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Creativity in Isolation

6 min read.

This article looks into the role of independent Creators during a time of consumer lockdown. As brands further shift their strategies to digital, how can Influencers adapt their creative output to make the best out of an uncertain situation?

Including interviews and creative examples of three key Whalar Creators, we look at how they are continuing to connect with their audiences and what brands can learn from them.

What is a Creator’s Role?

The majority of marketers have been quick to reference the dramatic increase in media usage over the past two weeks, however, few appear to be focusing on the quality of work that is now being produced - particularly across social media channels.

This week, Virgin Media reported a 90% increase in online traffic on the first official day of isolation across the UK, and nearly half of all consumers are now spending more time on social media. The sharp shift has caused platforms such as Netflix and Youtube to reduce streaming quality to deal with the increased demand.

By contrast, looking to Creators across the board, we’re seeing anything but a drop in quality.

With social media use increasing, specifically for Millennials and Gen Zs, consumers are being driven to influencers more frequently than ever. Instead of 2-3 daily checks during breaks, we’re more likely to be on our feeds every hour.

The appeal of the influencers is simple. They offer support and entertainment for the housebound, whilst also providing inspiration for those looking to channel their own creativity. Since COVID-19, over 14% of all consumers are spending more time creating content on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Youtube as a direct response to being in isolation. For example, the Google search for “How to Make a TikTok” is up by 400% since March 1st.

There is a thirst to create as well as consume. And, specifically regarding visual artists on Instagram and meme culture on TikTok, imitation is a key driving force in populist content creation.

Adapt (Don't Adopt) Your Strategy

Just as every brand requires a bespoke social strategy, the same is also true for influencers. Jumping ship or rapid reinvention is rarely the answer for a Creator who has spent years growing a following or curating a specific style.

Not all Creators create stand-alone artwork, in the same way, that not all Creators can spark cultural conversations or constantly interact with their audiences. However, all can adapt to the current climate. This translates into; Own your niche but make it relevant. For instance, Nike’s reinvented messaging -  ‘“If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world.” - never drifts far from their organic tone and becomes immediately relevant to the current 'workout from home' culture. The same is true for Netflix running copy such as: ‘The Only Place You Can See F-r-i-e-n-d-s’ and ‘#StayAtHome and #StayAtHome, It’s not the End of The F***ing World’. Instantly, they preserve their well known tongue-in-cheek style whilst paralleling public health messaging.

Why Digital is More Essential Than Ever

Beyond in-house advertising, global isolation has undoubtedly hurried the shift to digital communications. Although television viewers will likely increase over the coming weeks, advertising within that space does not have the capacity to react to day-to-day events. The lack of access to production studios will also continue to handicap relevant advertising on more traditional platforms.

Never has the full value and versatility of digital influencers been more fundamental for translating a brand’s message during a period of consumer lockdown.

For brands partnering with influencers, marketers must forget preconceived ideas that all influencers offer the same service, audience, or creative ability. Embrace the artists, storytellers, makers, vloggers, activists, mums, dads -  who can personalise a brand during a time in which audiences are crying out for connection.

Influencers know and understand the communities they are talking to. A message that may not work on general brand channels, may resonate far more effectively within a smaller influencer network. Trust them to know their audience.

The Creators

Below are three independent Micro Creators who are all owning their craft, connecting with their audiences, and demonstrating the value of creativity in a crisis.

Téber, @teber | Previously described by Whalar as being at the forefront of Candy Minimalism, Téber has a classical vision built for the digital age. Emotionally charged and impossibly relevant, Téber has self-curated a series of solitude that has resonated with his audience and beyond.

I’ve tried to keep it low key without posting any stories about each image - behind the scenes or making of - because I feel like this is more about the collective than us as individuals.

This entire series comes naturally for me because I was trapped creatively in 2019. I’m thankful for all of the campaigns that I’ve worked on, but I was in a long-term relationship that really consumed my emotional energy. It was a tough year in that sense. It was also the year I felt I cried the most in my life. Even though I could deliver to brands every time, I knew I wasn’t delivering to myself, and that’s exactly what I’m doing right now with this series. Creating content for my eyes, that I like to see myself reflected on how trapped I was last year with my creative flow and energy. I feel better now, I’m just burying my past one image at a time with this Quarantine series.

The industry has spoken about the value of stand-alone artists during this time. As we cannot access production studios, the value of the independent Creators has become more central. Although Téber’s recent work isn’t branded, his #QuarantineByTEBER series is an accolade to independent creativity.

Helga Stentzel, @made_by_helga | A vibrant visual artist and storyteller based in London. Helga has always had a unique talent for creating vivid scenes from everyday objects. This ability to forge storytelling moments from seemingly mundane scenes resonates as an especially poignant creative style at this moment.

Helga is a Creator who thrives off community. Her recent project, #lockdowndiy - alongside her new handle,  @lockdown_diy - sets daily challenges to her followers. The aim is to not only spark creativity and tap into an audience that is more willing to create, but also shift our perception of how we view staying indoors.

I started @lockdown_diy because I wanted to help my followers feel better about their homes. It's not an ambitious renovation project or a tricky DIY challenge where you need lots of materials and equipment - it's simple things that in most cases people can cut out and stick to their walls and cupboards. And get their little ones involved - which is also important for many! One little project a day to keep us all connected, creative and... sane :)

Like Téber, Helga’s work stands on its own, however, it is more community-driven. She is combining talent with a flair for creative audience interaction. For many Creators, is a perfect formula to follow during the outbreak. Helga is allowing her work to stay relevant, whilst continuing to work on the creative concepts she is known for.

Stefanie Nurding, @stestefaninurdingxx | A Business owner, professional skateboarder and digital influencer. Stef lives and breathes her personal brand. Her content focuses on balancing her passion for skating along with being a mum, and is central to a movement that is re-imagining what modern-day skating looks like.

Her unique style is backed up by her regular posting that mixes fashion, skating, culture, balancing childcare and simply entertaining her followers.

It's important to show up for yourself just like you would show up to work... Make a schedule, wear a nice outfit and get ready whatever makes you feel good and put your energy into something useful, even if that is just keeping your place clean and putting more time than usual into cooking a good meal - and share it. The positive outlook is so important.

Behind the scenes, with Salon, I am still working on a new collection and some wholesale accounts. However, I am not focusing at all on selling or pushing any product at the moment on social as I want to be sensitive to the current climate. As far as Instagram goes, I am just trying to put out positive vibes on my account with everything being so scary I hope I can help someone else to stay positive too.

Stef’s vibrant and positive outlook is the ideal antidote to a current climate of worry. She’s introduced skate tutorials from her living room, served up multiple looks and adapted her strategy for her female-focus skate brand, Salon - http://salonskateboards.com/.

To sign off, if you ever wanted to master a kickflip in your living room, here's how...

Banner content from @teber. For any information on navigating influencer marketing during Covid-19, please contact studio@whalar.com.