For businesses looking to reach a wider audience, influencer marketing has become a popular tactic. It can help businesses build a positive brand image and even increase sales.

If done right, influencer marketing can deliver incredible ROI. Especially when used correctly on social media.

Disclosure: This content may contain a few affiliate links, which means if you click on them, I will get a commission (without any extra cost to you).

Despite the immense potential it holds, brands need to careful while collaborating with influencers. For a partnership to work out successfully with an influencer, shared vision, respect, and open communication are crucial.

Many influencer marketing campaigns fall flat because these requirements are not met. As more brands look to explore influencer marketing, it’s important to proceed with some caution.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the biggest influencer fails in marketing campaigns. Learn from their mistakes so that you don’t have to get your fingers burned when dealing with influencers.

Curious to find out what these influencer fails are? Keep reading…

Influencer Marketing Fail #1: Not Complying with Rules

Brands and influencers need to act responsibly while promoting a product. This holds especially true if the product involved is a medicine or drug that can cause long term side effects in consumers.

If rules and regulations are not taken care of, there could be a heavy price to pay.

One of the highest paid social media influencers, Kim Kardashian, overlooked the rules while partnering with Duchesnay. She posted a selfie on Instagram promoting their morning sickness drug, Diclegis.

not complying with rules influencer marketing fails

Image via Instagram

Her social media post caught the attention of FDA and they objected to the lack of balance between risks and benefits mentioned in her post.

They demanded that the post should accurately reflect the limitations and risks of the drug. FDA warned that Duchesnay would face regulatory action if the content was not corrected or removed from social media.

Following this, Kim Kardashian removed the post. She followed it up with another post on social media in which she added the risks involved with using Didegis.

Because of this, the influencer marketing campaign attracted a lot of negative publicity for the brand and the influencer.

To avoid this, it is better to disclose all side-effects of a product conspicuously. This holds especially true for medicines and drugs that can cause long-term harm to consumers’ health.

So, what can you do to avoid that?

Work with authentic and experienced influencers with a known history of successful and FTC-compliant brand collaborations.

You can use the Heepsy influencer platform to find the most effective and trustworthy influencers for your brand.

Influencer Marketing Fail #2: Using Underhanded Tactics

Everyone knows being overtly promotional doesn’t work well in the influencer marketing industry. But the opposite holds true as well. Using underhanded advertising tactics can come across as inauthentic.

Take for example, Snickers’ global marketing campaign.

For years, Snickers has been using the slogan, “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry”. In 2012, when they collaborated with Katie Price and Ian Botham, they decide to use its literal meaning to promote their brand.

Most of Katie Price’s previous posts on Twitter were apolitical, focusing mainly on fashion. For the marketing campaign, she started posting tweets involving politics and economics.

Similarly, Ian Botham, whose tweets revolved around cricket, started tweeting about learning the cello. Their tweets garnered a lot of interest on Twitter.

using underhand tactics influencer marketing fails

Image via Twitter

They managed to turn heads with these tweets because they seemed out of character. Some people also speculated that their accounts might have been hacked. After a series of such tweets, they revealed what was going on.

Both of them posted a photo with a Snickers bar with the caption, “You're Not You When You're Hungry.” Since these posts very not very forthcoming about their advertorial nature, some people questioned their legitimacy.

Following this, the Advertising Standards Agency of UK carried out an investigation in this advertising campaign. Though the marketing campaign was cleared, the brand and the influencers' public images suffered.

What can you do?

Know your audience, their demographics, and their interests well. Based on this, tailor your influencer marketing campaign. This way, you can establish a better connection with your audience.

Use Heepsy to create and track your influencer campaigns including even the smallest of details. This will help you be more in control of your campaign and avoid these failures altogether.

Influencer Marketing Fail #3: Accidentally Copy-Pasting Instructions

Influencer marketing can be tricky. While influencers are promoting brands, the partnership needs to come across as genuine to their social media followers. If it seems staged, it can be counterproductive.

accidently copy-pasting instructions influencer marketing fails

Image via Cheatsheet

Bootea, a brand that sells fitness and detox products, had to learn it the hard way.  They partnered with Scott Disick who is famous for his appearance on the reality TV series, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

In an embarrassing faux pas, Scott copy-pasted the company’s instructions to him directly into his Instagram post.

The caption revealed that the brand had given him all the details seamlessly, including the caption and the time of the  social media post.

Thinking it might be a one-off case?

No, that’s not the only time this influencer marketing fail happened. Supermodel, Naomi Campbell, posted a photo on Instagram with a pair of Adidas shoes.

