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Avoiding influencer marketing fails – Campaigns you can learn from

Influencer marketing has been a favorite among marketers in 2019. Brands spend anywhere between 10 – 25% of their marketing budget on influencer marketing due to its profitable ROI, quick and exciting results. However, the influencer marketing industry is still new in terms of having set guides on what to do and what not to do.  A lot of the brands are finding their way by committing a lot of faux-pas. This stems from mistakes by the brand and the influencers which in turn harshly affects the brand image.

Knowing the reasons why brands have failed implementing a good campaign can help the other brands to anticipate the root cause and prevent any kind of negative fall-out.

Why do some campaigns fail?

Choosing the wrong influencer

The first step in choosing an influencer is where a lot of brands stumble. A brand can make the obvious mistake of choosing an influencer with the highest number of followers pertaining to the same industry. It makes sense to reach out to more people by paying just one influencer and preventing the hassle of having to deal with multiple influencers. The result will entail having poor engagement numbers from the audience because this popular influencer may be regularly doing campaigns.

Choosing solely on what peers recommend, picking an influencer with a high number of followers and betting on the usual suspects are some of the key errors a lot of brands do while picking their influencer. Proper research and good intuition are required to pick prospective brand influencers. Why good intuition? Even though numbers match, picking an influencer whose ideas are in conflict with your brand ideas could backfire. For eg, a big fashion choosing to collaborate with an influencer who talks about sustainability regularly can backfire for both the brand and the influencer.

Failing the basics – Content is king

While any kind of marketing campaign needs a good, properly planned content, the rules for influencer marketing differ in certain terms. Some brands insist on influencers sticking to the brand’s given script for the content posted on their social media. Brands need to understand that the uniqueness of influencer marketing comes from influencers who have become popular with the audience due to their content, opinions and their lingo.  This leads to a lack of authenticity in their influencer marketing campaigns.

“What brands seem to forget is that influencers are people and not faceless entities who promote their product or service.”

Another key reason why low-quality content is released happens when tight time constraints are placed upon the influencers by the brands. A small checklist for content should be to check

  1. If there is enough time given for the influencer and marketer to work on a good-quality content.

  2. Is the content reviewed by a reliable person?

  3. Is the influencer’s personal touch visible through the content?

  4. Is the content tackling any social issues and being insensitive? Any risk here should result in redrafting the content.

  5. Are any taboo topics being talked about?

An ideal example of a brand experimenting with a sensitive issue and failing is Pepsi x Black Lives Matter. The ad shows attractive young people holding signs with vague pleas like “Join the conversation.” The protesters are uniformly smiling, laughing, clapping, hugging and high-fiving.

An image from a Pepsi ad posted on YouTube, starring Kendall Jenner and featuring the song “Lions” by Skip Marley.

An image from the ad

Pepsi has apologized for a controversial advertisement that borrowed imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement, after a day of intense criticism from people who said it trivialized the protests against the killings of black people by the police. It took some major reparation from Pepsi to gain back credibility.

Treating influencer marketing the same way as traditional ads

Brands make the mistake of creating a campaign with an idea and using it for all channels of marketing. This could actually sabotage the efforts taken. Every social media, offline and online channels require a different angle. It is vital for the brand to understand that their target audience can be different through multiple channels. Instead of applying the same offline content for campaigns using influencers, the brand has to conceptualize an extension suitable to influencers and social media.

The shift has to be towards influencers posting more organic content instead of sharing content that sounds like an advertisement. The influencers need to sound excited to use the product and not just look like they reading out of a planned script. Advocacy influences audience than advertising.

Adapting a blanket approach

In an industry that appreciates uniqueness, brands cannot create a blanket approach for online, offline marketing channels without changing the tone of communication. You cannot run a TikTok video on Instagram and expect the audience to respond similarly. The demographics and the tone of every channel are different.

Another key error by brands in creating a blanket approach is that brands have a similar approach for all categories of influencers – Celebrities (Mega), Mini, Micro, and nano. When a micro-influencer can be shown enjoying a drink in a restaurant, the same doesn’t apply to a celebrity.

When your brand has overcome all the above gaffes and implemented a successful campaign, it is understandable that you will be itching to duplicate the success in your next campaign. While success can be aimed to reproduce, duplicating one campaign’s success to another without matching objectives and other factors can be disastrous.

5 Influencer marketing fails that your brand can learn from

Jio India

During the launch of Reliance Jio’s launch back in 2016, the telecom arm of Reliance Industries, celebrities and stars alike took to Twitter to congratulate Reliance and its staff. But things went haywire when a simple congratulatory message was copy-pasted across multiple celeb accounts and the brand became the butt of all jokes.

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Twitterati had a field day with the sudden surge of Reliance Jio’s popularity.


Jio made a cringe-worthy by producing robotic content, hiring hundreds of mega-celebrities with a similar audience to post the same content with no space for innovation.

Tata Tea Fruski

Tata Tea collaborated with the likes of influencers such as Biswa Kalyan Rath, Mohammad Faisal and many micro and nano influencers tweeting about #FruskiLeak. The campaign revolved around the launch of Fruski, a fruit and green tea beverage.

Hey, just got Fruski, don't think its launched yet! Says it has Green tea & herbal ingredients found it super refreshing & tasty #FruskiLeak — Biswa Kalyan Rath (@kalyanrath) May 10, 2017

The tweets produced hardly any engagement except the audience who were complaining about Biswa not mentioning it was a sponsored post. Instead of providing such stringent sounding traditional TV ad language, the brand could have let Biswa have his own stamp on the content by including humor.

A well-executed ideal example of this idea would be OnePlus’ collaboration with the comedian Aravind SA. The unique approach in using a stand-up comedian for an unboxing video added a great value to OnePlus in terms of their promotional activity.

Samsung and Disha Patani

 Disha Patani received a lot of flak last year for copy-pasting the message directly from the emailer without even reviewing it. While the photo was taken down in a matter of seconds, her followers didn’t fail to notice the mistake and the Indian actress was trolled for it.

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This was quite a careless move creating a dampener in the campaign. This does seem to happen often though. Another careless error was by Anusha Sharma and Google India.

Anushka Sharma for Google Pixel

The actress collaborated with Google for its Pixel 2 launch and shared an image on Twitter promoting the smartphone, via an iPhone. A popular YouTuber Marques Brownlee shared this on his feed leading to an explosion of replies and trolling.

Ok I don’t even want to know how this keeps happening but it’s hilarious — Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) September 4, 2018

Things escalated quickly and this carelessness lead to an intense backfiring for the brand and the actress, when users started adding memes to this.

Fyre Festival

Another infamous example that has caused a furor recently would be the Fyre Festival.

The Fyre Festival was advertised by many of the top model influencers like Hailey Baldwin, Emily Ratajkowski and Kendall Jenner as a Bahama-based music festival. This super-elite fest was co-planned by Ja Rule and wannabe entrepreneur Billy. The disastrous festival’s tickets cost up to 12000$. The attendees were promised a luxury vacation and what they got was bread and cheese meal and mattresses soaked in rainwater.

This power of influencer marketing pushed the campaign to its utmost success before the fest started. Unfortunately, it also snowballed and the word of the failing festival also spread like fire. Almost every time, the brand’s disasters travel faster than success. This case ended up as a Netflix documentary in 2018.

Working with a reputed agency like Greenroom and using tools for analysis like Quant can help brands eliminate such errors. Have you spotted more of such campaign fails? Do let us know below in the comments or visit our websiteFacebookTwitter or Instagram pages to reach out to us.

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