The influencer industry is now a $15 billion business, with 95% of brands using influencers to promote them on social media. This makes the business ripe for a backlash, one that’s now arriving with the deinfluencer movement, which has been gaining over 100 million views on TikTok, and spawning numerous influencers who tell their followers what not to buy.
Mostly confined to the health and beauty categories, deinfluencing attempts to persuade social media users not to buy the latest, greatest, or most expensive products. Deinfluencers deconstruct conspicuous consumerism while promoting sustainability and substituting lower-cost goods.
Deinfluencing stems from a perfect storm of trends, between inflation and a weak economy challenging consumers’ pocketbooks, to Gen Z’s increasing environmental consciousness, to a backlash against overt product placement. Between the Kardashians launching 15 new products in the last two months alone, and beauty influencer Mikayla Nogueira accused of using fake eyelashes while promoting L’Oreal Telescopic Lift mascara, some TikTokers are finally saying, “Enough!”
Deinfluencers call out brands by name. TikToker MaddieBWells earns 1.8 million views by calling Mario Badescu face cream a “monstrosity.” KatieHub.Org receives a similar number of views for calling out Dior lip oil as “garbage” and “mid.” Jacquelyn Mengel accuses Olaplex shampoo and conditioner of making her hair fall out. And Dara Levitan calls Pixi On-The-Glow Blush the “tackiest” blush she’s ever used.
Some recommend more reasonably priced products. TikToker Alyssa Kromelis recommends $30 plastic hair rollers from Amazon instead of a Dyson Airwrap that costs up to $600, and endorses other products that consumers can find at their local drugstore or Walmart. She tells Marketing Insider that she practices “recession-core influencing” and believes that “most people can’t afford to buy every single thing that goes viral, but they want to feel like they belong and fit in.”
However, even the backlash to influencer marketing triggers a backlash of its own. Critics of deinfluencing note that its practitioners still talk about products to earn more followers, likes and views, and often recommend products of their own in place of the ones they’re deinfluencing. To these critics, deinfluencing is just another way of posting over-the-top product videos in the hopes of going viral, and the flip side of the same coin that they appear to be decrying.
But assuming that deinfluencing is here to stay, what can brands learn from this trend?
*Integrate brands authentically. Followers need to believe that influencers actually use and like the brand, a belief that’s easily compromised if they’re promoting 15 different brands or faking use cases. Aim to recruit influencers who already use the brand in their day-to-day life; who can offer category exclusivity; or who can convincingly document their usage.
*Vet influencers carefully. It’s probably not a good idea to work with influencers who call other products a “monstrosity” or “garbage.” There’s always the risk that they’ll eventually bite the hand that feeds them, and at the very least, your brand will be associated with a slam against another brand that could potentially be defamatory. Carefully review an influencer’s past TikToks and social media posts to ensure their past statements won’t create blowback for your brand.
*Consider sustainable influencers. A middle ground between influencers and deinfluencers are those who promote sustainable living. If your brand showcases sustainability, consider working with an influencer who will promote these qualities, and accentuate your brand’s positives, rather than tear down another brand. Another alternative is working with influencers who promote life hacks, budgeting tips and financial independence, rather than conspicuous consumerism.
As Taylor Swift sang, “Haters gonna hate.” But by following these best practices, your brand can continue to build influence even when facing its biggest critics.