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Top 10 Reasons Why Influencer Marketing Fails

Inspired by the best practices of peer marketers, you are about to launch your first influencer marketing campaign. Having researched all the promising case studies of real influencer marketing examples with impressive results and great benefits, you’re already calculating your future campaign’s profits. This is where many marketers fall into the trap of overlooking or ignoring potential problems. Even worse, this approach may eventually lead to less effective campaign performance or even cause influencer marketing fails.

Influencer marketing can be tricky – a small mistake during campaign planning might grow into a real disaster for your brand. Small details that may seem insignificant can cause serious damage – reputational or/and monetary. This is why it is important to analyze different cases of influencer marketing fails and the reasons behind them. To avoid disappointments and losses, we suggest that marketers first study the common reasons for a potential marketing failure.

What Causes Influencer Marketing Campaigns to Fail?

1. Wrong Social Media Channel

This year, marketers focus on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, WhatsApp, and Facebook messenger. While Snapchat and Twitch are not at the top of the influencer marketing channels list, large brands continue to experiment with them, and the platforms are expected to gain popularity over the next few years.

Before you choose one of these platforms and start looking for influencers, it’s worth studying the audience that each of them represents.  For example, with the majority 65% of members on Twitch are male, and 55% are 18-34 years old. As such, Twitch offers a massive opportunity to reach millennial males.

But if you don’t carry out proper market research prior to launching an influencer sponsorship on Twitch, you might end up choosing this channel to promote a product that does not fit its audience. Given this is the case, the effectiveness of your campaign might be lower than you expect and lead to failed social media campaigns.

If your target audience is Millennials and Generation Z, consider Instagram. And if you are promoting a B2B brand, you’ll find blogs beneficial.

Choose communication channels relevant to your target audience and campaign goals instead of basing your decision on the mythical ROI achieved in a not-so-relevant case study.

2. Inaccurate Content Creation Brief

The life of a marketer would be easier if influencers could define the brand’s idea of how sponsorship should look. Unfortunately, they can’t. Therefore, your job is to outline their task briefly and coherently. It’s better always to double-check whether an influencer has understood all the details.

Another great tip for preventing an influencer marketing fail is to review any sponsored content before it gets published. Clear requirements and content creation supervision will save you from failed deadlines and reputational losses.

Similarly, for a mobile app or game, a good brief (besides the game’s name, a short description, goals, and where to download it) should clearly state the platform(s) it supports and anything you don’t want the influencer to say or do.

For example, in 2018, Gal Gadot teamed up with Huawei to promote the newly launched Huawei Mate 10 Pro and shared a sponsored video via Apple’s iPhone Twitter app. People were quick to comment on and mock the actress and the phone company as the partnership didn’t seem genuine.

3. Lack of Creative Freedom

Followers love Influencers for their personal touch and unique style. If you tell an influencer what to say, word for word, that won’t go unnoticed by their audience.

Here is an example of an influencer marketing fail that happened to an celebrity who went too far trying to follow the advertiser’s instructions. Scott Disick just copy-pasted the caption that was suggested by the brand, including directions to post precisely at 4 PM EST — made a hilariously perfect example of “advertising gone wrong“.


The same applies to your photo or video footage: if you insist that an influencer follow your creative vision, their followers will easily sense the lack of authenticity.

Simultaneously, if a brand’s message is organically integrated into a channel’s content style, the influencer’s fans will place more trust in your brand. Let influencers be creative – they know their audience better than you do.

4. Poor Management

A clear strategy, efficient management, and effective scheduling are critical components of any successful influencer marketing campaign. You have to keep your eyes on the ball all the time and instantly respond to any issues. Misspelled hashtags, missing links, unfulfilled requirements, and any other slip-ups can negatively impact the campaign’s results.

Make sure that you pay enough attention to each influencer who creates content about your brand. It is important to add some personal touches to your partnership and communicate with an influencer directly. A lack of communication between advertisers and influencers might cause brands to be showcased in an unexpected way. This was the case with Electronic Arts, the game publisher whose title “Star Wars Battlefront” was heavily criticized during a collaboration with a musician from the “Breaking Benjamin” band:

Make sure that you pay enough attention to each influencer who creates content about your brand. It is important to add some personal touches to your partnership and communicate with an influencer directly. A lack of communication between advertisers and influencers might cause brands to be showcased unexpectedly. This was the case in YouTube’s Famebit Failure.

