Kendall Jenner recently flooded our newsfeeds (though when isn’t she) for her highly anticipated Calvin Klein campaign which came hot on the heels of a love-it-or-hate-it Justin Bieber one. Both campaigns exemplify the trend of brands harnessing social media and celebrity influence as marketing tools, and the rise of the celebrity-model or model-celebrity.
Calvin Klein’s #mycalvins project—of which the Jenner campaign is an extension—allows users to submit pictures of themselves in Calvin Klein (usually underwear) for a chance to be featured in an online gallery. Narcissism notwithstanding, the project is an exercise in self-made celebrity, where Instagram users famous or otherwise compete on the same platform.
An important aspect of this approach is the instantaneous nature of Instagram and other social media channels. A public figure with prominent influence such as Jenner is invaluable to brands because of her 22 million Instagram followers who unashamedly consume the content of her life and are potential customers for the brands she wears.
Yet brands aren’t simply harnessing the social media cache of celebrities. Just as influencers such as Jenner have become models seemingly overnight, so have models become celebrities. Take, for example, the ubiquitous Cara Delevingne, whose 10 million-strong Instagram following is every bit as important as her high-profile modeling gigs for brands like DKNY and Chanel. Delevingne is a Karl Lagerfeld favorite and is bffs with Jenner, some say long-lost sisters after their sultry Love Magazine cover.
As exemplified on their Instagrams, Jenner and Delevingne add personality to the world of modeling. Indeed, many of their endeavors make the clothes seem secondary—people buy into their entire lifestyles.
Perhaps the most important example of the celebrity-driven campaign is Balmain’s Kim and Kanye extravaganza. As individuals, Kim and Kanye are arguably the most influential celebrities of the moment, and they certainly make the most powerful couple (sorry Bey and Jay). Thus, the Balmain campaign does not simply showcase clothing—it is backed up by the pair’s devotees and a seemingly endless cycle of news coverage as evidenced during NYFW, Kanye keeps himself on people’s minds. Granted, Kanye does not have an Instagram, but his influence on style is undeniable with an active Twitter presence.
Kim and Kanye—like Kendall and Cara—represent a new standard in modeling and campaigns. In the digital age, it is not enough simply to display clothing via nameless models—one must have a celebrity persona to back up the brand with his or her influence. These people provide brands such as Calvin Klein and Balmain with a ready-made audience of potential consumers in their millions of Instagram followers and fans at large. No longer must brands rely on billboards, hoping to make an impression: now, they can advertise directly to open-armed (and open-walleted) consumers—at the instantaneous speed of your newsfeed.
Sam Del Rowe is a Staff Writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.