Why TikTok’s ‘Deinfluencing’ Trend Is Just Another Form of Influence for Brands

When professional makeup artist, author and the founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Bobbi Brown, founded her clean beauty makeup brand Jones Road Beauty in 2020, she made it her mission to create products with “the best, most efficacious formulas” and avoided including any ingredients that she wasn’t comfortable putting on her face. At least that’s what she said in a interview with Harper’s Bazaar. But clearly, TikTok influencer Meredith Duxbury did not get the memo. 

When Duxbury reviewed Brown’s What the Foundation for Jones Road, she did it in typical Duxbury style: plastering loads of foundation all over her face and using her fingers to blend the product in. But as it seems, the What the Foundation product was never intended to be used or worn as Duxbury intended to. In fact, it’s been dubbed a tinted moisturizer that “blends seamlessly into the skin — leaving you with an even, fresh complexion that looks like your skin on its best day,” according to the product description. 

While some could argue that the TikTok influencer lacked any sort of awareness on how to use a product, the video amassed 17.1 million views and created a lot of controversy. Viewers either learned how to use the product or decided it wasn’t to their liking. Either way, the video falls into a new trend on TikTok — “deinfluencing.” 

The trend comes as authenticity has increasingly become valued by consumers and serves as a response to the heavily commercialized posts from social media influencers who promote products for financial gain, contributing to a market that has grown substantially in recent years. In fact, between 2016 and 2022, the market size increased from $1.7 billion to $16.4 billion. While the deinfluencing trend appears to encourage more honest representations of products and services, it has sparked a debate over whether it is just another form of influencing.  

The trend follows claims around TikTok influencers pushing overconsumption while consumers battle inflation, and aims to dissuade others from purchasing products that have gained extensive social media exposure and popularity, claiming that they do not live up to the hype.  

Thus far, the TikTok hashtag #deinfluencing has amassed over 385.2 million views, and numerous TikTok creators and viewers have adopted a stance toward tackling the counterfeit advertising and inauthenticity prevalent on social media by offering a more comprehensive perspective on specific products and services, enabling social media users to make better-informed purchasing decisions. Furthermore, it provides alternative content to those notoriously popular “haul” videos which have garnered over 38.1 billion views.

One example of this is TikToker hotchoccii who posted a viral haul video about fast-fashion retailer SHEIN. The video obtained over 3.2 million likes but received comments like, “If you have the money to buy this amount of shein you can shop ethical clothing. Please do better and think about what you rlly need” and “please don’t buy from SHEIN or Romwe!” 

That said, the surplus of positive content on consumer feeds offers deinfluencers a unique opportunity to foster stronger trust bonds with their followers.   

Does Deinfluencing Encourage More Purchasing?

With trusted bonds comes an opportunity for brands and retailers, as leaning into deinfluencing could yield greater returns through sales and reviews. In fact, 86% of consumers claim that authenticity is one of the key factors they consider when deciding which brands they like and support.  

That said, it is plausible that a brand might leverage this trend by producing a deinfluencing video that accentuates the drawbacks of a rival’s product, thereby promoting its own product instead.  

“For influencers who are disparaging one product in favor of another, it could be just a sales tactic,” Brad Klontz, a certified financial planner and financial psychologist, said in an interview.  

Take TikToker cakefacereviews who offered up a “dupe” for Dior’s blush. The video gained over 1.5 million likes and received comments like “Dior blush need to be humbled” and “Finally the Dior Blush getting canceled.” 

“Influencers may also be mentioning a specific brand to try to position themselves to get a brand deal in the future,” Klontz said.  

The sentiment follows the fact that in 2022, the influencer marketing industry reached $16.4 billion, and 67% of brands and retailers reportedly intend to increase their influencer marketing spend in 2023, while 23% plan to spend more than 40% of their marketing budget on influencer marketing.  

And with the considerable investment being made by companies in the influencer marketing space implies that promoting products through social media influencers yields favorable outcomes.  

Klontz also asserts that this phenomenon can be attributed to a psychological concept known as parasocial interaction. This refers to the relationship between an influencer and their followers, which is one-sided but evokes a feeling of mutual connection. When influencers recommend products, it significantly influences purchasing behavior. 

But the act of influencing is not a novel concept, as traditional advertisements have been using it for decades. However, apps like TikTok allow individuals to establish a considerably more intimate bond with their followers.  

Nonetheless, this method has been recognized for its greater effectiveness due to its personalized and powerful nature. Trust has already been established, and acquiring the product can provide a sense of belonging to the community and a shared connection with the influencer.  

Where Deinfluencing Falls With Consumers

The public is no longer receptive to the methods that previously worked in influencer marketing. Looking ahead, the emphasis will be on maintaining integrity and establishing genuine honesty and authenticity. While the deinfluencing trend is admirable, it still falls under the category of influencing, which is the aspect that some individuals are skeptical about.  

So, as the debate over deinfluencing continues, it is evident that authenticity and honesty are critical factors that consumers consider when choosing which brands they support. The challenge for influencers is to strike a balance between promoting products and maintaining credibility and trust with their followers. 

Also, for anyone wondering, Brown did a tastefully, some might even call it “cute,” clapback to Duxbury. Watch it here. Duxbury responded back, giving the product another review, but it seems like she’s a full-coverage kind of gal.