The "De-Influencer" Influence

The Lempert Report
February 27, 2023

On today’s Bullseye – earlier this month Aaron Paquette raised an important issue in his column on Mediapost. His discussion focused on what is now one of the most important groups that a brand – whether retailer or CPG – need to pay attention to – the “de”influencers. The under the radar influencer industry is now worth $15 billion a year and 95% of brands are using them to promote on social media channels. Mostly confined to the health and beauty categories, he says, 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. It is also a backlash to the seemingly never-ending product placement phenomenon that continues to grow, even with all the disclosures and controversies.

Deinfluencers are much less subtle than influencers – they call out brands by name. Mediapost cites TikToker MaddieBWells who 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. They also recommend less expensive alternatives – which in this economy is welcomed by just about all shoppers.

Even deinfluencers have critics though. They report that they still talk about products in order to build their own followers and often recommend products of their own in place of the ones they’re deinfluencing. Paquette raising the most important issue - what can brands learn from this trend? Here are his tips:

*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. The goal should be 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.”

In addition to those two – my recommendation is to find an influencer that truly has the knowledge and passion for your brand. For example, if you are using an influencer to promote your supermarket’s offerings – make sure that they are a shopper in your store. Don’t partner with someone for example who is a Walmart shopper (unless you are Walmart of course) – their heart and soul won’t be in it! And it shows. Likewise, choose celebrity endorsers carefully – and do your homework. You are the caretaker of your brand – and by extension, so is the influencer you hire – for better or worse. Have a meal with the influencer you are thinking about hiring. See how they act and react. In a relaxed setting you can easily tell if they are faking it and just looking for the payday before you hand over that agreement for them to sign. Remember when the Beef Council hired James Garner to do their TV spots. Right after the very expensive campaign launched, he underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery. Beef council tried to blame his condition on smoking and tried to ignore the high cholesterol health facts about beef. With the rise of social media, we have seen thousands of influencers cashing in – some are certainly legit – and some are doing it just for the money. Frankly, I think the deinfluencer trend is a good checks and balances that the industry has sorely needed – as long as the deinfluencer is also knowledgeable, credible, tells the truth – and doesn’t try to sell you their own product or service.