Is Influencer Marketing Dead?

May 12, 2023

In recent years, influencer marketing has become a popular and effective way for companies to reach new audiences and promote their products or services. However, a growing trend known as de-influencing is challenging the traditional influencer model and changing how companies approach their marketing strategies.

First, we need to back up a bit. De-influencing made a big splash on TikTok, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. Users made videos stating the trending products that were over-sensationalized and not worth the money (we’re looking at you, Stanley Cups, and Baggu Bags). 


So why de-influencing? This does not only involve breaking free from the influencer mindset and making purchasing decisions based on one's values; it also makes a more significant statement on our culture of overconsumption. It is not a secret that the Millenial and Gen-Z generations like to shop. Still, as a collective, we realize our overconsumption based on influencer content creates a lot of waste. This trend toward authenticity and individuality is having a significant impact on companies using influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing has been a significant component of many brand strategies for the past decade and for a good reason. According to HubSpot, on average, for every $1 spent, businesses see an ROI of $6.50. Should marketers be worried about the rise of de-influencing if influencing is a big part of their strategy? The answer is yes and no (stick with me). 

Brands that have cultivated relationships with a few influencers that have stayed consistent over the years probably don’t have much to worry about. Loyal brand followers have built online relationships with those influencers, and trust exists. However, I believe that the days of giant PR packages going out to the masses are becoming less and less appealing to viewers.

Here Are Some Ways De-Influencing Will Impact Marketers and Brands:

Increased Demand For Authenticity:

Consumers' skepticism of sponsored content is not a new trend but has become increasingly prominent recently. Social media and influencer marketing are not new. Still, we have reached a point in our consumerism where people are exposed to more sponsored content than ever before, and it can be challenging to distinguish between genuine recommendations and paid promotions. For brands, that’s really the goal; for their ads to feel organic. But for consumers, it’s exhausting. It is safe to say that the market is beyond over-saturated with this type of content. IMG_2194-1

Companies must prioritize authenticity and transparency in their influencer partnerships to overcome this challenge. One way to achieve this is to work with influencers who genuinely use and enjoy the products they are promoting. These influencers will likely provide authentic and genuine recommendations to their audience rather than promoting products solely for financial gain. Blasting PR packages to every influencer in the marketplace is not strategic.

For brands to further promote authenticity, they should provide influencers with the freedom to create content that feels natural to them. Providing influencers with overly scripted content is a thing of the past, and consumers are experts at sniffing out that type of content. Instead, trust the influencers to create content that resonates with their audience. This approach builds trust with followers, as they can see that the influencer is not just promoting for a paycheck.

More Focus on Micro-Influencers: 

IMG_2204-1Previously, brands have often partnered with mega-influencers with millions of followers on social media platforms. The idea was that partnering with these mega-influencers would allow brands to reach a wider audience and get their products in front of as many people as possible. However, as the trend of de-influencing has emerged, it has become clear that this approach may not be as practical.

As consumers become more skeptical of sponsored content, they seek authentic and genuine recommendations from trusted influencers. This is where micro-influencers come in. Micro-influencers are social media users with a smaller following, usually between 1,000 to 100,000 followers. While their reach may be smaller than that of mega-influencers, micro-influencers often have a more engaged following and a more loyal and authentic relationship with their audience.

Micro-influencers tend to have a specific niche or interest that they focus on, such as beauty, fitness, or travel. This allows them to build a community of followers who share their interests and values. Brands that partner with micro-influencers can tap into these niche communities and reach an audience more likely to be interested in their products or services. 

Many micro-influencers turn into massive influencers, but since they started small and have built relationships with their followers from the get-go, there is a level of trust and authenticity that these influencers have with their following. 

In addition to having a more engaged following, micro-influencers often have a more personal and relatable approach to content creation. They are more likely to engage with their audience, respond to comments and messages, and provide authentic recommendations based on their experience with products. This level of authenticity can help build trust with their audience, translating into higher engagement and sales for the brands they partner with.

Intentional PR Packages

If you’ve followed influencer-created content for any amount of time, you have probably seen a PR unboxing. Many brands have made extravagant PR Packages that have caused a lot of division. In 2021, La Mer, the luxury skincare brand, sent out an over-the-top PR package that caused quite a controversy. The package contained an extravagant display case with multiple products, including a large jar of their popular moisturizing cream. However, the packaging was criticized for its excessive use of plastic and the environmental impact it would have. Image: @Scoutthecity | TikTok

Many people on social media called out the brand for their lack of sustainability and questioned why such excessive packaging was necessary for a skincare product. The backlash prompted La Mer to issue a statement acknowledging the concerns and stating that they are committed to sustainable practices in the future. 

This example highlights the importance of brands being mindful of their environmental impact and considering the potential consequences of their marketing strategies. If your intentions are to target Gen Z consumers, this is even more important as a brand’s sustainability is a big decision factor for them.

Brands since have scaled back on their excessive PR packages going for a simple approach, simply letting the products shine. One example is the beauty brand Lush, known for its commitment to ethical and sustainable practices. In 2019, Lush launched a sustainable packaging initiative called “Naked,” which aimed to eliminate all unnecessary product packaging. As part of this initiative, Lush began sending out “Naked” PR packages made entirely of recyclable or compostable materials.

Image: Beauty ParlorMore and more brands prioritize sustainable practices in their marketing efforts, including their PR packages. By doing so, they can reduce their environmental impact and appeal to consumers who are increasingly concerned about sustainability.

What Needs To Change?

The Type Of Influencer Content.

IMG_2202 2-1We have seen a resurgence of “empties” style videos on TikTok. i.e., videos where influencers showcase their used-up products and provide honest reviews. This type of content reflects the increased demand for authenticity and transparency in influencer marketing. Companies must consider providing intentional PR packages that align with their values and have a minimal environmental impact. By doing this, they can show their commitment to sustainability and attract consumers increasingly concerned about their environmental impact.

Final thoughts: influencer marketing is not dead; it is evolving. De-influencing reflects consumers' changing values, and brands need to adapt to these changes to succeed in their marketing efforts. The focus on authenticity and transparency and using micro-influencers will become increasingly important for companies as they navigate this new landscape. By embracing these changes and being intentional in their marketing strategies, brands can continue to build trust and connect with their audiences in meaningful ways.

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