with Balenciaga’s strategy in glorifying banal goods – think IKEA blue bags and canvas touristy totes, slapped with recognisable logos. The total disregard for any rules of photography that compromises the brand’s luxury positioning has worked in their favour. Balenciaga has seen a sharp rise in interest all over the Internet, with sales figures to back it up. Although the social media marketing team may have resorted to a genius differentiation move, the longevity of its strategy remains to be seen. If a brand is built on explosive hype to appeal to consumers with short attention span, it’s very likely that their interest will soon dissipate and they will have to constantly reinvent the wheel to remain relevant.