M.Gemi Founder Cheryl Kaplan on Choosing the Right Influencers and the Value of Authenticity

Inside the luxury shoe brand's strategy for fostering word-of-mouth advertising

M.Gemi president Cheryl Kaplan joined us at Brandweek Sept. 22-25 in Palm Springs, Calif. - Credit by Courtesy of Cheryl Kaplan
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Like any brand worth its salt, M.Gemi wants people to love it so much they want to tell others about it. But how do you inspire customers to start sharing? At last month’s Brandweek event in Palm Springs, Calif., the direct-to-consumer luxury shoe brand’s founder and president, Cheryl Kaplan, spoke to Adweek about how the company keeps the word-of-mouth momentum flowing.

“A brand needs to have that emotional connection so that they’re not just a commodity, and M. Gemi becomes her choice,” Kaplan said. “At the end of the day, we want her to love the experience, not just the shoes. Everything about it, from start to finish. It’s really building an emotional connection with your customer.”

In large part, that connection comes from encouraging word of mouth. M.Gemi, whose mission is to bring Italian luxury shoes stateside at a fair price, has a customer referral program. With it, people can send coupons for $50 off to friends who are first-time customers. If they purchase a pair of shoes with that code, referrers will get a $50 credit toward their next purchase.

“Similar to recruiting, where your best people often come to you through people who work for you, through referral, your best customers often come from someone telling their friends, because they know what their friend likes and they know what we’re about,” Kaplan said.

These days, the way to achieve that tell-a-friend effect on a bigger scale is through influencers. M.Gemi is selective about which ones it works with, partnering with just a few each year. Kaplan said that M.Gemi is predominantly focusing on micro-influencers, typically with followings of less than 500,000.

“If you have the right influencers, then they’re advocates for your brand,” she said, “just like your customers are when they talk about your product or your service. For me, it’s another way to tell the story, not from our own point of view.”

An influencer’s authenticity is also important to M.Gemi. Kaplan said the partnership needs to feel real and true to both M.Gemi and the influencer’s work. “For me, it’s more who they are and what they stand for,” she said.

Recently, M.Gemi collaborated with beauty blogger Marianna Hewitt. With more than 860,000 followers on Instagram, she doesn’t exactly fall into the “micro” category. But she was already talking about the brand on her blog, Life With Me, and on Instagram. What especially stood out to the M.Gemi team was that Hewitt is a beauty blogger—she doesn’t often post about fashion brands. So when she does, it’s a sign that Hewitt really, really loves something. So working with her in a more official capacity felt like a natural next step.

“It felt authentic,” noted Kaplan. “That authenticity now, even more than three years ago, is so important because a lot of people are doing things with influencers.”

@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.
Publish date: October 11, 2018 https://stage.adweek.com/retail/m-gemi-founder-cheryl-kaplan-on-choosing-the-right-influencers-and-the-value-of-authenticity/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT