Five Influencer Fails (& What You Can Learn from Them)
Five Influencer Fails (& What You Can Learn from Them)

Influencer marketing has emerged as a popular strategy for all kinds of businesses which aim to expand their audience outreach, establish a connection with their audience, and showcase the reliability of their brand. Brands have been successfully achieving all these targets through influencer marketing campaigns, which have not only helped establish them but also boosted their sales and profits. 

However, it has been truly said that “All that glimmers is not gold”. The same has been the case with some infamous and even controversial influencer marketing strategies. Such campaigns, though meant for the brand’s upliftment, led to tarnishing their image, eventually leading towards an uncontrollable fall. In this article, we have a look at the top 5 failed influencer marketing campaigns while extracting invaluable lessons to be learnt from them.

1. The Pop Chips Controversy of Ashton Kutcher

In 2012, Pop Chips, a popular snack brand, became controversial when it featured Ashton Kutcher in an ad campaign that perpetuated a negative stereotype. Kutcher’s portrayal of a Bollywood producer in brownface, speaking in a fake Indian accent,  sparked outrage and condemnation, overshadowing the campaign’s intended message.

Takeaway: Beware of Tone-Deaf Campaigns

In the digital age, where information spreads at the speed of light, maintaining social awareness and sensitivity to one’s audience is paramount. Countless brands across various industries have stumbled in their marketing endeavours, causing outrage and backlash among their target demographics. 

Navigating through the sensitive terrain of social awareness can turn the tables if not handled earnestly. It is crucial to take all possible measures to ensure that none of your influencer marketing campaigns end up being tone-deaf.

2. The Website Crash after Adidas Yeezy Launch

When Adidas Originals partnered with Kanye West to create the Yeezy shoe brand, they anticipated a surge in interest. However, the campaign’s unprecedented success led to web servers crashing repeatedly during the launch, frustrating and disappointing potential customers. We explore the factors at play and offer insights into how brands can prepare for such scenarios.

Takeaway: Be Prepared for the unforeseen consequences of marketing success

Being unprepared for the staggering success of an influencer marketing campaign is a blunder no brand can afford. In this section, we dissect instances where companies were caught off guard by the overwhelming attention generated by influencer collaborations, leading to a series of unfortunate events.

3. The Negative Publicity of Kim Kardashian

In 2015, Kim Kardashian partnered with a pharmaceutical company, Duchesnay. She posted a selfie on Instagram to promote their morning sickness drug Diclegis. However, it caught the eye of the FDA, and they were not convinced by the incomplete details she had put in the caption. They raised their concerns regarding the missing information on the drug’s use, risks, and limitations.

As a result, Kim posted an apology explaining why she had to delete the previous post and re-posted the drug along with complete information. However, the damage was already done. The social media was on fire for her lack of sensitivity to her audience’s health and the ignorance of the drug company as well.

Takeaway: Be Cautious of Rules & Regulations

It is an unsaid law that brands and influencers must act responsibly while promoting any kind of product. This becomes all the more crucial when it comes to the field of healthcare since it can potentially cause long-term effects on consumers. 

To avoid any mishap and negative publicity, it’s best to be mindful of all rules and regulations and disclose all product details to the public. Work with authentic and experienced influencers who are already experienced in healthcare brand collaborations.

4. The Perils of Unclear Tactics

Snickers had used the tagline “You’re not you when you’re hungry” for years. In 2012, when the brand collaborated with Katie Price and Ian Botham, they asked the influencers to do a series of Twitter posts. Katie, who generally always posted on fashion, was asked to tweet about politics and economics. On the other hand, Ian Botham, who generally posted about cricket, was asked to tweet about learning the cello.

Though their tweets garnered a lot of attention, with some even getting concerned that their accounts had been hacked, many began questioning the campaign’s legitimacy after they posted their selfies with Snickers. As a result, the Advertising Standards Agency of the UK investigated to clear the clouds surrounding the issue, but it had already impacted the public image of the influencers. 

Takeaway: Avoid Overly Promotional and Unclear Ways

Being overly promotional or using long-term unclear ways does not work well with influencer marketing campaigns. Companies often scratch their heads thinking, “Does influencer marketing increase sales?” and fail to emphasise connecting the influencer marketing strategy with the understanding of their target audience.

It is imperative to know your audience thoroughly, including their demographics and interests as well. This helps create a deep connection between the brand and its audience.

5. The Dark Ditch of Ingenuine Campaigns

Scott Disick, a famous face from the reality TV series “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, partnered with the fitness and detox products brand Bootea. In one of his Instagram posts, he accidentally copy-pasted the company’s instructions directly into his Instagram caption. In a similar case, the supermodel Naomi Campbell posted a photo of Adidas shoes with a caption that she forgot to edit the company’s instructions. 

Takeaway: Give Creative Freedom to Influencers

Both these campaigns led to huge embarrassment for both the influencer and the brand they were promoting. Such mistakes make both stakeholders appear ingenuine in front of their audience. To avoid such mocking, brands should try to give more creative freedom regarding how to post it and what to write about it. It can save you from any such copy-paste errors.  

How To Profit From Influencer Marketing Campaigns?

Reading all the above-described influencer marketing fails might lead you to question, “Are Influencers effective in generating profits for a brand?” Rest assured, if done correctly, influencer marketing campaigns can catapult your brand from the ground to the skies. 

To make that happen, just ensure that you are setting clear goals and expectations, providing comprehensive guidance, and ensuring a smooth flow of information between your brand and influencers. We do understand that all this is easier said than done. Hence, you can even consider getting help from a trusted influencer marketing company

At Foreignerds, we have been executing high-profit influencer marketing campaigns for years. We delve into the critical aspects of instructing influencers on product or brand information, content format, captions, and adherence to regulatory guidelines. Visit our website to book a 15-minute, no-obligation consultation call to position your brand for success in the ever-evolving world of influencer marketing.


1. Why does influencer marketing fail?

Several reasons lead to influencer marketing failure, including targeting the wrong influencers, poor execution of the campaigns with unclear goals, poor timing, and unrelatable content. A lack of influencer resources and low influencer engagement may also lead to a failed influencer marketing campaign. 

2.  Does influencer marketing increase sales?

If executed correctly, influencer marketing campaigns can potentially lead to increased sales. Influencer marketing is also considered to be more cost-efficient as compared to traditional advertising. It offers a chance for brands to expand their audience outreach and develop a deeper connection with them.

3. How do influencers work and make money?

Influencers create and maintain an engaging social media presence and collaborate with a number of brands to promote their products or services. Once they form a loyal fanbase, they can even earn money by hosting paid courses, becoming a consultant, offering career courses or setting up their own brand.

4. What is an influencer marketing agency?

An influencer marketing agency can be termed as a middleman working with both the brands and social media influencers to help them develop, manage, and optimise influencer marketing campaigns. They make it a point to understand the interests of all stakeholders to prepare a foolproof marketing strategy.

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