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When Influencer Marketing Goes Wrong: Lessons from Failed Campaigns

Influencer marketing has evolved into an effective strategy for firms seeking to reach a larger audience, create brand image, and increase sales. When done right, influencer marketing can deliver incredible ROI, especially on social media platforms. However, it's important for brands to proceed with caution and avoid the pitfalls that can lead to failed campaigns and negative publicity.

In this article, we will explore some of the biggest influencer marketing failures and the lessons we can learn from them. By understanding these mistakes, brands can ensure they don't fall into the same traps and create successful and effective influencer marketing campaigns.

Not Complying with Rules: The Kim Kardashian Example

One of the key requirements for a successful influencer marketing campaign is to act responsibly and comply with rules and regulations. This is particularly important when promoting products that can have serious side effects on consumers' health.

An example of a failed influencer marketing campaign due to non-compliance with rules is Kim Kardashian's partnership with Duchesnay. She posted a selfie on Instagram promoting their morning sickness drug, Diclegis, without accurately mentioning the risks and limitations of the drug. The FDA objected to this lack of balance and warned Duchesnay of regulatory action if the content was not corrected or removed.

A photo of Kendall Jenner in a crowd of people holding a Pepsi can.

This incident generated negative publicity for both the brand and the influencer. To avoid such failures, it is crucial for your brand to disclose all side effects of a product, especially for medicines and drugs that can cause long-term harm. Working with authentic and experienced influencers with a history of FTC-compliant brand collaborations is also advisable to ensure compliance and transparency.

Using Underhanded Tactics: The Snickers Campaign

Influencer marketing should always prioritize authenticity and genuine connections with the audience. Using underhanded tactics to promote a brand can come across as inauthentic and damage the brand's reputation.

An example of using underhanded tactics in influencer marketing is Snickers' global marketing campaign. Snickers collaborated with celebrities Katie Price and Ian Botham, who started posting tweets that seemed out of character. These tweets garnered attention and speculation, but when the campaign was revealed, it faced criticism and scrutiny for being deceptive.

To avoid such influencer marketing fails, your brand should prioritize understanding your audience and tailoring your campaigns accordingly. Building genuine connections with the audience and ensuring transparency in brand collaborations can help establish trust and authenticity.

Accidentally Copy-Pasting Instructions: The Bootea and Naomi Campbell Mishaps

Influencer marketing campaigns should appear genuine and authentic to the audience. Accidentally copy-pasting instructions or using pre-written content can make the campaign seem staged and inauthentic.

Illustration of people standing around a large smartphone holding icons representing likes and money.

An example of this type of influencer marketing failure is the partnership between fitness and detox brand Bootea and Scott Disick. Scott copy-pasted the company's instructions directly into his Instagram post, revealing that the brand had provided him with all the details, including the caption and timing of the post. This embarrassing mistake exposed the inauthenticity of the campaign and led to mockery from followers.

Similarly, supermodel Naomi Campbell forgot to edit the instructions given by Adidas' marketing team in the caption of her Instagram post featuring Adidas shoes. This mistake also attracted negative attention and ridicule.

To avoid these copy-paste errors and maintain authenticity, your brand should give influencers more creative freedom. Trusting influencers to create their own content and share their genuine experiences with your brand can prevent such mishaps and strengthen the authenticity of the campaign.

Coming Across as Insensitive: The Kendall Jenner and Pepsi Incident

Influencer marketing campaigns that revolve around important social causes should approach the issues with sensitivity. Trivializing or appearing indifferent to these causes can seriously damage a brand's image.

An example of a failed influencer marketing campaign that came across as insensitive is the Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner. The campaign attempted to showcase global diversity but received significant backlash for trivializing the Black Lives Matter protest. During a protest, the scene in which Jenner delivers a Pepsi to a police officer has drawn criticism for being rude and demeaning to the cause.

To avoid such failures, your brand should approach social and political issues with respect and sensitivity. It's important to understand the context and potential impact of the campaign before proceeding. Humor should be used cautiously to avoid making jokes at the expense of disrespecting someone or trivializing important causes.

Not Being Prepared: The Fyre Festival Disaster

Influencer marketing campaigns should always be well-planned and prepared for a positive response. Failing to meet the expectations set by the campaign can lead to disappointment and negative publicity.

A prime example of an influencer marketing campaign that was not prepared is the Fyre Festival. Promoted as a luxury music festival, the event failed to deliver on its promises of luxury accommodations and exquisite cuisine. Attendees resorted to social media to voice their dissatisfaction and disappointment, resulting in considerable negative attention and the festival's final closure.

To avoid such failures, your brand should plan its influencer marketing campaigns thoroughly and set realistic targets. It's important to ensure that all aspects of the campaign, from product availability to customer service, are in place to meet the expectations of the audience. Being prepared for a positive response and delivering on promises is crucial for the success of influencer marketing campaigns.


Influencer marketing may be a great tool for brands to reach their target demographic and enhance engagement. However, it's essential to learn from the mistakes of others to avoid failed campaigns and negative publicity.

By complying with rules and regulations, avoiding underhanded tactics, maintaining authenticity, being sensitive to social issues, and being prepared for a positive response, your brand can create a successful influencer marketing campaign. Building trust, establishing genuine connections with the audience, and prioritizing transparency is key to avoiding influencer marketing failures.

Remember, influencer marketing is a constantly evolving landscape, and staying informed and adaptable is crucial for success. Learn from the failures of others and use those lessons to create impactful and effective influencer marketing campaigns.

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