Not every marketing campaign is a success. This is nothing new, but the advent of influencer marketing has introduced another unpredictable element in the marketing-strategy process. If you aren’t yet convinced that it’s best to exercise caution when working with third-party partners, these five influencer marketing fails may change your mind. Both brands and influencers can learn important lessons from others’ mistakes.
Ramona and Scott’s Copy/Paste Mistakes
Reality TV stars are popular influencers for beauty brands and those in adjacent industries like weight loss. The appeal of reality TV is ultimately related to image, after all, so it’s a generally good fit. However, reality TV stars don’t get famous for their tech savvy or general situational awareness. That can mean that partnerships between brands and celebrities of this type are a bit of a gamble.
Two brands learned this the hard way when “The Real Housewives of New York City” star Ramona Singer and Kardashian-adjacent Scott Disick accidentally posted sponsored content without proofreading their post copy. Both of the reality stars clearly copied/pasted the post instructions they received without actually changing anything. This meant that their sponsored posts were both transparent and unpolished. If you’re going to work with an influencer, make sure they proofread before posting.
The Fyre Festival
Chances are you know about Fyre Festival, the music festival famous for its massive failure rather than its success. As the multiple behind-the-scenes documentaries about the festival demonstrate, there was one real thing that gave the festival enough clout to fail in the first place: influencers. A beautifully produced commercial starring young women influencers in bikinis swimming in tropical waters helped the festival draw crowds.
From a promotion point of view, the video is anything but a fail. The company’s influencer marketing efforts were a smashing success in terms of getting consumers to purchase tickets. Many people who ended up wasting their time and money planning to attend Fyre Festival likely did so specifically because of that video.
But the women who appeared in the video themselves probably regret the decision quite a bit. Not only is it embarrassing to be associated with a failure of such epic proportions, but some of them got swept up in legal drama. Articles speculating about subpoenas aren’t exactly the kind of press influencers like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner are looking for.
This is a great example not just for brands but for influencers to stay on guard. Don’t just take money because someone’s offering it. Sticking with established brands that have track records of success is a better bet than an upstart music festival that couldn’t get a bigger rapper on board than Ja Rule.
Abundant Non-Disclosure Penalties
It’s no secret that influencers are supposed to disclose when their content is sponsored. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) isn’t able to keep watch over every single influencer/brand collaboration, though. But the organization has made a few choice examples out of repeat offenders. Retailer Lord & Taylor is one such brand, having run afoul of the FTC in 2016 for native ads and sponsored influencer Instagram posts.
Brands should remember that their audiences are savvy. Followers can usually tell when a post is sponsored. Being up front and honest about that will pay off by allowing brands to avoid FTC fines. It’ll also help avoid backlash from an audience that feels deceived and pandered to.
Pepsi and Kendall’s Faux-Woke Adventure
2017 marked a period of rising social activism among a lot of young people, particularly those concerned with justice and equality. Pepsi took a major misstep when it interpreted this social movement as a trend. The brand decided to capitalize on the movement with a tone-deaf commercial featuring influencer Kendall Jenner. The commercial shows Kendall leaving a modeling shoot and joining a protest, closing with Jenner handing a Pepsi to a police officer. The message was clear: soda can unite us.
The public reaction was just as clear: disapproval from just about every side of the political spectrum. Derided as cynical, insensitive and out of touch, the commercial drew attention in the most negative way possible.
This whole debacle ended up making both the influencer and the brand look bad. On Pepsi’s end, it’s a perfect example of the importance of diversity in corporate teams. That there seemingly wasn’t a single objection in the giant chain of people who conceived and approved the commercial made Pepsi look even worse. On Kendall’s end, it’s an example of the pitfalls of trying to seem #relatable when your life is actually pretty sheltered and out-of-the-ordinary. Had the commercial shown her escaping from the pressures of fame with a Pepsi on a quiet beach, none of the controversy would have arisen.
The Super Bloom Backlash
Weather patterns in California created a “super bloom” in 2019, meaning that orange California poppies bloomed in abundance in places like Antelope Valley. The beautiful scenery drew record crowds, which would’ve been fine if all those people had been respectful. Unfortunately, they weren’t all well behaved, with many people tromping off designated trails and trampling flowers underfoot to get the perfect photo for social media.
Backlash was swift, and many brands affiliated with influencers who engaged in this bad behavior found themselves having to do damage control. It’s an effective reminder that hopping on a content bandwagon isn’t necessarily a good idea. Yes, getting incredible shots of nature can be inspiring. But it’s important to be respectful and avoid ruining the experience of the outdoors for others just to capitalize on a trend.