Watch brand Daniel Wellington received the most influencer mentions out of any brand on Instagram in 2018, receiving more than 20,000 mentions by 7,200 influencers.

This data comes from a new report by Socialbakers. In comparison to the likes of Nike and Sephora, who received less than 10% of that figure – Daniel Wellington has generated a staggering amount of influencer coverage.

This is perhaps unsurprising, given that the watch brand’s Instagram strategy is solely built around influencer marketing. But what effect has the past year had, given the crackdown on fake influencers and levels of transparency within the industry?

Here’s a deep-dive into Daniel Wellington’s influencer strategy, and how it is faring in today’s #ad saturated world of Instagram.

daniel wellington

A social-first strategy

Daniel Wellington was founded in 2011 when Instagram was in its infancy, and influencer marketing wasn’t even a recognised term among industry professionals.

However, with founder Filip Tysander investing just £15,000 of his own money in order to get the business off the ground, Daniel Wellington did not have the budget or resources to invest in large-scale marketing. Consequently, it turned to social media, and began a micro-influencer campaign in order to spread the word.

This involved sending discount codes or free watches to influencers with relatively small but substantial-enough audiences (i.e. from 2,000 to 10,000 followers). Of course, this was back when influencer collaborations were largely unregulated, meaning that the influencers involved had no qualms about accepting undisclosed gifts in exchange for producing content.

Social Media Best Practice Guides

As well as encouraging influencers to promote the brand on their own channels, Daniel Wellington’s strategy involved reposting this content. The brand also actively encourages user generated content, creating the contest #DWpicoftheday to generate further involvement from fans and undiscovered influencers. Central to all activity is the hashtag #DanielWellington, which has now been used in over 2,100,000 posts.

On the back of its strategy, Daniel Wellington has grown to over four millions followers on Instagram, in turn generating global awareness for the brand and its watches. By 2015, the brand generated $220 million in revenue, selling one million watches in a single year.

The shift to transparency

In 2018, a shift occurred as the the ASA and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) created a new guide for social media influencers and brands to reinforce the 2008 UK consumer protection law. This came off the back of many social media influencers failing to include the correct signposts on branded or paid-for posts (such as #spon or #ad).

So, have influencers smartened up their act?

It appears so, as Socialbakers has found that the use of #ad by influencers has doubled in the past year. The analysis of over 12 million Instagram influencers from early 2018 to 2019 showed that the use of #ad grew 133%. The use of #ad also grew 120% across all Instagram posts in general.

But is the increase in advertising (or its disclosure) having an affect on user engagement? After all, the reason why many influencers were initially flouting the rules was based on concern that users are generally put-off by brand involvement. A couple of high-profile gaffs also spurred on this notion – including influencers who copied and pasted a brand’s suggested caption – which highlighted the often inauthentic nature of paid-for posts.

That being said, both influencers and agencies also backed the crackdown, emphasising that tighter rules and regulations were vital in order to create more authentic and therefore successful campaigns. Speaking to Econsultancy last year, Christoph Kastenholz, the co-founder and CEO of influencer marketing agency, Pulse Advertising & Management, said: “Ultimately, if you have matched the right influencer with the right brand, it (transparency) doesn’t hurt.”

It appears that Kastenholz was right. Socialbakers has found that, despite influencers increasing their use of #ad, there has been next to no effect on their level of interactions, with both sponsored and non-sponsored content receiving nearly the same engagement throughout the year.

socialbakers stat

At the same time, it seems that stricter regulation has also spurred on brands. Sponsored content on Instagram continues to grow across regions, growing by over 150% in North America throughout 2018.

Where will Daniel Wellington go from here?

There’s no denying that Daniel Wellington has generated real success on the back on influencer marketing. Its Instagram feed is famous for a very specific type of imagery – often involving influencers wearing watches in stylish or luxurious settings. This means that the brand has been able capitalise on influencer within a variety of sectors, including travel, beauty, fashion, and other lifestyle-based industries.

One of the main reasons Daniel Wellington’s strategy has remained authentic as opposed to formulaic or predictable is that it offers influencers a certain level of autonomy and control over posts. As a result, while its feed might look similar in terms of overall tone or photographic style, the content itself is kept fresh with an incredibly varied pool of influencers (and their individual creativity or personality).

From Socialbakers’ report, it’s clear that Daniel Wellington has managed to sustain its strategy to become the most influencer-based brand out there. And still, users appear to be happy with that, knowing that the brand has an open and honest approach to working with influencers.

In more recent times, Daniel Wellington has dabbled with ‘swipe up to shop’ links on Instagram Stories. However, since the introduction of shoppable posts and Instagram Checkout, the brand seems to be erring on the side of caution by not yet expanding investment in social commerce. 

If it does – when combined with the high levels of engagement generated from its influencer marketing strategy – the move could lead to further success for the brand on Instagram.

Learn more

Econsultancy offers influencer marketing training. Subscribers can download our Influencer 2020 report.