I can be difficult. Hello elephant. Hello room. But at least let me explain. The multimillion-dollar question of how to harness the elusive (and yet ubiquitous) 'influence' is under scrutiny by the media, brands and consumers alike. Do they contain that magic sauce? Are they the capitalist conduit to profitability? But do they get likes? Is their engagement high enough?
It’s a moniker I’ve openly challenged and rebuked, much to the distaste and confusion of many, including my friends. Want to start a heated discussion? There’s your tinder nest. Add to that the suggestion and preference of a much broader "digital creative" and you're set for an evening of contretemps. To be so invested in such seemingly superficial nomenclature may seem futile, however, with the amount of importance we all (yes, we all do it) place on the power of influence it seems like a perfectly justifiable objection to possess. During a time of seismic shifts in values, polarising perspectives and a distrust of mass media the idea of challenging such a title seems valid.
Influence is the new affluence. It's a currency, a commodity, with brands, media, celebrities and just about everyone else vying to sell their own in the hopes of gaining more. The rat race is on to see who will tap the golden market of the new generation, yet the priorities of Gen Zs and Millenials have shifted, especially when it comes to making the commitment of parting with our hard-earned money. (Something we actually do less and less of with the likes of Rent the Runway, Airbnb and a plethora of other little squares hovering over our home screens. No, it doesn't all go to avocado toast.) When it comes to our customer journey to purchase, listen up. We want transparency. We want egalitarianism. We want input and for goodness sake we don’t want to be put in a box. I’ve always felt there’s something inherently off-putting about this blind influence some are expected to push onto others solely to make a purchasing decision and it’s because of this I find it quite a challenge to communicate to clients (and actually have them understand) my reasons behind my refusal to do so. The importance of maintaining a social and cultural relevancy to an audience that is searching for more and more cultural touchstones and substantial connections on social media is clearer than ever. As a result, most of my emails to clients begin with “I must respectfully decline”….
Influencers are not new and discourse in this vein is just as dated. Before the influencers there were the celebrities and alongside them the musicians, performers and athletes. Before them? Well, "influencers" of the nought-teens are merely a digitised, full-frontal manifestation of the of the oldest form of good ol’ word of mouth. It remains a challenge to communicate said ideas to bureaucratic ad and creative agencies that insist on that hashtag hijack of your social platforms in order to push a product. The size of one's audience does not equate to and is not synonymous with the size of one's influence, so one's job title should be bereft of any hint to the latter. When that inevitable initial meeting with the client arrives I never quite know whether it will be a hijack situation or the opposite. When it is the latter, the rewards are often bountiful for both parties and those clients must be credited with having the foresight to understand why one may want to have the discussion of the history of lipstick and it's relevancy to the suffragettes, or why it is important to challenge the standards of beauty (don't get me started on whitening products).
When I opened up the conversation to Tresemme about just that, there was an understandable initial uncertainty and then a wonderful open discussion of ideas with twelve women on how we could do something different, something that perhaps the women of today may actually positively respond to and hey, even feel empowered by.
Without the hair extensions.
I pitched an idea of a preliminary project working with a hair stylist in New York where I would create a story on how I, as a woman, would want to see my hair after seven years of having it the same monotonous, dull colour at the request of countless clients. I wanted to see how caring and protecting it with the right products would actually enable me to make such a drastic change. They said yes. With no need to unsheathe the explanation readied countless times prior it was time to get down to business. (This is one of the reasons I insist on producing, photographing and directing my own work).
I flew to New York and surrendered to the call of the microbangs as my hair was chopped off at the hands of Tresemme stylist/master Justine Marjan mid-show at their Spring Studios Tresemme booth. We beelined for the blonde and in the hopes you'll allow me this platitude, I'd felt like I'd found, well, me. I road-tested the Keratin Smooth range designed for salon-treated hair throughout the process - the Keratin Smooth Treatment mask being the frontrunner and have found a genuine partnership that will allow me the crazy idea of an authentic collaboration.
So thank you Tresemme. Thank you for letting me be a little bit difficult.