Since the earliest days of online influencers in the late 2000s, internet stardom has taken many forms. From fashion bloggers to lifestyle YouTubers, Instagram models and TikTok stars, trends within the influencer community have been as variable as the platforms they post on.
Now, nearly two decades since the earliest content creators established their role in our digital-first society, we’re seeing a return to the scrappy, low-budget media of influencing’s earliest days.
Only this time, it’s on purpose.
With the growing popularity of no-frills TikTokers and platform-native editing software, lo-fi content creation is taking the influencer marketing industry by storm. And CMOs from budget to luxury brands are catching on.
As the lo-fi trend takes off, let’s take a step back and look at the origins of this phenomenon, why it’s become so popular and what it means for the future of influencer marketing.
What is Lo-Fi Content?
You’ve probably heard of lo-fi music. The abbreviated form of ‘low fidelity,’ lo-fi refers to production that includes intentional imperfections, whether a misplayed note or low-quality recording. Within social media, however, lo-fi content refers to photos or short-form videos with a DIY quality and little to no editing.
Both individual content creators and brands have leveraged lo-fi content in recent months to much success. You may have heard of Alix Earle. With her 5.3 million TikTok followers, this self-identified “hot mess” has become synonymous with an unfiltered and simplistic talent-in-front-of-camera content style. With just a simple vanity setup in her college apartment, Earle has amassed millions of followers, earning her high-profile brand deals and sponsorships from companies like Tarte, Rare Beauty and Grubhub. Despite the relatively pared-back nature of her content, her ability to quickly sell out products has coined the phrase “the Alix Earle effect.”
From an enterprise perspective, even the biggest company in the world, Walmart, has bought into the lo-fi trend. With 1.4 million TikTok followers, the company rang in the holiday season with a series of influencer partnerships, including one with Bella Woodward, where the brand published a toned-down Walmart haul with minimal lighting or styling. The result is a video that many Walmart consumers could easily replicate — and that’s the point.
Why is it so Popular?
The average American is exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day, and as a result, we’ve become experts at scoping out when someone is trying to sell us something. Over time, we’ve associated sponsored content with highly stylized, unnatural videos and posts that are often outside the scope of a creator’s content — a dead giveaway of an #ad.
Perhaps as a result of this phenomenon, Gen Zers, who are soon to become the largest cohort of consumers, say they are most inspired by creators who look, act and live like they do. As a result, real people, as opposed to celebrities, are able to deliver “trusted influence” to viewers. Lo-fi content has become a solution for brands wanting to meet customers where they are without the risk of them swiping away, and for creators to protect their authenticity. Alongside trends like de-influencing, lo-fi content creation has turned traditional influencing on its head, offering customers a new, more relatable marketing experience.
Social media platforms themselves have incited this shift, especially TikTok. Its in-platform editor has made it easier than ever to create successful social media campaigns. The platform’s native editor has popularized the quick and easy mobile-shot videos that have become standard across platforms for all influencers, micro or macro. With lower barriers to entry, lo-fi content has become a preferred mode of expression for influencers across industries.
How is it Changing Influencer Marketing?
These shifting consumer priorities are fundamentally changing influencer marketing as we know it. As consumers turn toward lo-fi content, it’s safe to say the days of traditional multi-million-dollar campaigns are over. According to Aspire.io data, 40% of marketers are already saying short-form video has the highest return on investment, and 80% of TikTok users make purchase decisions based on the content they see on the platform — more and more of which is lo-fi.
As this content grows increasingly popular, so does the role of the microinfluencer (creators with 100,000 followers or fewer). These creators are the most likely to be relatable to consumers, as many still work a 9 to 5, are in school or make content as a side hustle. A testament to their influence, searches for microinfluencers have increased 105% as brands look to increase their investment in these kinds of creators. This investment resulted in small influencers making up an astounding 91% of the market share of influencer marketing last year.
Today, consumers are becoming more selective with their purchases and as a result, marketers that have not yet invested in lo-fi content have no choice but to change with the times.
It’s never been easier to gain online popularity and as a result, consumers are becoming more selective about who they watch and follow. As the youngest generation of consumers gains cultural influence, we’ll continue to see lo-fi content creators climb the ranks, overstepping the obvious #sponcon of influencer-trends past.
Magda Houalla is the Director of Marketing Strategy at Aspire, a leading Influencer Marketing Platform for 900+ brands. After joining the company six years ago as a Customer Success Manager, she quickly moved through the ranks, advancing through two roles before funneling her social media, customer success and influencer marketing experience into her current role within Aspire. Committed to increasing the success of influencer marketing campaigns for creators and brands, Houalla oversees the company’s position in-market and uses a combination of customer feedback and industry insight to craft Aspire’s unique industry POV. Her responsibilities include working directly with strategic partners at Meta and TikTok to bring innovative approaches to her clients while nurturing the company’s relationship with the social media platforms.