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Mar 04 What is Deinfluencing and Should Brands Be Worried About This Trend?

You may have heard rumblings in the influencer marketing world about something called “deinfluencing.” What exactly is this trend and should brands using influencer marketing be worried? We'll break down what deinfluencing is, where it came from, examples of how it manifests, steps brands can take to avoid it, and why it may actually be a force for good overall.


What is Deinfluencing?

popcornIn simple terms, deinfluencing is a bit of a backlash movement against rampant consumerism and constant product promotion by influencers across social media. It stems from fatigue and skepticism over the endless parade of products some influencers push.

Some social media users have grown tired of seeing some influencers hype new products daily without enough discrimination or questioning of quality, ethics, sustainability, and more. The thinking goes - how can someone authentically love and recommend SO many products ALL the time? The validity gets called into question.

Some refer to influencers who incessantly promote products, often of questionable quality, as “Shill Anything Barbies” - implying they will promote anything for money without principles.

Deinfluencing is thus the pushback. Consumers, and certain influencers, want more conscientious consumption and promotion. Quality over quantity - it’s better for people’s wallets, sanity, and the environment.


Where Did This Trend Come From?

In the early, wild west days of influencer marketing, many influencers would simply hold up a product, use some positive descriptors, and call it a day. But over time, users have gotten wise to this “grip and grin” style promotion. They want deeper connections and more authentic recommendations.

At the same time, issues around consumption, environmental impact, economic inequality, and workers’ rights have risen in public discourse. Fast fashion and products designed to fall apart to keep consumers buying endless upgrades are coming under heavy scrutiny. Sites like Shein and Wish, pedaling extreme fast fashion of dubious origin, ethics, and quality, are facing mounting backlash. Their race to the bottom business model risks real human and environmental harm.

Even major fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara faced questions over sustainability claims versus reality. More attention has recently been paid to mass textile waste and microplastics pollution from synthetic fabrics.

In this atmosphere, influencers who constantly push product after product with no discrimination or questioning became symbols of overconsumption run amok. Thus, deinfluencing was born - the desire for more thoughtful curation and transparency from influencers. More accountability - what real value, if any, does this $5 phone case from AliExpress actually provide? How is it different than the one you loved last week? Are these lashes from a cruelty-free brand? Who made your fast fashion haul?


Should Brands Be Worried About Deinfluencing?

The current zeitgeist around more conscientious consumption isn’t going away anytime soon. However, most brands have little need to worry as long as they keep a few things in mind.


Work With the Right Influencers

Avoid “Shill Anything Barbies”. Select influencers who align with your brand values around sustainability, ethics, diversity, equity and inclusion, etc. Look at post volume and make sure recommendations seem thoughtful vs slapdash. Ensure no one pushes too much sponsored content, what we call “saturation rate,” in a short time. If the vast majority of a given influencers’ posts are sponsored content, no one pays attention anymore.


Create Thoughtful Briefs

Give influencers the tools to speak authentically about products. Make sure briefs clearly articulate how products uniquely solve problems or delight audiences. Share specific anecdotes and user stories. Provide enough background and training for influencers to speak knowledgably. Build in adequate time for proper use before expectations of posts. Rushed recommendations seem disingenuous.


Focus On True Value

Avoid falling into the trap of using only low prices or discounts as the primary value proposition. The race to the bottom risks real ethical and environmental harm. Instead, focus messaging on longevity, responsible production methods, sustainability commitments, and outstanding performance over time. Set appropriate expectations around reasonable costs balanced with the overall quality of your products.


Examples of Deinfluencing Backlash

Sometimes deinfluencing backlash is general critique of overconsumption. But other times, it’s sparked by specific missteps by influencers or brands. For example, an influencer pushing Shein hauls while claiming sustainability credentials would spark critique over fast fashion’s impacts. Or an influencer sharing a discount code for a questionable supplement brand after claiming they focus on vetting efficacy and safety could undermine trust.


The Bottom Line

Deinfluencing is a force for good - holding brands and influencers accountable while pushing for more conscientious consumption and promotion. As with any trend, some influencers will go too far - demonizing anything sponsored at all is unrealistic both because people need to make a living and because not all products are bad. But for thoughtful brands who avoid falling into “fast fashion” patterns, this trend is nothing to fear. Align with influencers sharing your values, focus on quality over quantity, and always keep the human and environmental impacts of production and consumption in mind as you think through your influencer marketing strategies.