Influencer Marketing Horror Stories

Influencer Marketing Horror Stories

1024 683 Lauren Harrison

Fright night is here and we’re telling 2017’s scariest influencer marketing horror stories.

From kids stranded on a mysterious island to a Swedish Jekyll and Hyde, we relive some of this year’s most terrifying influencer marketing fails and toss you a few weapons to make sure your brand doesn’t get dragged off into the woods.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Hell Fyre

Everything about Fyre Festival screams budget horror movie.

Organised by rapper Ja Rule and heavily hyped on social media by mega influencers including Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, Fyre looked like it was going to be selfie heaven for the elite millennials that managed to score a $10,000 dollar ticket. If Instagram was to be believed, attendees would be partying with supermodels, eating high-end cuisine and staying in luxurious accommodation.

Instead, after a struggle to even get to the island, festival-goers were greeted with cancelled performances, FEMA tents, a lack of food and basic sanitation and packs of feral dogs. To make matters worse, many were left stranded once the festival was cancelled.

After suffering their ordeal for several more days, Fyre attendees were rescued just minutes before they went full Battle Royale. They immediately unleashed their fury – not only on the event’s organisers but on the influencers who had been so involved with promoting the festival. The general feeling was that influencers had blindly accepted payment rather than promoting an event or product they genuinely believed in.

The key problems here are obvious. The event’s organisers launched what was arguably a very successful influencer campaign, took the money for their sell-out event, then failed to actually deliver what was promised (i.e. the festival). Many have called the organiser out as con-artists.

Influencer campaigns work best when the influencer is involved in the entire process. Your best weapon when faced with this nightmare is transparency. Don’t wait for things to blow up – if things go wrong, your influencers can help you deal with consumers and manage their expectations before it’s too late.


It Offends

Lauded as YouTube’s biggest star, Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg was dropped like a lead balloon by brands including Disney and YouTube in February this year for posting “horrific, repeated anti-semitic content” on his channel (WHOSAY). So far did he fall from grace that online commentators started discussing whether influencer marketing was already over.

PewDiePie argued that the claims made against him were blown way out of proportion, saying: “I make videos for my audience. I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for my serious political commentary. Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.”

He did however, get into trouble again last month for exclaiming yet another racial slur in an online video.

While this is an extreme case, the real risk here is giving the influencer control of your brand image. Once a brand has worked with an influencer the two become inextricably linked in the mind of the consumer. Your best weapon here is careful research. Look into your chosen influencer’s tone of voice, their past content, even the interaction they have with their followers and critics. when the influencer screws up, the brand screws up.


The Misjudged II

You can’t help but feel a bit sorry for Kendall Jenner. In her second appearance in this year’s list of influencer marketing fails, Jenner took a lot of flack for what Time called “a glaring misstep”.

The ad shows Jenner joining a protest against nothing in particular where marchers hold signs saying “Love” and “Join the Conversation”. The end of the ad shows her seeming to diffuse tensions with the police by handing an office a can of Pepsi in an image with more than a passing resemblance to Baton Rouge protester Ieshia Evans.

The ad has been accused of undermining and appropriating imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement and Vietnam War protestors to sell soda.

Unsurprisingly, both Jenner and Pepsi were dragged through the mud on social media and the two-and-a-half minute ad was pulled after just 24 hours.

How best to arm yourself? Stay the hell away from anything like this!


From misjudged campaign sentiments to full-on disasters, occasionally even the biggest brands can get it dead wrong. If you do happen to find yourself in a cabin in the woods with the unmistakable roar of a chainsaw in the distance, remember to handle the inevitable bloodbath with humility, grace and a heartfelt apology.