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Influencer marketing continues to grow at an astounding rate and last year was no exception with an estimated $1.6 billion being spent in 2018 on Instagram influencers alone. However, as the industry evolves from infancy, it must also mature in order to flourish into a successful marketing strategy. As influencers are now referred to as brand spokespeople and treated like partners, they must present themselves in a professional manner in accordance with the brand's image. This will mean the tightening of guidelines surrounding influencer behaviour, and we can see this in the dramatic increase in influencers taking on rigorous and comprehensive long-term contracts. These contracts can include; type of content required, length of a post, what platform to use, confidentiality agreements and exclusivity rights, to name but a few.

These changes to influencer contracts alongside focused efforts to mature the industry, are in part, down to some of the worst influencer marketing fails to have occurred in recent times.

Let’s look back on some examples of influencer marketing fails in 2018.

Luka Sabbat sued for failing to comply to a signed influencer agreement

Luka Sabbat was sued on October 30th, 2018 for failing to comply with the influencer agreement that he signed with PR Consulting Inc. on behalf of their client, Snap. Sabbat was required to promote Snap Spectacles on his Instagram account and had a reach of over a 1.4 million followers at the time of the agreement. The contract set out that Sabbat had to post three Instagram stories and one post on his feed pertaining to Snap Spectacles. However, Sabbat proceeded to only post a single Instagram story and one for his feed, neither of which were submitted to PR Consulting Inc. for pre-approval. The outcome wasn’t bright for Sabbat. PR Consulting Inc. filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court, claiming that Sabbat had breached his agreement. Sabbat was originally promised $60,000 with $45,000 being paid upfront, however the lawsuit sought the reimbursement of the $45,000 payment and an additional $45,000 in damages, along with the tarnishing of his reputation as an influencer.

Contracts that exist between a business and an influencer are just as legitimate as any other contract. They outline the terms and conditions of the ‘partnership’ between; the influencer, and the business in question. You’re an investment for that business! Make sure before signing any contract with a business that you can meet the requirements they’ve set out. This can’t be stressed enough! Failing to do this could earn you a bad reputation, and may even result in legal action being taken against you.

Luxury Dublin hotel bans all social media influencers, after an incident with influencer Elle Darby

In January 2018, the lifestyle YouTube and Instagram creator, Elle Darby, reached out to the owner of The Dublin Guest House and White Moose Café, Paul Stenson, asking if he was interested in a “possible collaboration.” In the same email, Darby outlined a ‘pitch’ to Stenson, which suggested he allowed her and her partner to stay for free for 4 nights for Valentine’s Day in exchange for being featured in her videos and photos. Mr Stenson proceeded to post a screenshot of Elle’s email on Facebook, stating: “Thank you for your email looking for free accommodation in return for exposure. It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that, if not much self-respect and dignity.” Stenson also highlighted that his businesses themselves had quite the following – 186k on Facebook and 80k on Snapchat; it was not a business in need of the exposure to her followers, which stood at 87k at the time. The humiliating incident lasted for around a week, with Elle Darby releasing a video afterwards, entitled “I was exposed (SO embarrassing), and ending with Mr Stenson posting a Facebook in response to the video “ALL BLOGGERS BANNED FROM OUR BUSINESS.”

This example is proof that it pays to check certain things before approaching businesses with collaboration opportunities. First, check whether the business in question has done anything like this in the past. Next, double check if the business in question is still open to enquiries concerning influencer collaborations, if in fact they ever were. Lastly, present yourself in such a way that you come across as a professional, polite and respectful individual. You are trying to enter a business partnership with them after all. Do your research!

Logan Paul unleashes more brand-safety concerns with YouTube

Anyone remember this one? The infamous Logan Paul incident. At the very start of the year, Logan Paul, one of the highest paid YouTube influencers at the time, shocked the world when he uploaded a video showing a dead body in Japan’s Aokigahara forest – a place with the reputation of being known as one of the world’s most popular suicide spots.

The video showed Logan and his friends filming in the unnerving forest, wherein they repeatedly zoom in on the deceased man in footage. This caused public outcry and cast a shadow on influencers everywhere. Brands began to outwardly question YouTube, which had already had its fair share of brand-safety concerns. As a direct result of this, YouTube temporarily dropped Logan Paul's channels, which had amassed a following of 16m subscribers from Google Preferred, whilst several brand sponsors and projects dropped Logan outright, for showing an extreme lack of sensitivity to the suicide victim.

Logan Paul’s reputation and reliability were severely damaged, resulting in a major loss of respect from the public and his fans across the world. Although Logan seems to have weathered the storm, it is hard to say whether when this incident will fade from public memory and too early yet to see what long-term effects this might have on his career. This particular fail should stand as a stark reminder for influencers: avoid engaging in unsavoury behaviour that reflects unfavourably on your sponsors, and especially don’t be stupid enough to upload it to social media.

Dolce & Gabbana's branding at all time low in China after racist ad scandal

The next fail looks at a major brand’s unsuccessful attempt to influence a foreign market. In this case, Dolce & Gabbana’s misjudged advertisement, designed to influence the Chinese public into purchasing their products failed.

In December, the fashion giant fell out of favour with the Chinese market when their advertisement was viewed as racist, condescending and sexist. The ad appeared to make light of a Chinese woman trying to eat Italian food with chopsticks and failing. The outrage this ad caused amongst the Chinese public and led to e-commerce and retail giants temporarily removing their products and cancelling their fashion show.

This proves that not even the most renown brands are completely fool proof when it comes to judging a marketing reaction to a campaign. This is why, whether you’re an influencer starting out, or part of a marketing team for a massive multi-national brand, it pays to do extensive research into your desired target audience.

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