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Published May 1st 2024

Is Deinfluencing a Threat to Brands?

The popularity of deinfluencers is rising.

In a world where influencers are bigger than ever, a counter trend is threatening to derail things: deinfluencing.

In this blog we’ll be taking a look into the phenomenon of deinfluencing, how it’s empowering consumers to take control of their purchasing decisions, and if this might be a threat to brands.

Let’s get to it.

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What is deinfluencing, and is it on the rise?

The commercial nature of influencer marketing means that social media users are always being sold to. And while many consumers are excited to learn about trending products, some are getting fed up with a constant barrage of social media posts promoting new purchases.

As a direct contradiction to this trend, deinfluencing encourages consumers to not believe the hype. Rather than telling followers to buy something, deinfluencers do the opposite – they’re actively discouraging followers from making unnecessary purchases by pointing out flaws or reasons to avoid products.

And this trend is on the rise. We used Brandwatch Consumer Research to see how online mentions of deinfluencing have changed over time. 

The term ‘deinfluencing’ peaked in early 2023 when a few TikToks about the topic went viral and a number of well-known publications wrote articles diving into the trend – including TIME and The Guardian.

From explaining the flaws in a product to discussing why it might be overhyped, these TikTok videos began calling out products which didn’t meet expectations. People started listening.

After this peak early last year, mentions faded – but the baseline for online conversations about deinfluencing remained higher than before the peak. And, over the last six months, these mentions have been growing even further.

The term “deinfluence” is becoming a part of the internet’s day-to-day vocabulary. Rather than just being a fleeting trend in itself, it’s sticking around. People are actively asking to be deinfluenced online, sharing photos or links to products they want to buy and hoping others will tell them it's not a good purchase choice.

Some consumers seem to be trying to actively talk themselves out of impulse buying, and the accountability of someone else telling them not to is doing the trick.

So, what’s sparked the term climbing in popularity in recent months? Let’s take a look.

What’s driving deinfluencing?

Online mentions of deinfluencing have been trending upwards after seeing a secondary peak last October. Coincidentally, this was just a month after the launch of TikTok Shop.

TikTok Shop has exploded since its implementation, with a third of daily TikTok users having used the feature. The unparalleled accessibility of brand-to-consumer purchases has changed how users engage with the app. TikTok’s algorithm means that brands can show their product to their key demographic with ease, and customers can purchase products within seconds.

But with this ease of purchase comes marketing fatigue on the behalf of the customer. Enter: deinfluencing.

Some conclude that deinfluencing might be a direct counter trend to the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag, which could also be attributed to a rise of impulse buying on the app. Plenty of people post videos reviewing products that TikTok encouraged them to buy – in turn motivating others to make the same purchase.

Is deinfluencing a threat to brands?

TikTok reports that 28% of users agree that the app inspires impulse purchases, more than any other platform. And while this is great for brands looking to sell on TikTok, it’s worth being aware of how deinfluencing threatens to break this cycle. 

People are placing increasing value on slow purchases, looking for quality products over quick buys. And brands should keep this in mind if they want to focus on longevity.

Deinfluencing threatens to break down the positive brand awareness that companies try so hard to encourage on social. A single post deinfluencing one of your products could lead to millions of negative impressions about your brand.

A good example of this is when popular YouTuber Marques Brownlee posted a YouTube video reviewing the Fisker Ocean titled “This is the Worst Car I've Ever Reviewed.” 

The video has over 5 million views at the time of writing, and the video’s had a substantial impact on Fisker’s brand image. After the video was posted, Fisker’s stock plummeted.

So, why did the video have such an impact on the brand?

Ultimately, Marques’ video is well made. It provides an unbiased review of the Fisker Ocean car model, and the YouTube channel – called Auto Focus – is a trusted source of car reviews for enthusiasts. Marques runs through some benefits of the car, but ultimately concludes that the model isn’t up to scratch.

This video shows the power of negative reviews, especially when coming from a trusted source.

So, how can you avoid being called out on a post about deinfluencing?

What can brands do?

Firstly, if you do get a high-profile negative review, you’ll need to handle this like you would any other crisis. Treat the situation with sensitivity, as your brand will be at the forefront of many consumer’s minds. How you respond can really impact consumer opinion on your brand and product. These situations can happen to any brand, so it’s important to have a crisis management plan in place.

Leave your ego at the door and accept that these reviews can – and do – happen. And often negative reviews can get more attention than positive ones, especially as deinfluencing is such a hot topic.

Not everyone is going to like your product, so learn from the feedback provided through negative reviews and use it as a way to better your product and messaging.

It’s also important to get your influencer marketing techniques airtight. Work only with influencers who align perfectly with your brand values and voice. And make sure the creators you pick really use and love your products. Picking influencers which don’t can lead to obviously false reviews, causing damage to your brand’s perceived authenticity. And authenticity is more important than ever (we talk more about why in our 2024 Digital Marketing Trends report).

Deinfluencing proves the power of real, genuine product reviews and smart brands will stay in the know on this growing phenomenon.

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