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While it’s easy to find influencer marketing examples of successful campaigns, it takes a bit of digging to find some that went awry. Still, there are lessons to be learned from the mistakes of others, so we’re sharing highlights of a few campaigns that didn’t go as planned. Check out these examples of influencer marketing gone wrong to prevent history from repeating itself. 

Influencer marketing gone wrong

Not being transparent

Consumers respond to influencer marketing because they trust influencers. Research shows 62% of consumers trust an influencer over a celebrity. Trust is fragile, though, which is why it’s important for influencers to disclose their brand relationships. 

Aside from being the right thing to do, the Federal Trade Commission requires influencers to disclose brand affiliations. Influencers tend to add a hashtag like #ad or #sponsored at the end of a post, like this influencer marketing example. But, is that enough?  According to FTC rules, it’s not. 

The FTC encourages influencers to call themselves brand ambassadors or brand sponsors and display words like “ad” or “sponsored post” prominently, like at the beginning of the post. 

Failing to mention a brand connection can turn customers off and erode trust. As a result, customers might unfollow the influencer and disregard the brand. 

Inappropriate hashtags

Hashtags make posts searchable, which is why they’re important to use. However, every hashtag chosen for an influencer marketing campaign should be relevant to the content 

Using a trendy hashtag to cash in on social traffic is a big faux pas. 

If, for example, an area experienced a natural disaster like a wildfire and the hashtag #PrayForCA was trending, it’s not okay to use that hashtag in an unrelated product endorsement. 

Let’s say an influencer repped a local juice bar with no ties to the fire. Using #PrayForCA in the post would be insensitive and inauthentic. On the other hand, if an influencer collaborated with a California nonprofit to raise funds for victims, the hashtag would be appropriate. 

Leveraging a crisis-related hashtag, or even a trendy hashtag that has nothing to do with your campaign is a mistake to avoid. 

Irresponsible omissions

While you want an influencer marketing campaign to shine a positive light on your product, you still need to be honest about potential downsides. 

For instance, an influencer endorsing diet supplements needs to mention side effects. An influencer endorsing cryptocurrency needs to mention the risky nature of this type of investment. 

Kim Kardashian had to post a corrected ad for the morning sickness drug Diclegis when she forgot to list the drug’s full side effects, a requirement when marketing pharmaceuticals. In this influencer marketing example, the FDA got involved and ordered Kardashian to delete the original post and replace it with a #CorrectiveAd that listed the drug’s side effects. 

Forgetting a call to action

When someone sees your influencer campaign, what do you want him or her to do? Do you want them to make a purchase? Download an ebook? Participate in a contest? Every influencer marketing campaign needs an easy-to-follow call to action.

In this influencer marketing example, the content creator endorses a company that sells gym equipment, but there’s no call to action. It’s just a picture of an athletic woman. There’s no pitch to buy a piece of equipment or join a gym. There’s no action for the audience to take. 

Your campaign should have a call to action with a clickable link or instructions on what to do next. 

Choosing the wrong influencer

As tempting as it may be to land a celebrity or other big-name influencer, it’s far more important to choose the right influencer for your campaign.

Not only can pairing with the wrong influencer cost both partners trust among consumers, but it can also feel inauthentic in terms of whether the content creator understands, likes, and uses the product or service.

Brands are sometimes lured by the call of celebrities, but there are plenty of effective influencers who haven’t appeared on TV or in a film. In fact, recent research shows nano and micro-influencers have strong engagement rates, so brands are shifting their focus (and budget) to smaller, niche influencers

Finding the right influencer is far more important than finding an influencer with millions of followers. To find the right creator, consider using an influencer marketing platform that offers access to an influencer database complete with profiles and strategic metrics. 

While marketers have a lot to learn from the successes of other brands’ influencer campaigns, they can also learn from their mistakes. Keep these cautionary influencer marketing examples in mind as you plan, develop, and monitor your collaborations with content creators in 2023. 


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