Top Influencer Marketing FAILS: FYRE Festival, Snapchat & more

It’s so easy to find a lot of positive notes about influencer marketing on social media. There are tremendously thousands of resources saying how good and beneficial it is for brands, especially new ones. But the truth is that it also has a bad side that not everyone talks about.

Yes, while it may be considered a blessing, some brands think it’s a curse. No, we’re not here to say that influencer marketing is harmful. But there are moments where your efforts will fall flat. And you don’t want that to happen, right?

Check out these top influencer marketing fails and see what you can learn from their mistakes:

What: Fyre Festival – a music festival scheduled to take place on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma over two weekends in April and May 2017.

The organizers of the festival recruited mega influencers Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid and other social media stars and models to promote the event on their Instagram accounts. For the consumers, seeing their favorite influencers promote and share their excitement online made them buy tickets to the event. There’s so much hype and they had no trouble selling out.

How it went wrong: As the festival-goers arrived on the venue, they realized that the hype was simply just a hype. There were no celebrities present, the event was not organized enough and the festival failed to meet the expectations of the people. Because of that, they took to their social media to express how disappointed they are with the said event.

Learn: The lesson here is that it’s not always about working with big influencers, brands should also live up to their promise and not trick their audience. Marketing your event is one thing, but the execution of the event is as equally important! But if you want to have a documentary about how crazy your brand is (hello to Netflix and Hulu!), go ahead and make stupid decisions. No, of course we’re kidding! 

What: Snapchat Spectacles ad with Luka Sabbat – With the declining market in Snapchat, the company decided to partner with KOL Luka Sabbat to promote their latest product which is the “Snapchat Spectacles” on Instagram. The new “Pay and Pray” standard in the industry where brands pay influencers in advance without tying the compensation with performance metrics covered this whole relationship. So Snapchat paid Sabbat a total of $45,000 in advance in hopes of having him fulfill his duty of promoting the said product.

How it went wrong: According to the lawsuit filed by Snapchat, Luka Sabbat is required to post 3 instagram stories and 1 instagram post to his feed. Additionally, it was also agreed that he would be photographed by paparazzi wearing the “spectacles” during Milan and Paris fashion week. Allegedly, Sabbat only posted 1 post to his feed, and he never even bothered to send it to Snapchat for pre-approval.

Learn: For brands, always work with influencers who are passionate with their craft, knows how to follow rules and are committed to partnering with a brand. It’s not always about numbers! In Sabbat’s case, he may have almost 2 million followers but it doesn’t guarantee that he will be able to convince them all to support Snapchat’s spectacles. Additionally, the number of followers isn’t tantamount to the “quality” of the influencer you’re working with. Don’t just pay influencers out of nowhere!

What: BooTea Shake ad with Scott Disick – BooTea Shake wanted to promote their product as a perfect summer routine shake. The brand chose Scott Disick to promote their product through an Instagram post, so they emailed him the instructions which included the caption that he needs to incorporate with the picture.

How it went wrong: There are influencers who will simply copy and paste the instructions without even reading the content, and this is exactly what reality TV star Scott Disick did. He simply did not care and put out every word from the email of the brand. This is a bad case of working with an influencer who doesn’t really care about you.

Learn: Always remember that engaging with big influencers who have a huge following is like a “make or break” bond. The higher the audience, the higher the risk you will get especially if the influencer doesn’t do justice to your campaign. Additionally, the damage can be big and widespread if the KOL says something bad about your brand. On the other hand, things can be manageable if you’re working with a micro-influencer as the risk is lesser. So the decision to choose a big or micro-influencer is really up to you, what matters is that you choose them WISELY.

What: E.A. Games Star Wars ad with Benjamin Burnley – E.A. Games politely asked influencer Benjamin Burnley to promote their new Star Wars: Battlefront X-Box game on Instagram. They simply thought of reaching out to people who are most likely to be interested in such a game, and Benjamin Burnley, frontman of the Breaking Benjamin bad, seem a perfect fit.

How it went wrong: Instead of giving light and good exposure to the game, Benjamin just blatantly slandered E.A. Games in his Instagram post. He didn’t agree to participate in the campaign and just ranted how much he hated the product. Again, this is a bad case of working with a KOL.

Learn: We cannot reiterate enough how important it is to choose your KOLs wisely. At the end of the day, you want your brand to have a good image and exposure on social media, right? So it’s best if you “filter” and “verify” the authenticity, branding and personality of your chosen influencers before you ask them to work with you. You should always work with KOLs who are genuine with their actions and are willing to help you grow.


What: Pepsi and Kendall Jenner advertisement – Pepsi wanted to promote “unity in diversity” by partnering with Kendall Jenner. Pepsi invited Kendall Jenner to star in their latest commercial about a model who stops her ongoing photoshoot to join the protest campaign. The cast include a group of armed policemen and people of color.

How it went wrong: While the intent to promote something good is there, the execution and use of influencer didn’t really work. The video was a clear reference to to Black Lives Matter movement, and using Kendall Jenner, a white supermodel as the main star, was a slap to the face of black people.

Learn: Brands should be careful in choosing their influencers as there are also sensitivities that must be taken into consideration.

What: Dolce and Gabanna “racist” China ad – D&G wanted to promote their new “Dolce & Gabanna Loves China” campaign by making a commercial about a Chinese woman dressed in the brand’s clothes while eating Italian food using chopsticks.

How it went wrong: The ad received major backlash and criticism on social media. Having the main character eat Italian food using chopsticks is telling that D&G is not sensitive and cultured enough about China. The video also single-handedly promoted false stereotype and representation. Instead of  showing their “love” for China, the video appeared as if it’s mocking China’s culture. The concept of the video totally offended a lot of Chinese people.

Learn: Before working on a concept, make sure to do a thorough research about the topic. It’s important to be sensitive and be careful with your ads. Because if things go wrong, it will totally affect the status of your brand in a negative way. And that’s something that brands don’t want to happen.


Influencer marketing is a safe space, but there are still KOLs that are not really beneficial. With the examples above, it’s clear how important it is to be meticulous in choosing influencers. Also for brands, don’t ever fool your customers. Let’s continue making the world of “influencer marketing” a wonderful place, so always aim to do right!