Namah Chawla
Social Media

Is de-influencing going to change influencer marketing forever?

From influence to responsibility: creators using de-influencing to present authentic reviews and trigger mindful purchases.

A recent video shared by popular lifestyle influencer ‘The Quirky Miss’ on her YouTube channel, lists down the products she regrets buying. These includes Winston’s face mask, Zara’s makeup foundation, Maybelline’s Fit Me fresh tint, among others.

This exercise of discouraging consumers from purchasing certain products, is an interesting concept called ‘de-influencing’. While it has been in practice for quite some time, it has only gained prominence now. 

As the name suggests, de-influencing, in marketing, can be used to reduce the impact of advertising on consumers. This may involve exposing consumers to information that contradicts or challenges the claims made in ads, or providing them with alternative products or services that meet their needs, without relying on the advertised product.

The trend first started on TikTok and, gradually, social media influencers on other platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube were seen ‘de-recommending’ products and services that left them unsatisfied. 

In a social media landscape that has recently seen a boom in sponsored/paid posts by influencers, this trend seems like a respite for consumers, who wish to get genuine reviews. It must be mentioned that one of the most important goals of de-influencing, is to discourage over-consumption. 

According to Jag Chima, co-founder, IPLIX Media, “Brands can leverage this new influencer marketing trend to their advantage. De-influencing enables creators to push more honest content that is either in favour or against the brand. The negative feedback could be a case study on how a brand can improve its offerings.”

Jag Chima, IPLIX Media
Jag Chima, IPLIX Media

However, Chima points out that de-influencing can also be misused. Brands can pay creators to do negative publicity for their competitors, which may lead to a legal battle. 

The need to de-influence 

This trend isn’t just limited to a particular category. Influencers across categories like gaming, beauty and lifestyle, etc., use this as an important tool to build trust among their audiences. 

Srijib Mallik, head of business - Samsung, Cheil India, mentions that many categories have been quite active in this space, including food, cosmetics, pharma, etc.

Srijib Mallik, Cheil India
Srijib Mallik, Cheil India

Ramya Ramachandran, founder & CEO, Whoppl, states that at times, it becomes difficult to differentiate between branded and non-branded content.

“When you see a creator posting genuine reviews, it increases the overall credibility of the brand. Creators have built a community that trusts and believes in them, and resonates with the brands they promote. It’s safe to say that brands are open to experimenting with creators who are posting genuine and authentic content, rather than focussing on commercial deals.” 

Ramya Ramachandran, Whoppl
Ramya Ramachandran, Whoppl

Ultimately, the power of influencer marketing lies in how much the audiences trust the creators they follow and the brands they promote. For some, de-influencing is a strategy to build trust among audiences before influencing another purchase. 

When asked whether she has also made any such content in the past, fashion and beauty influencer Prerna Mehra, who also owns a designer clothing label, says, “I’ve been working on such content, but it hasn’t gone up on my page yet.”

She hopes that it will add value to her audience’s decision-making. “Videos titled ‘products I would not purchase again’ or ‘viral products that are not worth the hype’, are examples of de-influencing. I’ve done such videos, as they tend to do well. This type of content comes across as brutally honest and the audiences like it too.”

Does de-influencing impact brands?

Fashion and lifestyle content creator Ritvi Shah says that de-influencing will eventually impact brands, as audiences look up to influencers’ reviews these days. 

“A non-sponsored post is more likely to impact audiences, as it’s unbiased. The products shared in a negative light can surely take a hit, and one can be called out or even cancelled if the products or ingredients are harmful.”

Mallik of Cheil India believes that the impact depends on the category of product or service, the influencer, the brand’s power, etc. 

“In case of banks, telecom companies and airlines, we’ve been seeing this for a while. In general, this allows the brand to fix gaps and improve customer experience. Brands have also turned this into an opportunity. In case of high involvement categories, the brand is forced to rectify its offerings. So, it’s not bad for the customers,” he adds. 

The trend may have a negative connotation for the brands that aren’t listening to its consumers. If creators are actively rejecting a brand, then it is bad news for the company, Chima of IPLIX points out. Hence, it’s important for brands to take the feedback into consideration to avoid losing business.

Will it become the next big trend?

De-influencing is already gaining momentum as an important trend in social media marketing. Its importance is likely to grow in future. As consumers become more aware of the impact of social media on their behaviour and well-being, they’re likely to demand more transparency, authenticity and responsible practices from companies and influencers.

Whoppl’s Ramachandran says that the trend is picking up in many sectors. Skin care, makeup, activewear, etc., are some sectors where this trend can be leveraged really well to increase the overall credibility of the brand, product or service.

As per Chima, the key takeaway for brands is that they will start taking consumer feedback more seriously. This may lead to the creation of a new breed of creators, who will go out of their way to provide honest feedback.  

Giving an influencer’s view, Shah says that more people are now opting to speak the truth and talk about products that they don’t like or have harmed them. “De-influencing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It will force brands to take a step back, look at their products, ingredients and what they’re selling to the consumers.”

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