- Love Islander Molly-Mae Hague parlayed her fame into brand deals and millions of followers.
- She was announced as creative director for PrettyLitteThing in an estimated 7-figure deal.
- Insider spoke with Molly-Mae Hague and experts to break down how she extended her fame.
Appearing bare-faced and cheery, Molly-Mae Hague told her YouTube fans in a video last October she would remove her lip fillers, a procedure that makes lips look fuller, at the age of 21.
“I’ve been getting my lips filled with filler since I was about 17, which is literally ridiculous,” she said, saying she wanted to look more “natural.”
The video was flooded with supportive comments — “I love Molly-Mae. She is just herself. No being fake, doesn’t shy away from anything and says how it is,” said one fan.
The emotion gives some clue as to how Hague, runner-up of reality dating show “Love Island” UK 2019, became one of its highest-earning contestants and a successful influencer.
Insider previously reported that Hague could theoretically charge a brand as much as $54,000 for a single, promotional Instagram post. In August, she became creative director at fast-fashion brand PrettyLittleThing in a deal estimated by influencer marketing agency Takumi to be worth £1 million ($1.4 million).
Insider spoke to Molly-Mae Hague and marketing experts on how she capitalized on her fame to land brand deals and millions of followers.
She was already an influencer
A post shared by Molly-Mae Hague (@mollymae)
Aimeé Howells, managing partner at Takumi, credits Hague for having a “fireworks versus frameworks” strategy in place before her “Love Island” appearance.
“I think you can be a firework moment and spike in time, but the framework, if it’s not there in the beginning, then you’re never going to sustain it,” she said.
Hague was already an influencer, heading onto the show with a following of 100,000 on Instagram and 10,000 on YouTube; now at 6 million and 1.6 million respectively.
“It almost gave me a practice run,” Hague told Insider. “I always knew how to be an influencer, I always knew how to deal with having an audience, even though my audience was a lot smaller than what I have now, I definitely had an understanding of how to do this job and how to do it well.”
Brendan Gahan, partner and chief social officer at creative agency Mekanism, said Hague used the show as a “step function” to build up an audience.
She occasionally flubs
Gahan added that Hague benefits from the “pratfall effect.”
“When somebody is successful or popular or really smart and they flub up, they mess up, rather than that suddenly turning into an indictment of them, it generally pulls people in, and we find it endearing,” he said.
“We know that Gen Z audiences respect that,” Takumi’s Howells added, pointing to Hague’s lip filler video. “That’s what they want to see, and this is why she’s a shining star in a very political landscape of reality TV stars because she has gone back to her roots.”
In another video, Hague weeps as she explains why her new dog Chai died suddenly, an event that triggered negative press coverage. The post provoked another outpouring of support.
“I think having my YouTube and being so transparent on there and being so open and honest about everything that I do, including mistakes that I made, creates a really strong relationship with my audience and makes them feel like they understand me almost in a friendship kind of way,” Hague told Insider.
Fans feeling friendship with social media stars — so-called parasocial relationships — has influenced how brands approach sponsorship deals. More brands are applying a “Jordan/Nike playbook” to their influencer marketing strategies, Gahan said. Brands cannot “rent” an audience, so bank on the trust influencers have earned from their audiences.
Gahan said of Hague: “People actually care about the fact that she is building these businesses. People feel that, ‘This is my friend doing so well, I’m going to rally around her.'”