In the caption section, she forgot to edit the instructions from Adidas’ marketing team.

kardashians influencer marketing fails

Image via CheatSheet

Both of these influencer campaigns suffered because of an embarrassing mistake. Followers on social media mocked both the brands and the influencers because of this silly goof up.

So, what can you learn this influencer marketing fail?

You should give your influencers more creative freedom. Instead of telling them what to write and when to post it, trust them to do their job well.

By doing so, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble. It can prevent your brand from being a victim of these type of copy-paste errors.

Influencer Marketing Fail #4: Coming Across as Insensitive

Be careful if you’re planning to craft your influencer marketing campaign around an important social cause. You need to approach the issue with sensitivity.

If your campaign comes across as indifferent to the issue or worse, trivializes the issue, you could seriously damage your brand's image.

coming across as insensitive influencer marketing fails

Image via Rolling Stones

A Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner was meant to showcase global diversity. However, the campaign struck a wrong chord with the target audience.

In the advertisement, Kendall Jenner was seen joining the Black Lives Matter protest. When police were deployed to control the protest, Kendall offered them a Pepsi.

This scene was a recreation of an iconic photographer that showed Leshia Evans confronting the police in the Baton Rouge protest.

This campaign received a lot of flak for trivializing the Black Lives Matter protest. Among those who criticized the campaign was Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.

In a sarcastic tweet, she wrote, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.” Her tweet received 147K retweets and more than 278K likes.

The comments section was filled with people asking for the advertisement to be removed.

#pepsi influencer marketing fails

Image via Twitter

Pepsi faced a lot of heat because of this controversy. Realizing their gaffe, Pepsi apologized publicly on the same Twitter thread. Following this, they removed the advertisement and halted its further rollout.

Not just brands, but even influencers need to be careful with the type of content they post on social media. If you are touching upon a social issue, you need to make sure you show respect to everyone.

If you’re using humor, you need to be doubly careful. You can’t be making jokes at the expense of disrespecting someone.

Swedish YouTuber, PewDiePie, who has over 53 million subscribers, got embroiled in a major controversy because of a similar situation.

In his initial days, he used to post YouTube videos of himself playing video games while commenting. However, later he moved to cover other topics of controversial nature.

swedish youtuber pewdiepie influencer marketing fails

Image via YouTube

In 2017, he uploaded a video where he made anti-semitic jokes and comments. In the video, two Sri Lankans can be seen holding a placard that reads, “Death To All Jews.”

He revealed that he had hired the two men to do this task using the freelancing platform Fiverr for $5. It was meant to show how you could use the internet to get anything done for a low price.

However, people were upset with the anti-semitic comments and Nazi jokes he made in the video.

interview with business insider influencer marketing fails

Image via Tumblr

Following this incident, YouTube removed his name from their preferred list. YouTube Red, a premium service, also canceled the second season of his show on their platform.

Even Disney, the parent company of Maker Studios, decided to sever ties with him.

In an interview with Business Insider, a spokeswoman for Maker Studios said that his videos were inappropriate.

“Although Felix (PewDiePie) has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward,” she said.

Later, he issued a clarification on Tumblr, but the damage to his reputation was done by then. Because of offensive comments, he lost out on collaborations with major companies.

So, what can we learn from these influencer marketing fails?

Before you collaborate with an influencer, check out their social media reputation. Do a thorough background check and check the kind of content they post on social media.

If they post content on social media that might damage your brand’s reputation, it is best to stay away from such a collaboration.

Brands also need to be more politically aware and conscious about their social media marketing campaigns.

It’s great to stand up for a cause but only if it is done tastefully. Any media campaign that involves social and political issues should be handled with sensitivity.

If you promote content that is derogatory or belittles a cause, you could land yourself in a soup. It is difficult to redeem yourself after attracting negative publicity, so make sure your campaigns are tactful.

Influencer Marketing Fail #5: Not Being Prepared

It may be hard to predict the kind of response that your marketing campaign may generate. But it’s always better to prepare for a great response. You don’t fall short on the promises that you made at the beginning of the campaign.

For example, look at what happened to Fyre Festival. The Bahamas-based festival was promoted as a luxury music festival. The event organizers promised luxury accommodations and exquisite cuisine.

Ja Rule and Kylie Jenner were among the top influencers associated with the event’s publicity. The ticket prices went up to $12,000 and fans had big expectations from the festival.

While the promos looked alluring, the reality was starkly different. There were ordinary tents for the stay and the lunch included simple toast and cheese.

