South African CEO on the changing dynamics of influencer marketing

A screenshot from Freedom of Movement's Instagram page.

A screenshot from Freedom of Movement’s Instagram page.

In the early years of South African clothing and accessories brand Freedom of Movement, Instagram was relatively new, and the company successfully leveraged it to promote its products. Influencers were given products for free in exchange for promotion on social media, without any direct payments.

However, co-founder and CEO Léan Boezaart observes that this strategy has become less effective as Instagram has grown more saturated. He points out a growing inauthenticity in influencer marketing, as influencers often indiscriminately endorse products. “Now people see way past it; they don’t take it seriously if they can see that it’s just sponsored content.” Currently the company focuses on working with influencers who align with its brand, rather those who have the most followers. “You can actually get a lot more out of smaller, micro-influencers that just like the product and want to be seen as someone owning this product,” he adds.

Boezaart admires Patagonia for how it has grown a massive global brand while staying authentic. “They are so authentic in the way they communicate and connect to customers. That customer connection that they’ve managed to establish is unbelievable and that’s sort of my number one focus – making sure that Freedom of Movement connects to our customers. If we don’t connect we are just selling products and if you are just selling product, you are going to lose in the end game,” he notes.

Read our full interview with Léan Boezaart: Building a South African clothing business, with some help from a rugby captain