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Adapting Your Influencer Program in the Era of "De-Influencing"

Mar 16, 2023

What is “De-Influencing”?

Over the course of the past month, viewers have noted the emergence of a new trend on TikTok: the “de-influencing” video (#deinfluencing). Attention from both followers, as well as brands, was quick to follow. So what is this new trend, and more importantly, what does it mean for brands and their influencer programs?

The term “de-influencing” can refer to a variety of actions or behaviors. The message from within creators’ videos range from the straightforward (“products I regret buying!”) to the more radical (“reject overconsumption!"), but generally they aim to discourage audiences from some form of consumption.

In the case of the former, there are many TikTok and YouTube videos where creators “de-influence” by talking about their personal reasons for breaking with a popular product’s dominant narrative. Such videos are filmed in the classic “product-reaction” style, with the creator saying, “I regret buying X product”, followed by calling attention to the product’s lackluster effectiveness, gimmicky features, and / or exorbitant price-point.

The latter form of de-influencing has taken a more philosophical shape, whereby creators are calling into question the act of mindless over-consumption, and their own role in the process of influencing. Several TikToks went viral for the self-critical lens through which influencers showcased their personal warehouses of once- or twice-used blushes, setting powders, foundations, and lipsticks, often times decrying the far-gone expiration dates of the barely-used products, of which they owned five or ten near-identical versions. 

Why is “De-Influencing” Important for Your Influencer Program?

While critical videos of products are nothing new, and are in fact essential to building and maintaining the influencer-to-audience bridge of trust, it is an absolute necessity for brands to take a moment, pause, and listen to the philosophical reckoning that is beginning to take shape.

De-influencing is by no means the start of the end of influencer marketing: far from it. Instead, the de-influencing movement demonstrates influencers’ own attunement to a fatigued and over-exposed audience. Creators have picked up on the exhaustion of their followers, who are being stretched beyond their limits by the constant onslaught of influencers pitching seemingly endless must-have, must-try, must-buy products. 

Thus, influencers are pivoting their messaging, in a way that brands ought to, too. Below are some of the key messages that de-influencing videos are sharing with their followers:

  • Don’t buy this product: you really don’t need it
  • Privilege value-for-money: expensive is not always better
  • Better align your choices with your style and / or budget needs
  • Take control of your consumption

These messages are critical for brands to consider, as well, as they call into question the consumption habits that are fueled by the ways in which brands engage their influencers and even plan their product waves and launches. 

What Can Your Brand DO for “De-Influenced” Audiences?

De-influencing does not spell an end to consumption: rather, it marks the beginning of a movement towards transparency around the difference between needs and wants. Influencers are increasingly encouraging their followers to think more critically about their needs, versus fueling the fire of their wants. 

Brands should therefore follow suit. Brands may:

  • Survey existing audiences on existing hero products; remember that effective products never go out of style
  • Survey growth audiences on their perceived problems and needs, to inform new product research & development 
  • Work with influencers who privilege right-fit consumption, by limiting partnerships with over-saturated creators

The key takeaway for brands is that there is respect and trust on the table, if a brand is so bold as to solicit and respond to their consumers’ explicit, evergreen needs, instead of adding to the chorus of brands trying to drum up demand for faddish and superfluous products. If you don’t want to wait for the de-influencing trend to find your brand, feel free to check out how P&G and Walmart asked Gen Z consumers directly what they would want in a new hair care line. And, last but not least, brands should:

  • Rethink the product seeding protocol from top to bottom, with the aim of putting a full-stop to unsolicited send-outs of full product shade ranges and / or collections

This last point is particularly important as it ties in with the cacophony of creator voices calling for an end to the wasteful and clearly unsustainable one-size-fits-all product-seeding approach. For brands looking to optimize their seeding efforts, Traackr’s influencer marketing platform enables marketers to search past influencer content with relevant keywords. This means that users can identify influencers whose needs, interests and / or concerns are answered by their brand’s products directly. For example, if you are a skincare brand that is focused on acne you may search for influencers actively talking about this subject. Furthermore, Traackr’s analytics reports generate further guidance to ensure that future mailing lists include influencers who have shown responsiveness to your brand, thus ensuring that your brand deftly sidesteps the dreaded ‘spray and pray’ approach.