Visitors, unsatisfied with the arrangements, took to social media to vent out their frustration.

The organizers had to refund a lot of tickets as they didn’t have adequate arrangements for those who were yet to arrive. All inbound flights to the Exuma island, where the festival was taking place, were canceled.

Those who wanted to leave the island also had to wait for hours because of the sudden rush. This kind of inconvenience to your visitors or customers will invariably leave them disappointed.

But, how can you avoid that?

The best way to avoid this is to plan your campaign thoroughly. Do not oversell just to attract consumers.

Know your capacity and then decide on realistic targets to meet. Prepare in advance so that your campaign can run smoothly.

If you’ve promised free goodies, make sure you have enough in stock. You want to leave your consumers happy, not frustrated.


Q1. Why is influencer marketing bad?

A. Influencer marketing can be risky if you commit strategic blunders, such as wrong influencer selection. Since influencer marketing is relatively new, there is no handbook for brands and influencers to follow.

Moreover, the industry is still largely unregulated, which is why issues like influencer fraud and fake engagement on social media are common.

Q2. How successful is influencer marketing?

A. For a relatively new marketing tactic, influencer marketing has produced great returns. On average, marketers are deriving an ROI of up to $5.20 per $1 spent on it.

When it is leveraged with other marketing tactics like affiliate and email marketing, this ROI can increase to $11.

Q3. Do influencers get free stuff?

A. Influencers can choose to be compensated in cash or kind. Nano- and micro-influencers who have yet to establish their clout often ask for free products for the purpose of reviewing them as well as for remuneration for their efforts.

Brands are almost always keen for their influencers to try their products so that they can write authentic reviews about them, either on social media or blog posts.

Q4. Is Kendall Jenner an influencer?

A. Yes, Kendall Jenner is a celebrity influencer, who has collaborated with mega-brands like Gucci and Burberry. Kendall Jenner is amongst the top 2% of social media influencers and charges to the tune of $200K per sponsored post.

Q5. How can I become an influencer and get free stuff?

A. To become an influencer, you need to have a considerable following and “influence” on the social media platforms that you want to target/monetize.

That said, getting “free stuff” should not be your only motivation to become an influencer.

If you create authentic relationships with your followers and create great content, brands will be happy to partner with you and reward you with their products.

The key to becoming a successful influencer is to be authentic, engaging, and real.

Q6. What are the biggest influencer marketing fails?

A. The biggest influencer marketing fails include:

  • Copy-pasting a brand’s instructions
  • Flouting the TC’s rules
  • Trivializing social issues
  • Inflating followership and engagement numbers
  • Misrepresentation of facts

Q7. As brands, what are the biggest pains associated with influencer marketing?

A. With influencer marketing, brands face challenges such as:

  • Spotting fake influencers
  • Changes in social media algorithms
  • Measuring the marketing ROI
  • Increasing influencer costs
  • Implementing an always-on strategy

Q8. What are some bad examples of influencer marketing?

A. Some of the worst examples of influencer marketing include:

  • Scott Disick and Bootea (copy-pasting instructions into post captions)
  • Kim Kardashian and Duchesnay (not following the FTC’s rules)
  • Kylie Jenner and Pepsi (trivializing social issues)
  • Katie Price and Snickers (using underhanded tactics)
  • Fyre Festival (being unprepared for public reactions)

Q9. What are the biggest challenges when it comes to influencer marketing?

A. With influencer marketing, brands face challenges such as:

  • Spotting fake influencers
  • Changes in social media algorithms
  • Measuring the marketing ROI
  • Increasing influencer costs
  • Implementing an always-on strategy

Q10. What is a good way to start with influencer marketing?

A. To get started with influencer marketing, you need to create a proper marketing strategy. The strategy can be broken down into the following broad steps:

  • Define your marketing goals and metrics
  • Select the right influencers for collaboration
  • Plan your content strategy
  • Implement your content strategy
  • Measure your returns

Know How to Avoid Influencer Fails in Your Marketing Campaigns?

Influencer marketing can help you grow your business quickly. But it isn’t always about rainbows and sunshine.

If you haven’t planned your campaign well, it could end up doing more damage than good. Influencer fails can ruin your brand’s reputation. To avoid them, learn from others’ mistakes.

Did we miss any other major influencer marketing fails? Please share your views in the comments section below.


  1. I’m really impressed with your writing skills. Thanks for the informative blog.

  2. The information you’ve shared in this blog is awesome.

  3. Thanks for your post.

    1. Shane Barker says:

      Hi Messina, the pleasure is all mine. Keep visiting for more such information. 🙂

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