28th Jun 2023 by Andy Barr

The rise in De-influence marketing. What is it all about and what are the issues? We explain

De-influence marketing - what's it about and what are the issues

A de-influencer or deinfluence is a term used to describe individuals who are active on social media and aim to counteract the impact of influencers. Unlike influencers, who often promote products, services, or lifestyles through sponsored content, the purpose of de-influencing aims to educate and raise awareness about the products or services others are often told to buy, that aren't perhaps the best options available.

In a world where social media has become an integral part of our lives, influencer culture has grown rapidly. Influencers can have a powerful impact on their followers, telling them to purchase products that aren't always suitable for their wants or needs. All too often, 'Insta vs reality' highlights just how unattainable (not to mention unsustainable) influencer lifestyles truly are, and their message can promote consumerism and a materialistic view of the world.

De-influencers aim to counteract the view that a product or service is perfect by promoting a more realistic view. They encourage their followers to think for themselves, question the authenticity of influencer lifestyles and focus on what truly matters.

In addition, de-influencers also aim to educate their followers about the business side of influencer culture. They shed light on the manipulative tactics that brands use to promote their products and the ways in which influencers may be paid to promote products or lifestyles that are not in line with their authentic selves. By raising awareness about these issues, de-influencers aim to empower people to make informed choices about what they consume and support.

Brands can find themselves accidentally walking into a crisis communications situation via deinfluencing campaigns. Imagine seeing a big budget influencer collaboration getting outed or trashed on social media as part of this movement. This would cause a massive public relations headache.

Agencies like ours can help brands to navigate this tricky time on social media by devising strategies and plans that take into account every possible scenario and based on our 18 years of experience. For example, we have worked with brands who have fallen foul of de-influencing campaigns and helped them to manage the communication with their communities and highlighted how and why their rivals are likely to have done this.

We can also help you to spot the early stages of a deinfluence campaign getting off the ground. Harmful campaigns on social media attacking a brand or influencer collaboration are typically started via paid promotion of negative content to try and build what looks like organic damaging sentiment.

As we all know from political campaigns like the Brexit NHS spend bus, lies spread far faster on social media than the truth ever could. Social platforms are often slow or reluctant to react to complaints so it is important you quickly and pro-actively address harmful brand situations and again, this is where our experience can help.

De-influencers can play an important role in counteracting the negative effects of influencer culture but they represent significant brand risk. On the plus side, they promote a more authentic, balanced, and empowering view, and educate their followers about the dangers of consumerism and superficiality. Through their efforts, they aim to create a more conscious and informed online community, where people are empowered to think critically and make positive choices.

On the negative side, they can simply be used to make money via masked affiliate links by tapping in to the growing clamour to out someone for doing something that people don't agree with.

The latest brand and influencer to get caught up in the deinfluence movement is Shein and @itsdanimc on TikTok. Shein is known to have offered "influencers" around $6k for them to go and "review" and tour the Shein factories in China.


Shein has famously received a lot of criticism from Western media around workers rights and the sustainability of its fashionable clothing that appears to be targeted at a very young audience. So its attempt to get influencers on board, and timed to coincide with a Channel 4 documentary that will paint the brand in a negative light, was always going to be viewed suspiciously.

@ItsDaniMc was one of the influencers who took the Shein dollar. She posted positively about the factory tour and (I paraphrase) said words to the effect of "those criticising Shein could be accused of being narrow minded". The posts have now been pulled because of the backlash.

Her comments have been picked up by influential individuals in the influencer marketing industry such as Scott Guthrie who wrote about the campaign in his highly rated newsletter.

Our two pence

"The rise of the de-influence movement is brilliant for the influencer marketing industry, especially if it generates a pricing correction in how much influencers try and charge, often with little or no return.

We need to be cautious that those fuelling the de-influencer movement do not have their own agenda and as always, be vigilant when it comes to making sure you are only ever clicking safe and secure links to external websites from social media pages. Vive le revolution I say!"

Andy Barr, Head Yeti

"Back in the day, it was the norm for brands to simply gift influencers and, if they liked the product or service, they'd talk about it. No whacking great influencer fees. No expectations. Of course, the reality is very different now and it's difficult to run an influencer campaign without a significant budget earmarked for paid campaigns. Gifting is rarely enough now.

With de-influencers rising in popularity, you'd like to think there would be a return to more open and transparent brand features through gifting; or perhaps caps on what influencers can charge for brand partnerships.

Personally, I can't see this becoming a reality any time soon, but I think the de-influencer movement is a force for good that will drive more authentic conversations and viewers than paid promotions ever will."

Shannon Peerless, MD

“Channels like TikTok have allowed more 'everyday people' to become influencers and with this comes a spike in more untrustworthy reviews as brands reach out to nano and micro influencers to promote their products.

As a result, the popularity of de-influencing has grown, enabling others to really share what they feel. Its refreshing, and reminds us what these platforms were created for: for users to share content about what they really love and believe in.”

Steph Searle, Head of Social Media

"(Many) influencers have had their time; they've missold us perfect bodies, perfect lifestyles, products we never wanted or needed (and that they quite often don't even use themselves) and generally made us feel less than adequate.

"The shift towards de-influencers is refreshing; we want to see and hear the truth. Although, brands will want to navigate this new partnership carefully - being vocal on certain topics could come back to bite them if they're not careful."

Sam Walker, Head of PR

“The rise of de-influencing is opening up the truth behind the TikTok hype and the reality of how well a product really performs. From Influencers being paid to rave about a product to creators chasing views and commission from the trending TikTok shop products it is hard for consumers to understand what is worth spending their money on - especially during a cost of living crisis.

But will this continue as a positive thing or will brands jump on it to promote their products as an alternative to a competitors making the trend no better or honest than influencing itself.”

Hayley Malsom, Social Media Account Executive

“This filter free approach to authentic influencing is an industry shake up faceless brands, and ingenuine content creators needed. Overly positive product reviews and predictable ‘this video is sponsored by…’ will be exchanged for ultimate transparency taking lead as the new USP.

In an era where cancel culture is making a hard comeback, this unique clap back to influencing bad practice has momentum to transform the marketing space for genuine positive impact; Fostering better quality influencer-brand partnerships, and truthful product reviews that add organic value to audiences and the social community ecosystem.”

Lucy Parish, Social Media Account Executive

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