An anti-influencer resistance is reflected in viral movements such as “de-influencing” and “corecore”. These trends are a sign that flex culture — a modern term for the social media version of conspicuous consumption, displaying explicit indicators of wealth through the likes of haul videos or unboxing — may be running out of steam. Arguably, a poor economic state is to blame (the last thing many of us want to browse through in our cold flats is a 25 year old on an all expenses paid trip to Dubai just to try on a few lipsticks…)
As a result, brands are having to rethink how to engage with consumers, using influencers in more credible ways beyond the predictability of sponsored posts. The key is – buzzword alert – authenticity. Some brands are exploring deeper and more genuinely collaborative partnerships with macro creators, while others see value in the hyper-niche expertise of smaller but influential micro leaders with very dedicated small followings.
The de-influencing movement is one that questions over consumption. So far in 2023 the term has had a total of 7,200 online mentions, up 683 per cent on the same period in 2022, according to social listening company Meltwater.
Corecore, a spoof on social media trends that stick the -core suffix onto just about any aesthetic (see cottagecore or balletcore) by satirically stitching random videos together, is another trend in which users are questioning the values of capitalism. There are over 2.9 billion views of the hashtag on TikTok to date.
Another statistic worth observing is that 30% of users on TikTok and Twitter feel negatively about viral products, according to Meltwater. I, for one, am so bloody infuriated by the amount of videos on my feed aiming to sell the iPhone light. If there was any chance of me purchasing in the first place, the chance has now dissolved with absolutely no residue. According to Meltwater, this sentiment isn’t directed so much at brands but at the authenticity and trustworthiness of the influencers who promote their products.
Many luxury and fashion brands are already moving on from splashy logos and in-your-face advertising in favour of a “quiet luxury” approach. Here, the focus is on investment pieces, thoughtful shopping habits and subtle branding. The next step is to reconsider their relationships with influencers and creators.
As a result, a new term is circling around brands; “genuinfluencers” – it’s a bit cringe but gets the job done. The goal is to give these influencers a larger platform to share their values, advice and passion. It’s a significant shift from simply paying creators or celebrities to advertise products.
Creators should fulfil a bigger role beyond acting as ambassadors, believes Joe Gagliese, co-founder and CEO of Viral Nation, a global digital and social agency that works with brands including Elf and Clarins. He told Vogue Business “the best way for brands to enter the influencer space and have more positive sentiment is to have more proactive strategies.”
Moving forward, it is more appealing to consumer, brand and influencer for brand partnerships to take a quality over quantity approach. It makes sense when you think about it. If your favourite influencer is posting content from a different brand every week, it becomes frustrating as you question the validity of their passion. It also discourages you from buying the product. Say they’re a coffee connoisseur and one week they’re promoting Grind and the next Pret a Manger followed by a Costa collab, it simply isn’t believable that they consume all three of these very different coffee brands. Instead, a genuine long term partnership with Grind would showcase more passion and produce more engaging content.
For luxury brands especially, such a reputation is crucial. Luxury brands have tended to prefer to maintain a tight control, sometimes dictating frame-to-frame what a creator should do or say. “The higher the calibre of brands, often the more guidelines in place for what your content should look like” said Alyssa Coscarelli, a New York-based fashion editor-turned-entrepreneur with over 345,000 followers on Instagram to Vogue. A calibrated response to the rise of de-influencing would be to give creators more creative freedom to express themselves, she believes. “As soon as something feels like advertising, the views, likes and engagement drop off.”
Perhaps luxury brands should feel encouraged by the de-influencing and corecore movements as they are less about boycotting products and more about buying better.
Good news for me as a music artist is that people with talent in fields outside of fashion are also becoming more attractive to brands, because they don’t rely on influencer income and are therefore perceived as more credible.