4 Lessons Learnt from Influencer Marketing Failures

Uyen Le
Digital Marketing Exec
September 1, 2020
May 12, 2021
20
min read

Nowadays, influencer marketing has become one of the core strategies of digital marketing. Collaborating with the right influencers allows brands to reach out to their target audiences, increase brand awareness and drive purchasing decisions. However, not all influencer campaigns are rainbows and sunshine. Some of them involved errors and controversy, ended up causing more damage than good.

In this article, we’re going to analyze some of the influencer marketing failures and unpack the lessons so brands can avoid making such mistakes in their future marketing campaigns.

Pepsi & Kendall Jenner

In April 2017, the global drink company Pepsi released an ad starring famous model Kendall Jenner. In the 2:48 ad, Jenner was being photographed when she happened to notice a protest march happening on the street. After a few eye contacts with the protestors, she decides to join the protest, before walking up to a police officer and offering him a cold Pepsi. When the officer drinks it, the crowd goes wild and the ad ends with everyone applauding, cheering and hugging each other.

The ad went viral after less than 24 hours, but not in an expected way. Receiving massive backlash from audiences, the beverage giant was claimed to be mocking a serious political issue by solving it with a can of soda! Besides, the ad seemed to show the exact opposite of what could happen if someone tries to approach a policeman in the protest!

Among those who criticized Pepsi was Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. She wrote a sarcastic tweet in response to the ad: “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.” The tweet had 144k retweets and over 260k likes! Facing a lot of pressure, Pepsi decided to remove the ad and wrote a tweet to apologize publicly.

Takeaway: Targeting social or political issues in an advertisement is a risky strategy that could result in backlash and boycott if it isn’t done right. While it’s important for brands to stand up for a cause and deliver an ad that inspires, brands should be conscious of possible reactions from the audience and carefully consider whether the risk is worth taking.

BooTea and Adidas

The following examples of influencer marketing campaigns showcase how influencers should not endorse a product online!  

BooTea, a popular health and detox brand, made an epic mistake when they partnered with famous influencer Scott Disick. When promoting BooTea Shakes to his 23M followers, Scott Disick made a direct “copy and paste” of the instructions given by the marketing team by accident. Here’s what he posted as his caption:

“Here you go, at 4pm est, write the below. Caption: Keep up with the summer workout routine with my morning @booteuk protein shake!”

Upon noticing the mistake, he quickly deleted the post but not before others have seen it, captured it in the form of a screenshot and shared it all over the internet!

You might be surprised to know that Scott is not the only one who committed this type of mistake. Supermodel Naomi Campbell also copied the exact instructions given by the brand and used it as a caption for her photo promoting a new pair of @adidasoriginals.

Mashable made an interesting point when they questioned if this error is truly an accident or a trick to bring more attention to the brand. Whether such mistakes are intentional or not, we might all agree that posts like this would add zero or very little positive value to the brand’s image.

Take away: While many people blame the influencers for being too careless, brands may need to share their responsibility in these failures, too. The desire to make the most out of influencers can result in influencers promoting products in an inauthentic or unnatural way. That’s why it is essential for brands to form a good relationship with influencers and make them love their products before advertising. In the end, the audiences will only trust your brands if they see the influencers truly enjoy your products and not just promoting it for the sake of monetary benefits.

Adidas and Volvo

In 2017, Kendal Jenner landed herself in trouble again with another controversial ad. She was chosen to be the ambassador for Adidas Originals and was featured in Adidas’s campaign Originals. The ad was beautiful and stunning, yet all people talked about was the mismatch between Adidas and Kendall Jenner. Many people felt that the sportswear giant failed to deliver their message as they worked with a supermodel when they should have cast a real athlete whose story is inspiring and relevant to the brand’s message.

Another example of collaborating with the wrong influencer is the campaign between Volvo and fashion blogger Chriselle Lim. Chriselle is known for producing authentic content and aesthetic pictures featuring her lifestyle, beauty and fashion. This explained why in the post promoting Volvo, Chriselle received mixed reactions from her audience as the product was not a good match to her niche. Comments reflected that her photo looks “fake” and is not aligned with her usual style at all.

Takeaway: These influencer marketing failures show us that by partnering with the wrong influencers, brands are more likely to confuse their potential customers and invite unnecessary criticism to their campaigns. High follower count is not the ultimate factor for brands to select the right influencers. There are many other factors worth considering such as their suspicious followers, influencer brand’s affinity, audience demographics and so on. Hop over to our blog to discover 4 things that you should look at to pin down the most suitable influencer.

Huawei Fake Selfie

To prepare for the launch of the newest Nova 3 phone, Huawei partnered with Egypt actress and Influencer Sarah Elshamy in their 30-second ad. The video shows a couple having a great time and using Huawei to capture their beautiful moments. There was no controversy around the ad, not until Elshamy released behind-the-scenes photos, revealing that the selfies taken by Huawei were actually taken by a professional DSLR camera!

This is actually not the first time Huawei has been caught using DSLR photos as samples of smartphone shots. In 2018, the smartphone brand posted a beautiful picture, showing what could be done with the Leica-engineered dual-cam P9 smartphone, yet the picture was then caught to be taken with a Canon 5D Mark III and a $2,100 lens.

Take Away: It is understandable for Huawei to use professional equipment to give the best shot, yet it would be nicer if the brand was more honest and advertised products based on what they really can deliver. Making misleading advertisements can badly hurt a brand’s reputation and end up damaging the customer’s trust in that brand. At a time when audiences are seeking more authentic content, transparency and authenticity are the keys to pull off an influencer campaign that resonates with the audiences.

Bonus: Huawei & Gal Gadot

Now, this is not an example of influencer marketing failures, but it is still an interesting case worth your attention. In 2018, Gadot became Huawei’s US brand ambassador for the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and was featured in their video ad. Later on, she has been caught tweeting about Huawei by using… Twitter for iPhone. This little funny detail was called out by YouTube tech influencer @Marques Brownlee, attracting up to 57k likes and 14.3k retweets and comments in his discovery!

The tweet was soon deleted then replaced with a new one. Explaining the mistake, Gadot told CNET through her publicist that she had a member of her team post the video, and that person used his/her personal device to upload it without noticing the device used would be visible to others. This accident showed that a lot of things can go wrong in an influencer campaign, and the only thing that brands could do is to plan carefully and predict any faults that can possibly happen.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Click to Download
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Stay Updated

Get new blogs, case studies and our Market Landscape reports directly in your inbox.

We don't spam.

You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Affable Influencer Marketing Platform for Brands & Agencies - Find Influencers, Manage Campaigns and Measure Influencer Marketing ROI
Want to see Affable in action?
GET A DEMO