How Business Leaders Can Navigate Brand Reputation in the New World of #Deinfluencing


A new trend is taking TikTok by fire, and that trend is #deinfluencing. The hashtag now has over 328.5 million views and is quickly growing, with new videos being added every day.

The trend began in the beauty space when TikTok influencer Mikayla Nogueira posted a video promoting L’Oréal Telescopic Lift Mascara. While in her TikTok Mikayla Nogueira implied it was the mascara on her natural lashes, other influencers and many in the comments section accused her of wearing fake lashes. Regardless of whether she was wearing fake lashes, neither Mikayla Nogueira nor L’Oréal put out a response to the backlash. This led to many TikTok users questioning the products being promoted by influencers on the platform.

While #deinfluencing got its start in beauty, it didn’t stop there. TikTokers are warning their audiences not to buy any brands, in any space, that they perceive as superfluous or overpriced. If you take a scroll through #deinfluencing on TikTok, the first handful of videos are focused on makeup, skincare, and hair care products, but if you scroll down a little further, there are videos discussing a growing number of popular brands, such as Lululemon, Stanley, certain Amazon Sellers, and more.

Make no mistake, #deinfluencing goes beyond an anti-spending trend that came out of the beauty industry and spread to other sectors. A Meta study found that 54% of people tend to make impulse purchases after seeing a product on social media, and inflation is now impacting a majority of the U.S. population as well as their spending habits.

This coupled with the looming threat of a recession means many American consumers simply no longer have the option for impulse spending. So in comes the “deinfluencer,” who can deconstruct many of the purchasing trends flooding social media and decide whether or not they’re worth it for the viewer.

Now for brands who could be impacted by the trend, it comes down to whether this is worth worrying about and preparing for. Whether this will impact bottom lines. The answer is it very well might for many businesses out there.

However, if your brand takes steps to prepare and realign strategy, much like any crisis, it could come out untouched, if not benefiting, from the #deinfluencing trend. Here are some essential considerations when trying to maintain brand reputation as the #deinfluencing trend continues to gain steam. 

  1. No more broad stroke marketing and communications tactics.
    First things first, right now in the emerging #deinfluencing social media world, it’s more important than ever to hone in on your company’s true identity and target audience. Take for instance the brand Stanley and its now viral “Stanley cup.” It seems like every influencer on TikTok has one, and now several #deinfluencing videos are telling users not to buy them. Many are deeming the product as overpriced for a stainless steel cup, which indicates a mistepp in how it’s been marketed. It would be a fair criticism for someone looking for a basic water bottle, but that doesn’t seem to be the intended use.
    While having a Stanley bottle for daily use has become a bit of a status symbol on TikTok (much like Hydro Flasks once did), from looking at the website, it seems like Stanley products were designed specifically for camping, hiking, and outdoorism, where someone might need a larger container for water that can weather the elements. That’s messaging that Stanley should already be on top of on TikTok.

    Stanley should make it known that its products are designed for the outdoors and that their quality, materials, manufacturing, and pricing all reflect that. Being able to speak to their products’ quality and longevity is also useful, as it helps explain the cost and actually aligns with the #deinfluencing ethos (i.e., it’s not the kind of product you’ll have to continually replace because it’s built to last). Don’t correct the consumer, but make sure as a brand that your audiences know what your product is and why they’re buying it. It’s very common for outdoor brands and technical gear to become fashionable (think Patagonia, The North Face, Canada Goose, and Arc’teryx), so this really isn’t anything new.

    There is the double edged sword to being the new trending product; while brands love the boost in attention, they also have to be ready for the criticism that comes with it (your product better be worth the hype if consumers are ditching last week’s must-have for it).

  2. Be prepared to be #deinfluenced, whether or not you perceive your brand as at risk.
    Much like any brand crisis that can arise from working with influencers, marketers should ensure that the companies they’re working with are prepared for the chance of a deinfluencer video being made about their product. I always tell my clients that the time to work on their crisis communications plans is before—not after—they find themselves in a crisis. This is particularly true for dealing with social media and influencers. Being prepared for deinfluencer content is no different.

    All brands must have a plan in place in the event that their product or service ends up on deinfluencing-tok. This means knowing what you’re going to say before it happens. Don’t underestimate the power of the masses, especially given the weight of social media discourse. Social media has forever changed crisis communications—deinfluencing is just another emerging trend brands must be on top of. Be prepared well before your product or service is deinfluenced.

    Be ready to speak to the quality, pricing, materials, and manufacturing processes behind your products. Authenticity and transparency are two qualities brands must embrace; not only will doing so help you tackle potential deinfluencer content, but it can even help you avoid it. Make sure your products are represented accurately, rather than overhyped, and that consumers understand the materials and processes behind your products.

  3. Apologize if there’s any wrongdoing to own up to.
    If you find yourself on the wrong side of deinfluencing-tok, in some cases, the place to start is an apology. When Mikayla Nogueira might have misled viewers by wearing fake lashes in a video promoting L’Oréal Telescopic Lift Mascara, whether she was wearing fake lashes or not, both the influencer and brand should have promptly addressed the controversy and, if appropriate, apologized. Staying silent simply isn’t an option. This was a bad look for the brand, product, and influencer, and because of the inadequate response, the issue is still being discussed on TikTok and in the news over a month after the initial video came out.
    Always admit and fully own your mistakes. A sincere apology and ownership of wrongdoing can go a long way to earning forgiveness and repairing any harm caused. In cases like these, it can even be an opportunity to improve and demonstrate your commitment to your customers. Remember, apologies need to be sincere, come from a place of genuine understanding, and must be followed by meaningful and appropriate action.
  4. Leverage the trend if it makes sense for your brand.
    No-frills value or “dupe” brands (i.e., brands with comparable quality but more affordable pricing than well known brands simply because they don’t have a big name behind them) have a really unique opportunity in the #deinfluencing era, but they should be extremely careful about how they leverage this opportunity. Yes, between inflation, layoffs, and now #deinfluencing, many consumers will now be looking for less expensive options to potentially replace pricey products they are realizing they don’t need. But cost isn’t the only factor to consider; value and quality are just as critical.
    Deinfluencing is part of a broader examination and rejection of overconsumption (we buy more today than we ever have before). So yes, if you’re offering a lower cost, quality product, that is built to last, there may be an opportunity here. But, and this is a very big but here—just like those bigger brands, make sure you aren’t promising something that can’t be delivered. For instance, the high-end hair product brand Olaplex, which has been widely hyped on social media and is now all over deinfluencer-tok, makes big promises about how it can repair damaged hair. Those big promises and the brand’s cult-like following and subsequent social media hype are precisely why it’s now being deinfluenced. This could create an opportunity for a more cost effective brand to take Olaplex’s place as one of the “better” hair product brands. However, accurate marketing is still key. Don’t try to be something you’re not.

If handled ethically and honestly, a largely untapped market for many brands deemed affordable is emerging. Right now, a large portion of consumers don’t have the money to splurge. Take that as a chance to offer something that people need but don’t think they can afford. If you’re a small brand trying to get your feet off the ground, but previously couldn’t compete with bigger, “better” brands, this might be your time to really get your product out there and find success.  

More and more, brand leaders—from CEOs to managers to heads of marketing—need to realize we are in a new, unpredictable world of brand reputation management. It’s no longer as simple as staying quiet or waiting for the storm to pass. #Deinfluencing is just the next iteration of many brand crisis scenarios that company’s need to be on top of, and being ready for any and all possibilities will be key for businesses that achieve success in the long run.

Written by Eric Yaverbaum.
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