Post Contributors

The Rise of the Organic Influencer

Contributing Author: Caitlyn Walters

Within my academic dissertation, I wanted to explore the Influencer phenomenon by comparing Paid Influencer content with Organic Influencer content regarding creating brand love towards fashion brands among Generation Z females on Instagram and how brand love creates purchase intention.


Generation Z consumers are submerged into a sea of sponsored posts within their Instagram feeds from high profile Fashion Influencers’ who are sent clothes for free in exchange for brand love portrayal. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that sponsored posts and paid partnerships are not as effective as they once were due to lack of credibility and self-relevance. Organic Influencers, however, are becoming increasingly popular with Gen Z female fashion consumers. Organic Influencers are fashion brands existing consumer who have a high amount of brand love, and they want to declare this love by posting content for no compensation. They offer free styling and purchase advice, honest opinions and the opportunity for consumers to see what an outfit looks like without expensive camera equipment, lighting and many different takes and poses. I wanted to explore whether fashion brands should be focusing more on creating campaigns which involve the growth of user-generated content, rather than a high expense on ineffective paid partnerships.

Two research methods were used, firstly, Netnography, which involved collecting and comparing many paid and unpaid Instagram posts. Furthermore, I, the researcher, became an Organic Influencer to truly understand what content portrays the most brand love and creates purchase intention, by creating it myself and seeing the organic growth and engagement. ZMET interviews were used and participants were asked to collect screenshots of fashion content they find the most Influential on Instagram, allowing me to truly understand the deep, unconscious thoughts and feelings Gen Z female consumers had towards both Paid and Organic Influencer fashion content.

Organic Influencers were more self-relevant to Gen Z female consumers regarding lifestyle, appearance and style, and are perceived as more credible sources of information due to the fact they are not being paid. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware that the Paid Influencer does not love the fashion brand nor the clothes they are promoting, as Paid Influencers have been found to sell clothes they have been sent for free on platforms such as Depop shortly after posing in the outfits and encouraging all of their followers to make a purchase. Furthermore, Paid Influencers do not engage with their audience or offer any further purchase advice or support. However, Organic Influencers provide their followers with a high amount of information such as the brand name, the product name or code, sizing recommendations and honest opinions regarding the product quality. This study made it apparent that Organic Influencers are significant to the growth of fashion brand love, especially online-only brands. However, while Organic Influencers can easily increase brand love and purchase intent, their opinions both positive and negative are accepted by consumers, therefore, fashion brands need to ensure excellent customer service, brand values and product quality.