Jun 17 2021
Last summer, barely anyone knew about the newly launched OnlyFans. A year (and a Bella Thorne controversy) later, it’s blown up—especially as young consumers looked for ways to make extra cash during the pandemic. In case you need a refresher, OnlyFans is a subscription-based service where creators can earn money from users (“fans”) who pay to subscribe to their content. Through the service, creators can receive funding directly from their fans on a monthly basis through tips, and a pay-per-view feature. While it supports a variety of content creators, it’s especially popular in the adult entertainment industry with amateur porn stars, escorts, and webcam models. And they’ve grown quickly in the last year, and they saw an extra boost after Beyoncé name-dropped the brand in the “Savage (Remix)” last year. There are varying reports on how many users OnlyFans has, but they are all impressively high. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the site hit 50 million users in August 2020—up from 12 million users in January 2020. Meanwhile, Adweek reports that since its launch in 2016 OnlyFans has “accrued” 120 million users and over one million content creators.
While the platform is mostly known for its NSFW content, brands and other celebrities have been catching wind of it in recent months to promote themselves in non-risqué ways—and experimenting with ways to interact with their fans and customers. Sure, while brands, influencers, and celebs have already been jumping on other new platforms—like Clubhouse, Community, and Cameo—to reach young consumers, this one is perhaps one of the most surprising (and riskiest) to get on. While some analysts say brands wanting to make their mark on OnlyFans will have to be willing to have their content alongside far more risqué stuff, it could be a beneficial opportunity “to engage superfans with exclusive content” and foster community. So how are brands making OnlyFans work for them? These are five bold brands that have joined the platform so far:
Fly by Jing
Launched in 2018, this direct-to-consumer Sichuan chili sauce brand quickly garnered a following, growing 60% month-over-month by 2019. But during the pandemic, the business was affected—and founder and former Shanghai-based chef Jing Gao wanted to find new ways to connect with followers. But Gao was also aware of how the platform was a lifeline for many independent sex workers, so she launched a campaign on OnlyFans to raise money for workers in the LA area—a decision meant to respect and “acknowledge the community that brought the platform to prominence.” For every free subscriber the brand gained, they pledged to donate $1 to a grassroots organization supporting sex worker rights. They were able to donate over $500 to groups like the Sex Workers Outreach Project L.A. According to Gao, the overall goal of having an OnlyFans account for her brand is “to create and foster a personalized community, versus behind another channel for discount code-drive sales.” Since their debut, they have shared exclusive, “saucy” pictures and videos of “hot noods” as well as behind-the-scenes content, Q&As, and content experimenting with food and flavor. Gao has also shared videos of herself making dumplings, and offered discount codes by whispering them ASMR-style.
Sticky’s Finger Joint
But Fly by Jing isn’t the first food-related brand to join the platform. In April, Sticky’s Finger Joint, the fast casual chicken chain that operates in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, launched their own account, and fans who subscribed to their channel have gained access to exclusive content, which includes menu items, polls, and potential rewards. As of now, the brand isn’t making plans to charge a subscription fee for users, and any donations or tips given to them have gone toward the hospitality relief fund Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants (ROAR) in NYC. According to the chain’s founder John Sherman, their decision to join OnlyFans resulted from their desire to “reach hardcore fans in an out of the box fashion.” He said they want to “push content boundaries” and reach a different target audience—specifically Millennial and Gen Z users who usually engage with “food porn.” They’re also planning live takeovers from comedians, influencers, and bartenders as well as eating contests that will call on participants to “eat as many chicken poppers dipped in sauce as they can during a two-minute run.” The winner will win a “Chicken Champ” plaque and have a banner dedicated to them at one of their locations in NYC.
With 912K followers on Instagram, 174.6K followers on Pinterest, and a newly launched TikTok account, Minkoff has always marketed her products and engaged with young consumers on social—but perhaps the most unexpected one she’s joined is OnlyFans. The designer revealed that what initially drew her to getting onboard was seeing “the high level of exposure” of celebrities already using it, like Cardi B and Michael B. Jordan. According to the company, Rebecca Minkoff is the first fashion house to use the OnlyFans platform as a way to market their collections. During New York Fashion Week earlier this year, the designer live streamed her fall 2021 runway show on her channel. Users were able to get behind-the-scenes access, including chatting with the designer herself in an hour-long conversation—for a fee that ranged between $5 and $25. In the promo video that OnlyFans shared, Minkoff says: “A lot of this is guided by what you want to see from me.” She’s also hinted at using the platform beyond just fashion week, and has a plan to offer advice or mentor more followers interested in navigating the fashion world—seeing it as “a new avenue to connect with her most diehard, most dedicated fans.” While Minkoff is the only luxury fashion brand to make their way on to the site, this could be a trend to keep an eye out for.
As the first major media publisher to join the platform, VICE is experimenting with their food publication Munchies. At the end of last year, they launched a verified channel and charged fans a monthly subscription fee of $4.99 to access exclusive videos. Their videos have featured up-close shots of food being made—giving viewers and fans “a very intimate look at the sounds and transformations of different foods as they’re being mixed, cooked, and prepared.” According to VICE’s executive producer of digital video Clifford Gulibert, while most of their content so far has focused on creating experiences for viewers with food itself, they are experimenting with to include other types, like videos with chefs. While Gulibert isn’t expecting as high of a reach as they would have on platforms like YouTube or Instagram, he thinks OnlyFans will help them create content that “caters to hyper-local followers of some of its niche content verticals.” Overall, the Munchies brand has seen plenty of growth during the pandemic, especially as people cooked more during lockdowns. Currently, they have more than four million followers on YouTube, and their video views on Facebook and Instagram have “tripled and doubled” since 2019 and 2018.
Carl’s Jr & Hardee’s
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