De-influencing: TikTok creators are now telling us what not to buy

We all remember the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt fad, namely popular in the lockdowns. What if I told you that a de-influencing trend was sweeping the app? One where creators told us what not to buy and detracted our attention away from pointless fads? Personally, I’m here for the real-ness of it. It’s giving socialist queen energy. 

But why now? A looming recession and high inflation rates have many consumers taking another look at what they are buying. And many are tired of hearing about products they don’t need, or can’t afford, on social media.

“It’s very much attached to the economy,” said Alyssa Kromelis, a marketing consultant who went viral after making her own de-influencing video. “People are struggling, but want to feel cool and look pretty and dressed nicely.” 

The hashtag is often used by influencers who already have deals with the brands they’re critiquing, influencers who are sent products from brands they’re not partnered with, or other users who buy the product after seeing it all over their social media feeds.

This is particularly worrying to brands. It is to say that if a brand sends a creator products without pay or a contract, they are risking the opportunity for the creator to shame the product on their platforms. 

“Brands get to a place where they over-invest,” said Albert Thompson, managing director of digital innovation at Walton Isaacson. “And the word-of-mouth machine, even on TikTok, is not a place to saturate. It’s like having a friend that talks about themself too much. You get tired of it.” 

In fact, some videos with the de-influencing hashtag were about products that consumers are avoiding because they see them on TikTok too often; these include items from Stanley, Lululemon, Bloom Nutrition, Charlotte Tilbury, Drunk Elephant and Olaplex, among others. 

If anything, this calls for a greater need for authenticity. For brands and creators alike, now could be the time to reset their influencer marketing relationships. Creators need to be more comfortable saying “no” to brands and products they don’t like—which might be challenging given the economic downturn—and brands need to send out fewer products to influencers, tighten up their influencer rosters, and accept that creators may ultimately not post about the product, according to agency leaders.

Kimmy Shoval, senior VP and head of influencer marketing at Movement Strategy has recommended brands to lean on talent managers, who know what products will naturally align with certain clients, or searching hashtags to see customers who are organically talking about the brand. Brands should also build in more lead time before campaigns, so that creators have enough time to try the product.

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