How To Build A Brand On Instagram Alone

It’s been pretty easy for me to pick the runaway success brand of 2015, given that I can’t seem to look anywhere on Instagram without seeing them on some blogger/celebrity/influencer’s wrist…

Daniel Wellington watches.

Where did they come from, eh?

Apparently inspired by a real man (which some people doubt) the NATO-strap wrist-wonders arrived from Sweden in 2011 by way of 26 year-old Filip Tysander, and completely disrupted the luxury retail market, using Instagram almost solely as their advertising platform.

So Daniel Wellington is still relatively “young” as a brand.

But they have amassed a mammoth 1.7 million organic Instagram followers (with Facebook and Twitter lagging behind on 342k and 19.8k respectively).

Christopher Löfgren, the brand’s Social Media Manager, became somewhat of an industry pin-up after the growth his strategy brought a new luxury brand, entering a crowded marketplace, in the midst of an economic downturn.

And in the last few months the company has continued to add to the team underneath him, recruiting Social Managers in California and China.

Last year over 1 million Wellington watches landed on people’s wrists, worth an estimated $70 million. Supplied and manufactured in China, that must be netting the company a healthy profit.

Growth = Investment = Growth…. all through Instagram

Instagram For Product Marketing

You heard me right, no noteworthy Above-The-Line promotion. No PR.

Just a digital channel, some influencer payments and a tonne of free product shipped around the world.

The result? Engagement growth of +1,149% from 2014-2015, according to Shareablee.

Their primary strategy has been directing and then procuring User Generated Content (UGC):

Christopher also believes in the value of UGC past growing an audience, to maintaining the fanbase you’re building and giving customers a personal investment in the brand and a community feel to your channels. This can be seen across their shoutouts and publicity for “most engaged” fans and “photo of the week” posts. He was quoted as saying:

“It’s one thing to get them through the door, but something completely different to get them to stick around and become active members of the community. While we curate the page, 95% of all of our content is user generated. Our followers have a clear and loud voice, and they get to help build our brand, one photo at a time, every single day.”

What Can Other Startup Brands Learn?


Know your brand and stick rigidly to it’s persona. DW don’t stray from their “gentlemanly, refined and unpretentious” man. If that means sticking to one main social channel, do so and do it well. Instagram is where the creatives, fashionistas, and social butterflies go.

Don’t pigeon hole your product. It may be gentlemanly, but DW have constantly emphasised that their products are also for women (giving them a dual-gender audience). With influencer marketing on Instagram, imagery alone can tell a long story about your brand’s persona.

Use “word of mouse” (i.e. online word of mouth). This is basically what their focus on influencer engagement is - they are relying on promotion via trusted sources to the existing, loyal audiences of those sources, until they can build a loyal audience of their own.

Enable evaluation. By giving each influencer/blogger a tailored discount code for their audience, DW can decipher which campaigns are converting into sales and which aren’t. Want to know which influencer have worked? Look at who they partner with repeatedly over the years.

Think Macro Influencers. Most brands and, indeed, social media managers, find it difficult to locate, assess and ‘woo’ every influencer in their industry or location. Even when you find them, the most notable can be the most expensive to work with. Looking to macro-influencers with between 20-50,000 audience figures can still mean an engaged fanbase but at a much lower cost. And, as they aren’t so recognisable, you run less risk of backlash from the public about “using faces” to push your product.

Nick Bateman - online influencer/model with 4.4 million Instagram followers - is a regular face on the DW channel


Think high-end means high-price. This generation aren’t doing as well as their parents financially. By pricing at less than $150 a piece, DW know that you can now create a luxury, aspirational brand that will succeed (not suffer) because of a lower-than-industry-average price point.

Assume influencer marketing is cheap. Or easy. DW have engaged A LOT of influencers over the last 4 years. Researching, contacting and managing these relationships will have been intensely time-consuming. A full-time job. Add to that the fact that most influencers now make a living from it. Free product isn’t going to be payment enough. But it’s still more cost-effective than traditional advertising and more far-reaching than traditional PR. And invest in good photography, stock imagery and editing!

Expect results quickly. The fact remains than when faced with a channel to populate and no devout audience yet to populate it for you, it can be an uphill struggle to create the look and feel you want. It will take work, trial and error of imagery (on Instagram especially) and time to find the right influencers and generate the content you need to grow.

Get caught out in a crisis. The internet raises people up to tear them down again, often by way of hashtag hijacking and hackers. Have contingency plans, emergency contacts and backup logins in place if you become successful enough to be a target:

Of course whether or not the Daniel Wellington brand joins the ranks of the longstanding luxury retailers is yet to be seen. After all, this strategy is easily replicated, and has been by the likes of Marc Bale.

But one thing is certain; launching and building a new luxury retail brand will never be approached in the same way again.

DW - I wouldn’t wear you, but I salute you!

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