Making a career out of influencing is not easy, even if many still believe it is. In the past few years, influencers have become such a force for brands and self-promotion. It became more important to provide regulations and maintain transparency as influencers were, well, influencing. 

When influencers are on their A-game, their work can bring phenomenal success to brands with their clever and authentic content. But sometimes, even the most well-received influencers can trip over their content, and it can hurt them and their sponsors. 

Here are a few “hot” and “not” influencer campaigns over the past year.


Top 5 Recent Influencer Successes

Although there are more successful influencer stories than tragic ones, there are a few that have really shined in the last few months. 

Using the Right Influencers

To drive recognition and awareness around the new “Planet Earth’s Favorite Vodka,” The Absolut Company used influencers to create a series of people and planet-centered campaigns across various social platforms. Assembling a hugely diverse 95-person “activist army” and consisted of eight campaigns that provided 360-degree marketing, generating 68 million impressions and 8.6 million engagements. They also made sure to offer tips on making drinks without straws or cellophane and how to reuse those citrus peels instead of throwing them out. 

Absolut was able to generate such accessible content because they used influencers (mainly micro-influencers, which are defined as those who have less than 25,000 followers) who could reach the right target audiences with authentic voices who support real causes (while selling liquor). 

Supporting a Cause

Although brands try to attach themselves to causes, sometimes the cause is the brand. Honey cannot exist without bees. The Rowse Honey #Feedthebees campaign is similar to other campaigns associated with “saving the bees.” Still, it provides a more tangible action for people and how it actually works to save them. You request bee-friendly seeds, and they send them to you (until they run out for the season), and they provide a series of short how-to videos to help educate on why certain wildflowers are helpful to bees and how to help those gardens thrive. 

The success of this campaign had much to do with value-added information from influencers through social media. It supports a cause with a real purpose and offers education at the same time. This campaign is currently on the shortlist for the 2021 Influencer Marketing Awards for one of the best cause-led campaigns, most effective campaigns for ROI, and best brand engagement campaigns.

Unexpected Influencers was recognized for its Instagram-worthy travel campaign without using popular travel influencers. Instead, they used two unconventional, non-travel creators to produce distinctive stories about must-see experiences. Across two weeks, the creative campaign led to 90 posts and stories that generated 4.1 million organic impressions and reached 1.3 million.

By using atypical influencers, was able to show how anyone can travel, no matter how little they may know about it, and it created a series of authentic experiences for the influencers and their followers. 

Raising Awareness

As some companies offer lip service during Pride month, some companies continuously do it right. Apple is one of the few global companies whose CEO is openly gay, and they began annually releasing new Pride-themed bands and watch faces starting in 2017. Since then, their products have promoted conversations around Pride and the LGBTQ+ community and their employees. They donate to several causes. They have an Instagram section dedicated to Pride all year long that covers the entire spectrum of how people speak their truths. 

It also helps that Apple’s loyal fan base promotes these watches on multiple social channels consistently. They are one of the few companies that continuously show up authentically every year while also building on its long-running financial support for LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations.


A common trend we see across all successful influencer campaigns is inclusivity, regardless of the industry. Victoria’s Secret has been changing its image from the long-time Angel campaign to “What Women Want,” which embraces women of all different looks and sizes, and it is getting a lot of recognition from social platforms to news stories. There is considerable buzz around the campaign and how they are successfully starting to move from exclusivity to inclusivity.

Viral Nation worked with Victoria’s Secret to promote VS Pink and helped create a collection of “everyday girl” content that showcases key product categories. Since then, they have only gotten stronger in their overall brand message to include women with more diversity, which keeps their brand vital and helps women feel better about themselves and what they wear. 


Top 5 Recent Influencer Fails

Although influencers have gotten better at following FCC regulations and trying not to offend their followers, some influencers step over other kinds of boundaries that can damage their or their sponsors’ reputations. Here are a few recent missteps. 

Rude Behavior

Recently, TikTok influencer Andra Gogan was criticized for a behind-the-scenes video that blocked an escalator while people were trying to get on. Instead of stopping, she continued to film until the line started to back up. Although she did not break any laws or rules, she was panned by followers for rude behavior. Despite the attempt to include her followers in the making of one of her popular videos, she displayed “bratty” behavior that garnered criticism.

Such responses to influencers remind everyone that people are watching and judging what influencers do to maintain their support, and even small infractions can tarnish a well-built image. 

Tactless Behavior

Jeffree Star, influencer extraordinaire, can work magic with make-up and creates their own palettes of color with clever names. Unfortunately, creating the “cremated” palette collection at the height of the pandemic was a bit much for many followers to handle.

It wasn’t just Star who found it difficult to tread lightly during pandemic shutdowns: many influencers found themselves at the center of tactless behavior surrounding social distancing, not wearing masks, or traveling during lockdowns. Many have been called out for their behavior by other influencers who aim to be better role models, and, as a result, some may have lost a few followers (and sponsors) along the way.  

Whether someone is working with their own brand or others’, choosing words, names, and activities wisely are good rules of thumb to avoid backlash. Though some of the backlash was usually short-lived, there is added scrutiny over how an influencer moves forward without making similar missteps. Brands don’t want to associate themselves with influencers who may create controversy where it is not needed.

Criminal Behavior

In March of 2021, social media influencer Jay Mazini, who claims a net worth of $33 million and is known for cash giveaways, was accused by the Department of Justice of operating a wire fraud scheme. The charges claim that he “used his immense social media popularity to dupe his followers into selling him Bitcoin” in exchange for inflated cash offers, which he failed to pay properly. It is alleged that after Mazini received Bitcoin from his fans, he sent back falsified payment receipts to reflect agreed-upon prices, in which he either failed to send the full amount or never sent the money at all.

As influencer campaigns go, this failure is based on direct illegal behavior, not just an FCC violation. Although influencers rarely attempt this level of illegality, when it happens, it can create distrust and set back the influencing industry, and affect those who follow the rules and law accordingly. 

Co-opting Tragedy

One of the biggest must-haves for an influencer is authenticity, and consumers can quickly pick out an in-authentic social media promotion. During the Black Lives Matter protests, many white influencers took the chance to create photo ops during protests, and it received considerable backlash from followers, other influencers, and news organizations. 

Supporting a movement is fine, but the criticism was based more on a photo opportunity with no real support. The criticism was based more on taking one picture, and then the topic was dropped for other content. This can be seen as extraordinarily tasteless and insulting to those who are really affected by racism and its effects. 

Lip Service Only

Much like co-opting movements, lip service can also backfire on an influencer. We discussed this issue during PRIDE month this year–there is criticism over brands offering support for one month, and then consumers never hear about it again. Slapping a rainbow on a logo is not enough, and PRIDE allies are becoming more vocal about its lack of authenticity. It is getting more difficult to get away with it. 

There are real ways companies and influencers can support any social movement through year-long support while also offering a percentage of proceeds to organizations that support people who need it. To do less is to expose themselves to a lot of criticism and embarrassment. 


In Closing

For years, the predictions around how influencer marketing would only get stronger and more viable for brands have been spot on, and in some cases, has surpassed those predictions. Whether the influencer campaign is a hit or miss, it is clear that brands reap the benefits (or detriments) of those campaigns, and it is a strategic move all brands need to take seriously.

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