Influencer Marketing is Under Scrutiny Again Because of One Influencer
When fashion influencer Marissa Fuchs’s marriage proposal started to play out across Instagram on her @fashionambitionist stories in late June, thousands followed along. Who doesn’t love a good love story? But, what was a fun, mid-week workday distraction for so many quickly turned to schadenfreude when The Atlantic published the #LOVEAMBITIONIST pitch deck that was sent to brands to secure sponsorship for the proposal.
Recap of the Viral Marriage Proposal
In case you missed it, Marissa Fuchs, the voice behind the Fashion Ambitionist blog and director of brand partnership at goop, was proposed to by her long-time boyfriend over a three-day, transcontinental whirlwind that played out on her IG stories.
As fast as the mood of followers on Instagram changed from excitement to disgust, the comments on Fuchs’s @fashionambitionist Instagram feed were scrubbed and then disabled.
It is clear, the discovery of the #LOVEAMBITIONIST pitch deck did damage.
The pitch deck laid out every aspect of the proposal with detailed itineraries and encouraged brands to take “the opportunity to align with this momentous occasion and the beautiful cities she will be visiting along the way.” The pitch deck describes Fuchs as a “well-placed fashion blogger who has helped some of the world’s best global media and marketing publications.”
Did Fuchs have a hand in planning this? While there is no shortage of skeptics, her boyfriend insists he and a friend of hers came up with the idea and created the #LOVEAMBITIONIST pitch deck, which is reported to have included her IG metrics. He says they engaged the brands without her knowledge. The New York Times reported that goop is doing an internal review.
Why Should Brands Care?
TRUST: Without trust, influencer marketing doesn’t work. When our social feeds are flooded with sponsored content that feels transactional, it damages the trust followers have in influencers. Stunt’s like Fuchs’s proposal are problematic for brands and content creators at a time when the influencer industry is not only evolving but looking to build trust and develop norms. Marketing budgets are spending more and more on influencer every year, because when it is done right, the ROI is there. But, if influencers continue to create inauthentic content that appears greedy and tone deaf, the industry won’t survive.
AUTHENTICITY: When influencers stray from authenticity, they get in trouble. We see this over and over. This is particularly true around life events such as engagements or the birth of a child where monetizing it might not strike the right cord with followers.
BRAND SAFETY: It is unlikely we’ll ever know whether the 24 brands featured by Fuchs opted in or were also caught by surprise. What will the social impact be for them?
TRANSPARENCY | FTC COMPLIANCE: If Fuchs was gifted or sponsored by any of the brands mentioned, her lack of transparency in disclosing this is an issue. Of the 24 brand mentions in the four engagement IG stories, none were FTC compliant. The FTC states if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and an advertiser – in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed. The FTC’s goal is truth-in-advertising, so endorsements must be honest and not misleading.
Fuchs’s IG handle @fashionambitionist gained approximately 60,000 followers because of the proposal. Some may call that a win. We can’t help but wonder, was it worth it? How much of a reputation hit did the influencer marketing industry take because of this stunt?