Gregg L. Witt

How Brands Targeting Gen Z Can Embrace the De-Influencing Trend Without Changing A Thing

Are you tired of feeling like you have to keep up with every social trend, both in and out of youth culture the creator economy? If so, you are not alone. Even as the de-influencing trend is gaining traction among younger and older consumers alike, it is important to take a closer look and put it into an actionable perspective.

Driven by the desire for more genuine connections and experiences, for others an opportunity to spark controversy, and in most cases, a bonafide desire to call out creators and companies on their BS in order to push them to improve. The de-influencing trend challenges the idea that we need to buy into every trend, instead encouraging us to make more informed choices that align with our values and needs.

To put it simply, ‘de-influencing’ is a trend in which influencers inform people about what they should not buy. They share information about products that have not met expectations and price points that have not delivered real-life results. This education from influencers helps consumers make informed decisions about what to purchase.

De-Influencing Goes Viral: Examples to Catch You Up on the Latest Youth Culture Trend

Source: “I love deinfluencing” by @alyssastephanie on TikTok

In early 2023, the practice of “de-influencing” became increasingly popular on TikTok, as seen through the hashtag “#deinfluencing,” which amassed over 160 million views. Notably, TikToker @alyssastephanie posted a video on January 25th de-influencing viewers from purchasing certain “TikTok cult products,” which gained over 5.5 million views in three weeks. Another TikToker, @chez.amelie, also posted a de-influencing video on January 27th that received over 4.1 million views.

The trend also extended to Twitter, with users posting their “de-influencing” experiences in various categories, including skincare, makeup, anime, and anime merchandise. National Post, HuffPost, and AP News published articles about the trend on February 14th.

De-Influencing: A Timeless Concept with Modern Marketing Implications

As the de-influencing movement gains momentum, more people are looking to cut through the noise and find authenticity in the products and people they support.

This isn’t a new concept – similar trends have emerged throughout history. From the anti-advertising movement of the 1960s to the rise of minimalism in recent years, people have sought to expose the manipulative tactics of companies and media, while holding on to what truly matters to them. Below, are several notable movements from the past that have challenged the status quo and paved the way for today’s de-influencers.

  • The anti-advertising movement of the 1960s and 1970s: This movement emerged in response to the increasing influence of corporate advertising on society, which many people felt was promoting materialism and consumerism at the expense of more authentic forms of expression and communication. Supporters of this movement sought to challenge the power of advertising and promote alternative forms of media and communication.
  • The grunge movement of the 1990s: This movement rejected mainstream fashion and consumer culture, and instead embraced a more alternative, DIY aesthetic. Grunge was a response to the excesses of the 1980s and the focus on image and materialism that characterized that decade. It emphasized a more stripped-down, authentic style and a rejection of the consumer culture that had dominated popular culture for so long.
  • The backlash against celebrity culture in the early 2000s: This trend saw people rejecting the influence of Hollywood and the paparazzi, and instead seeking out more down-to-earth role models. Celebrities were seen as being too superficial and disconnected from the realities of everyday life, and many people turned to social media and other platforms to find more relatable figures to look up to.
  • The rise of slow living and minimalism in recent years: This trend emphasizes a simpler, more mindful approach to daily life and rejects the constant pressure to consume and keep up with trends. It is a response to the fast-paced, hectic nature of modern life, and seeks to promote a more balanced, deliberate lifestyle that prioritizes the well-being and meaningful experiences over material possessions.
  • The backlash against reality TV and the pursuit of fame in the early 2000s, saw people rejecting the idea of becoming famous for no reason and promoting the value of hard work and talent. This was exemplified by shows like Survivor and American Idol, which focused on competition and skill rather than drama and spectacle. (2000-2005)
  • The rise of “slow food” and the farm-to-table movement in the mid-2000s, emphasized the importance of local, organic, and sustainable food sources and rejected fast food and processed foods. This movement also promoted cooking and dining as a communal and pleasurable experience rather than just a means of sustenance. (2005-2010)
  • The rejection of mainstream fashion in the mid-2000s, saw people embracing alternative styles like vintage, bohemian, and punk. This trend was characterized by a DIY ethos and an emphasis on self-expression over conformity. (2005-2010)
  • The rise of mindfulness and meditation in the late 2000s and early 2010s, emphasized the importance of being present at the moment and rejecting the distractions of modern life. This movement also promoted the value of self-reflection and inner peace over material success and external validation. (2008-2015)
  • The rejection towards one-time-use and rise of “upcycling” in recent years, sees people leaning towards repurposed pieces and turning it into a “vintage” or “thrifty” aesthetic that leans towards creativity and identity sharing through a unique style while rejecting the fast fashion industry (2019-nowadays)

Staying Out of the De-Influencing Fray: Practical Steps for Brands to Maintain Positive Public Perception

Staying Ahead of the De-Influencing Curve: Practical Steps for Brands to Maintain Positive Public Perception

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

  • Deliver quality products that live up to their claims and provide excellent customer service, which can lead to loyal customers and positive word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Actively listen to and incorporate feedback from young people and creators who know the audience and use the type of product or service frequently well to improve products and messaging.
  • Be transparent about sourcing and production processes, and prioritize ethical and sustainable practices. Make information about your practices easily accessible and engaging to your audience.
  • Avoid exploitative practices such as unpaid or underpaid labor, and unintentional partnering with influencers who promote harmful messages. Be aware of who you are working with and what message you are promoting.
  • Invest in long-term brand-building efforts that focus on building genuine relationships with cultural insiders, talented creators, and niche communities. This allows for more authentic and meaningful connections with audiences, which can ultimately lead to a stronger brand reputation.
  • Embrace diversity and inclusivity in all aspects of the business, from hiring practices to marketing campaigns. Show that your brand values and respects all individuals, regardless of their background or identity.
  • Mantain transparency as a core value and identifier when it comes to direct brand communication with the customer.
  • Prioritize education and awareness campaigns to help consumers make informed choices about their purchases. Provide resources that help them understand the impact of their buying decisions on both the environment and society. This can lead to a more informed and loyal customer base.

In today’s social media-dominated world, consumers are increasingly searching for authentic connections and experiences, amidst the flood of perfect portrayals. This has sparked the surge of the de-influencing trend, which is rapidly gaining traction and cannot be overlooked by brands targeting Gen Z.

To maintain a positive public image, brands need to ensure that they offer quality products that cater to their consumers’ values and needs, establish real connections with their audience, and remain transparent about their operations. By adhering to these principles, brands can steer clear of the de-influencing spotlight while winning the trust of their intended audience.

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