The fact that Google, with all its power and knowledge, failed to make automated influencer marketing work proves that influencer marketing without human touch is nearly impossible. Managing relations between brands and influencers should include marketing professionals who can manage things well.

This is more costly and requires more labor, but there are no shortcuts, which Google’s experience evidently proved. If Google couldn’t ace it, it’s highly unlikely that anyone else can.

Another tip is not to make creative people work under too much pressure. Things like very tight deadlines, micro-managing, and adding more requirements to the original agreement, make an influencers’ job more stressful and less productive, which results in resistance, lack of passion, and poor quality content. Set realistic deadlines and save a few days for yourself to review the deliverables. This way, your cooperation will be pleasant and productive.

5. Ignoring Other Marketing/PR Channels

Another reason why influencer marketing fails is the lack of an integrated approach. Influencer sponsorship is a powerful tool that can create a buzz around your brand or event. However, a long-term marketing strategy will benefit from expanding communication to other online and offline channels. Make sure to amplify your campaign’s message across a brand’s owned and paid media channels. The key to success is the consistency of the distributed communication across all platforms.

Leveraging multiple marketing channels helps maximize the results in the form of conversions and ROIs.

In 2013, The Legend of Zelda game sold over one million copies in less than 30 days. The secret to this runaway success was their appropriate use of influencer marketing in tandem with other marketing strategies including video game PR. Their tactics included site takeovers, gameplay highlighting TV spots, in-store displays, targeted print ad campaigns, pre-order bonus items, and a massive pre-release event held in Sydney, Australia.

Moreover, AFK Arena promoted its YouTube videos on other social media channels like Twitter and Instagram, which helped in maximizing the campaign’s reach. The successful promotion clearly explains that including versatile forms of marketing channels leads to higher campaign performance, user engagement, and product installations.

6. Unclear Message

Sometimes marketers fail to deliver a clear and straightforward message via an influencer campaign. The way a product is positioned or promoted might be interpreted negatively by an audience. For example, when Pepsi launched its collaboration with Kendall Jenner, it was accused of capitalizing inappropriately on tensions in the current political and social climate.

When the audience misunderstands your message, your ad budget goes down the drain, and your reputation goes with it. A good approach would be to test your message on a focus group, especially if we are talking about a well-established celebrity influencer with large followership.

7. Legal Landmines

Influencer agreement is a backbone of efficient cooperation between advertisers and social media influencers. A contract and Statement of Service or Scope of Work (SOW) will protect you from changes in the agreement’s stipulations without your consent. Also, a contract provides both parties with a clear vision of how the deliverables should look, what the schedule is, who owns the content rights, and other terms & conditions.

Besides, bonuses, giveaways, referral commissions, or free products should also be mentioned in a contract. We recommend consulting a lawyer or an influencer-marketing agency to compile an Influencer contract. There are quite a few cases when influencers failed to uphold their part of a deal so that a detailed agreement can save you from trouble.

Recently Betterhelp caught the spotlight and turned into a huge controversy when some eminent YouTube influencers promoted the platform as a good resource for people who need help with mental health issues. One of the videos posted by Shane Dawson that promoted BetterHelp, managed to generate 11 million views within a very few days. But then began a ‘virtual fight‘ between YouTube creators, which turned into a scandal that also dragged down BetterHelp for sponsoring one of them, and the issue went viral. It caught the attention of PewDiePie, a YouTube blogging veteran and one of the most-followed channels on YouTube, who posted a video questioning the influencers promoting BetterHelp and expressing concerns about this campaign.

This led to over 80 complaints filed against BetterHelp with the BBB. The scandal produced negative buzz on social media, and many YouTubers ceased their partnerships with BetterHelp. However, the founder of the company claims that they “ended up creating more awareness for the service.”

The major takeaway here is the importance of being ethical. A business should always be transparent and honest with the prospects and clientele in all of its marketing messages and cautious while establishing the terms of service.

8. FTC/FDA Non-Compliance

Contract breaches between an advertiser and an influencer are subject to regulation, but when it comes to non-compliance with the FTC regulations, the government comes into the picture. Brands’ neglecting to comply with FTC requirements risk putting themselves through serious trouble with influencer marketing fails. Note that both influencers and advertisers have responsibility for such violations. The most commonly violated FTC requirement is the disclosure of sponsorship.

Understandable hashtags such as #sponsored or #ad should be used for Instagram, as well as other mentions of paid partnerships on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.

