3 Influencer Marketing Fails and What to Learn From Them

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Influencer marketing has become the newest sensation in the digital marketing scene. An increasing number of companies are partnering with influencers to promote their brands and products. In fact, major brands have started looking for suitable influencers for their marketing campaigns. This is because of the wide reach influencers provide, and their influence over audiences.

Influencer marketing can help your brand gain higher exposure and increased return on investment (ROI) if used responsibly and correctly. However, as wonderful it may sound, your influencer marketing campaign can fail due to even a seemingly minor mistake.

Partnering with influencers also involves some risks. Remember, partnering with influencers means welcoming criticism of your brand based on the influencers’ personas. This is because when you partner with influencers, you bring a part of their lives into your business. This means anything that your influencer does that reflects poorly on their public image can reflect poorly on your brand.

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Here are three cases of major influencer marketing fails, and what we can learn from them:

#1. Kendall Jenner and Pepsi Collaboration

The Kendall Jenner and Pepsi collaboration is a perfect example of the negative consequences of partnering with wrong influencers. Pepsi wanted to promote their brand by creating a global diversity campaign with Kendall Jenner.

The ad was simply a recreation of the Black Lives Matter protest that took place in Baton Rouge. The ad showcased people of all races joining an unnamed protest promoting “unity in diversity.”

In the ad we see 21-year-old Kendall Jenner ditching her ongoing photo shoot and joining the protest campaign. After few scenes, we find that the police has been deployed to control the protests. That’s when Kendall approaches the line of police officers and offers one of them a Pepsi Cola. This was a clear reference to the iconic photograph of protester Ieshia Evans in the Black Lives Matter protest.

The original photograph shows how Ieshia Evans confronted the riot police in Baton Rouge during the Black Lives matter protest. A recreation of the Black Lives Matter protest led by a white supermodel was not the best of ideas.

Within 24 hours of release, the campaign received heavy criticism from audiences all around the world. Even Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. shared memes on her Twitter account to criticize the campaign.

In one of her tweets, we see Martin Luther King Jr. confronting the police during the American Civil Rights Movement. This is accompanied with the caption “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”

Kendall Jenner and Pepsi Collaboration

Image Via Twitter

Many people also responded that Pepsi was claiming to solve all of the world’s problems on their own. And that the brand was completely ignoring the controversy surrounding the treatment of African Americans by the Police.

The ad was eventually taken down by Pepsi, who later apologized for it. The company explained that they were looking forward to promoting “unity in diversity,” and did not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings.

From this, we can easily say that choosing the right influencer is of utmost importance. If the influencer is not relevant to your campaign, brand, or marketing message it’s recommended that you don’t collaborate with them. Doing so may not only lead to campaign failure, but also invite criticism which is not beneficial for your brand.

invite criticism which is not beneficial for your brand.

Image ViaYouTube

#2. PewDiePie Anti-Semitic Video

Felix Kjellberg a.k.a. PewDiePie is known for his eccentric comedy and roast videos on his YouTube channel, PewDiePie. He started out as a gaming YouTuber, and gained a large fan following from his “Let’s Play” videos.

Near the end of 2013, PewDiePie had 19 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. This made him one of the most popular YouTubers of all time. Many popular brands started to partner with him because of his growing popularity.

In February 2017, PewDiePie had a total 53 million subscribers, and was on the preference list of Google. The event that lead to a major controversy was a video he uploaded that had anti-semitic comments and jokes.

The video showcased PewDiePie reacting to a video that was anti-semitic in nature. The actual video showcased 2 Sri Lankan men who were holding a banner that says “Death To All Jews.” This was followed by PewDiePie’s anti-semitic and Nazi jokes.

This made many people upset, and the responses to his video that followed negatively affected his image as a YouTuber. YouTube worked with PewDiePie on major projects, such as the Red Series. But after the video in question, YouTube removed the influencer from their preferred list. They canceled the second season of Red which was YouTube’s major collaboration with him. Even Disney, one of the largest mass media and entertainment conglomerates in the world broke ties with him.

Soon, the video was removed from his YouTube channel. After some time, PewDiePie released another video titled, “My Response,” in which he apologized to his audience. In his Tumblr post, he explained he was trying to showcase some of the weird online services available. And for as little as $5, people were willing to hold up banners having anti-semitic and Nazi messages.

PewDiePie Anti-Semitic Video

Image viaYouTube

From this, we should learn that any negative publicity your influencers receive will greatly affect your brand.

Think about this for a moment. Will people look up to your brand if it’s promoted by an influencer who has a bad social media reputation? Definitely not. And that’s the exact reason why brands like Disney and YouTube broke their partnerships PewDiePie.

So before partnering with influencers, you should thoroughly check their background for any negative publicity or behavior. Only after you’ve thoroughly checked them out should you consider collaborating with them.

#3. Katie Price And Snickers

This is a controversy that resulted from Snickers’ “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign.

For years, the Snickers brand has used their, “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” slogan. This incident took place when Snickers used this slogan for their global campaign.

In 2012, the brand used social media as their platform to promote Snickers. Snickers collaborated with popular celebrities such as Sir Ian Botham, Cher Lloyd, and Katie Price to promote Snickers in the UK.

This is when Snickers used the literal meaning of their slogan to promote their campaign. For example, popular British model, Katie Price, suddenly started tweeting on politics and macroeconomics. This was really unusual as Katie’s previous posts were typically fashion related.

The campaign turned many heads. Even the BBC’s economic correspondent, Robert Peston, joined in on the conversation with Katie.

Finally, Katie revealed what was actually going on by posting an image. The image was of her holding a Snickers bar with the caption, “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.”

Although her final post has the sponsored hashtag, it was not seen as a marketing stunt. This is because the tweets were out of character for the model, and they didn’t seem like sponsored posts. This ad went on to be investigated by the Advertising Standards Agency of UK, who later cleared it.

However, the damage was done. Not only to the influencer’s image, but also to the brand’s image. This explains how influencer marketing needs to be done on based on both niche and target audience.

Remember, every user on social media is unique. And not everyone will connect to the same campaign if you use it worldwide. So creating unique ads based on demographics can be a good choice if you’re planning to promote your brand worldwide.

Katie Price And Snickers

Image viaCampaignlive


The biggest lesson here is that to make the most out of influencer marketing, you need to study potential influencers before partnering with them. Grin is advanced influencer marketing software designed to help you:

  • Save time while prospecting for hundreds of micro-influencers
  • Provide insight into their posts and engagement rates
  • Automate the outreach and follow-up process
  • Manage relationships and track your results

Want to see Grin in action? Schedule a demo today.

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