Influencer marketing has gone from a marketing tactic adopted by a handful of brands to a full-blown industry. What was once reserved for big-name celebs and brands with bottomless bank accounts has evolved into something for the everyday (wo)man.

Social media marketing is an incredible tool for marketing your brand…if it’s done right. The wrong influencer campaign can lead to major backlash and can hurt your business in a big way. The effects of this can be long-lasting and can hurt both the brand and the influencer. This year alone, we’ve seen a few major influencer marketing fails. While it certainly got their name in the media, the publicity may have done more harm than good.

Pepsi’s Ad Feat. Kendall Jenner

In case you just awoke from a coma, Pepsi really screwed the pooch with a recent ad featuring the model/social maven, Kendall Jenner. I don’t know if their entire marketing team was smoking that good stuff, but the beverage giant really missed the mark on this one.

The basic gist of the campaign was that we should all unite and “join the conversation” when it comes to topical issues like women’s rights and racial equality. The commercial showed Jenner leaving a modelling shoot to join in on a protest happening on the street nearby. After some pretty uncool fist bumps, the model ends the conflict by handing a cop a Pepsi. If only we knew that the answer to our problems laid in high fructose corn syrup and caramel color.

Pepsi’s goal was to unite and they certainly did that- just not in the way they probably intended. The Internet banded together against both Jenner and Pepsi calling the ad insensitive and distastefully opportunistic by using protest imagery to sell soda. It was really the one time the Internet ever completely agreed on anything.

Almost 2 million YouTube hits and 48 hours later, both Pepsi and Jenner pulled all material relating to the ad and apologized. Jenner spoke out saying she “[felt] awful” and Pepsi confirmed she had no involvement in the message behind the video.

Fyre Festival Flop

The Fyre Festival was meant to be a Bahama-based music festival for the super elite. Co-planned by Ja Rule, the Coachella-dupe was utilizing social media marketing as their main means of promoting the event. Their influencers of choice? The prettiest (thinnest) models in the industry; Hailey Baldwin, Emily Ratajkowski and Kendall Jenner, to name a few. Strike two, Jenner.

With tickets costing up to $12,000, attendees were anticipating luxurious accommodations and top-notch cuisine. What they got instead were emergency relief tents and lunchboxes with toast and cheese. TOAST AND CHEESE. For those on the outside looking in, this was pretty comical; entitled rich kids slumming it after spending 12k on a music festival because models told them to. When it started being less funny (but still funny) was when they started running out of food and water.

Being too far gone to fix, the festival was understandably canceled while throngs of flower-crown-clad festival goers were left stranded using Port-O-Potties. Eventually, the organizers published a statement apologizing for the mess-up citing poor planning. While we could have told you that anyone spelling “fire” with a “y” shouldn’t be trusted, thousands upon thousands blindly jumped onboard because a few social media influencers told them to.

This is where influencer marketing can get sticky. Not only were the organizers held responsible for misrepresenting the festival, the influencers who put their name on it were torn apart. Instead of ensuring they were backing up a legit event, they took the money, posed for some photos and went on their way. Followers viewed this as a deception and every model who was involved lost at least a little bit of credibility.

Do Your Research

As great as it is to have big names dish out boatloads of cash for a few hours of work, if influencers don’t do their proper research, their careers can be badly damaged. As an influencer, trust is one of the most important things. If your followers trust you, they’ll trust that what you’re selling. Without this trust, brands will have no interest in working with you. Anything that generates negative publicity either on the influencer’s or the brand’s part will affect the other party by association.

In terms of campaigns, the fact is that while you may think something is great, it doesn’t mean everyone else will. For this reason, consider testing the market prior to investing heavily in both an influencer and a campaign. If Pepsi had done this prior to filming, they would have probably saved a lot of money and trouble. On the flip side of the coin, if the model chicks had looked into the event, they may have thought twice about putting their face on it.


There’s no doubt that influencer marketing is the new black. If you want to succeed at it, though, know what and who you’re getting yourself involved with. And never, never trust someone who purposefully misspells the word “fire”. Come on.