Sometimes, brands or influencers fail to comply with FDA, SEC, or other regulations, which can get even more serious.

For example, two prominent gaming brands rushed into trouble with the FTC scandal as PewDiePie’s apparent failure to disclose a sponsorship with WB Games came into notice. Reports tell PewDiePie’s disclosure about the agreement wasn’t adequate and was deemed deceptive.

On the other hand, Machinima also caught the attention when it got into a scandal for inadequate and improper disclosure of some paid endorsements and sponsorships. The result of the deal closed with Microsoft to produce content casting the Xbox One in a “positive light” led the brand into a controversy.

The FTC complaint pointed to two channels, SkyVSGaming and The Syndicate Project, while the real deal involved around 300 videos across Machinima channels.

Ultimately, none of them got into serious trouble or had to pay fines, but their reputation was highly compromised for setting bad marketing examples.

In most cases, it is a company’s fault that it didn’t manage to investigate its products or services’ legal aspects. However, influencers get a blow to their reputation as well.

9. Broken Promises

We all know that announcing a giveaway and not delivering a gift is a poor practice. Marketers should evaluate their capabilities and specify any limitations before launching a massive influencer marketing campaign.

For instance, the Fyre Festival is a cautionary tale featuring the broken promises at their worst. This campaign is among the most notorious influencer marketing fails of 2017.

However, there’ve been many other cases when companies failed to predict the hype that the top-tier influencers could build and were not able to manage the number of responses. Such incidents affect everyone’s public image. And if you think it would be just a handful of unsatisfied users – you are most likely underestimating the power of social media rumor mills.

10. Promotion of Malicious Principles

Unfortunately, not all brands stand for a high and noble mission. Going through several Influencer marketing case studies, makes you realize that some brands often engage influencers to promote something that isn’t good or ethical. A BBC investigation has exposed a shocking and pernicious influencer campaign launched by essay-writing company EduBirdie. Over 800 videos have been released by popular YouTubers where they encouraged their viewers not to “waste” their time on writing academic works.

By promoting unethical activities that led to severe penalties for students, YouTubers abused their social power.  

This embarrassing incident forced YouTube administrators to delete thousands of videos that promoted academic cheating.

Conversely, when Social Point Gaming thought of promoting their game the Monster Legends, they partnered with an American YouTuber, Markiplier. The said influencer had an exceptional history of using his influence for good and noble causes. He managed to run several successful influencer campaigns through Livestream to raise thousands of dollars for the needy, including Save the Children.

The collaboration proved to be a very smart and calculated move by the Social Point Games as they were well aware of the significance of social consciousness in the modern era. Almost 90% of consumers switch brands based on their activity and connections with charitable causes or efforts for fulfilling their social responsibility.

Consequently, when Markiplier declared a donation of $10,000 to the Miracle Foundation charity, many people were eager to check out his review of Monster Legends.

People like Markiplier and brands like Social Point Gaming are the ones who successfully manage to pull off smart marketing tactics to set great influencer marketing examples for the people that follow.

What To Learn From Influencer Marketing Examples That Failed?

Plenty of things can go wrong when working with an influencer for marketing purposes. It can be risky to trust someone to promote your brand, product, or service with only a brief or guideline to follow. You are essentially entrusting them with your brand reputation.

This is why the most common reasons for influencer marketing campaign failure are absolute miscommunication, absurd or high expectations, inadequate consumer awareness, and a lack of transparency from the brand.

In order to avoid influencer marketing failure, you must remember these key takeaways observed from successful influencer campaigns and learned from failed marketing campaigns, which are not limited to but include:

  • Wisely choose influencers and platforms for your marketing campaign
  • Always ensure transparency and honesty to save the integrity of your brand name
  • Foster the collaborating influencers’ creativity to nourish your campaign
  • Diversify your marketing efforts to bring versatility
  • Manage relationships and track the outcomes closely
  • Follow the rules and laws provided by the concerned authorities

Wrapping Up

Don’t assume that influencer marketing is the work of amateurs. Both marketers and influencers have gotten more experienced and sophisticated in this industry over the years. But even then, mistakes are quite common.

It’s easy to hurt your reputation by falling victim to some of these influencer marketing examples that have already failed before, but now that you know where you can slip up, you’ll be more careful when planning your influencer marketing campaign.

learn from these influencer marketing examples and let a professional influencer agency help you set the perfect strategy. CloutBoost has the expertise, team, and essential connections to make the most out of your campaign. For more details, drop us a line here.

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