Over the past decade, advertisers have increasingly capitalised on the 'influence' of influencers to help shape and create consumer demand for their products and services. In turn, influencers are able to monetise their social media content and connections with brands, creating a symbiotic relationship between the two.
However, in light of the cost-of-living crisis and changing consumer behaviour, a new trend is emerging on social media platforms – de-influencing. And the impact of de-influencing can be significant, both for brands and consumers.
What exactly is de-influencing?
Whilst influencing and de-influencing both aim to sway consumer purchasing decisions, their similarities end there. De-influencing enables creators to provide honest reviews and opinions on products as well as providing a route to challenge brands on a range of issues, from unethical labour practices to environmental impact.
De-influencing also highlights the disruption of trust between influencers and their followers and the importance of authenticity in influencer marketing. Consumers are now more or less savvy to when an influencer is promoting a product solely for the sake of payment or endorsement and arecent study found that 64% of British customers "have lost respect for influencers that are driven by commercial gain and lack authenticity".
With consumers starting to lose their trust in some influencers, they are turning to de-influencing creators for unbiased and unfiltered reviews and recommendations and, as a result, those creators have actually emerged as viable partners for brands.
But why should brands be mindful of de-influencing?
The growth of de-influencing will likely have an impact on a brand's existing marketing efforts, especially if the brand's marketing strategy involves influencer marketing. It is clear that credibility, authenticity and consumer awareness are becoming increasingly significant as consumers become less trusting of brands and influencers alike.
Whilst it is a common trend for influencers to share their 'hauls' of products and encourage consumer spending, brands should recognise that de-influencing aids in mitigating the impact of overconsumption (and consequently the impact to the environment) and reflects consumer willingness to buy more sustainably. In addition, brands also need to acknowledge the role that the economy plays in the popularity of the de-influencing trend. Recently, a popular beauty brand received some backlash for sending a select group of influencers on a lavish brand trip to promote their products, with many followers commenting that this was out of touch, given the tough economic climate. Whilst the brand in this particular case stated that it had certain business reasons for promoting their products in that way, failing to take consumer issues into account when planning a brand's marketing strategy can turn consumers away from such brands and towards the individuals/brands they feel align with their own values and ethics.
How can a brand make the de-influencing trend work for them?
Although it can be argued that the premise behind de-influencing is to discourage spending, it should also be viewed as an opportunity for brands to win the trust of their target consumers and build stronger (and more importantly, authentic) connections by being a part of the movement towards conscious purchasing.
To do this, brands should:
- consider conducting thorough research before carefully selecting influencers to partner with to ensure that they are sincere fans of the brand / the brand products, align with the brand's values and have a genuine connection with the brand's target audience. This ensures authenticity and lowers the risk of a brand damaging their reputation and losing the trust of their customers;
- consider partnering with any relevant de-influencers. No product will ever be loved equally by everyone, and a cross-brand influencer approach allows for honest reviews and, in return, credibility and potentially higher sales;
- ensure that any marketing strategy is sensitive to consumer values and priorities and that any influencer marketing reflects this in the messaging.
De-influencing is still influencing and it is still viewed as a consumerist tool. However, whilst it is not clear whether de-influencing will actually amount to a long-term shift in consumer spending habits, what is clear is that it has started a conversation around consumer buying. Brands should not be afraid to acknowledge and recognise this, but rather consider working constructively with this trend.