Are anti-influencers reshaping influencer culture?

16th March, 2024
Are anti-influencers reshaping influencer culture?

For those unfamiliar, de-influencing involves social media influencers sharing content discouraging their followers from purchasing overpriced or ineffective products. TikTok videos under #deinfluencing have amassed over 750 million views. Could this trend, targeting the rampant consumer culture, potentially disrupt digital marketing efforts by retailers and brands? Experts in the field discuss the evolution of this trend and its potential impact moving forward.

After years of promoting products and creating content centered around what to buy, some influencers and content creators are flipping the script. They’re now advising against certain purchases, a trend they refer to as ‘de-influencing’.

The global influencer marketing industry, valued at nearly $21.1 billion according to Statista, is heavily influenced by Gen Z. Recent data from the US-based International Council of Shopping Centers reveals that 85% of Gen Z shoppers are influenced by social media in their purchasing decisions, with TikTok and Instagram cited as the top platforms by 45% of respondents.

As a result, could this “de-influencing” movement—which aims to curb an indulgent and unbridled consumer culture—pose a danger to the success of companies’ and stores’ digital marketing campaigns?

CEO of Dentsu’s South Asia, Harsha Razdan, disagrees. De-influencing is a new movement in influencer culture that is a result of a move away from mindless consumerism and toward authenticity. Users are becoming more critical of influencer marketing in an environment where sponsored content is common on sites like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.


In the realm of fashion, the notable German personal stylist, Olesya Schuler, renowned across Instagram with a staggering following of 372,000, recently unveiled a captivating ‘De-influencing: Fall-Winter ’23 Fashion Edition’ reel. This revelation dawned upon her when she discerned the overwhelming sway of social media, particularly TikTok, in dictating consumer behavior.

“It struck me profoundly how social media incessantly compels us towards consumption, luring us with the allure of the latest trends and products. Even someone like me, deeply entrenched in the fashion sphere and well into my thirties, found myself ensnared,” she divulges to Brand Equity.

While de-influencing operates within the realm of influence, it adopts a distinct guise. Unlike negative critiques or debunking exposés, it stands as a counterforce against the pervasive influence of product-pushing influencers spanning various domains.

Rahul Titus, the global head of influence at Ogilvy, delineates that the most prominent de-influencing categories encompass beauty, fashion, and technology. “It’s particularly prominent at the extremes of the pricing spectrum. On one end, we observe it prevalent in lower-priced FMCG products like makeup and cosmetics, where alternatives abound. On the other, it manifests in higher-priced tech items such as noise-cancelling headphones and hair dryers, where competition is scant,” he elaborates.

Razdan elucidates, “De-influencers constitute a distinctive group of content creators who critique products deemed as excessively hyped, detrimental, or environmentally unfriendly. Concurrently, they advocate for more sustainable and ethical alternatives to their audience, including dupes or do-it-yourself options.”

However, Titus notes that this isn’t a novel phenomenon. “I recall observing videos where the initial wave of YouTubers would exhibit their ’empties,’ showcasing products they’ve used up, like shampoo bottles, or their most-worn clothing pieces over the years,” he reminisces. “Yet, its heightened and enduring popularity mirrors the contemporary outlook on consumerism. Audiences recognize that they aren’t obliged to purchase every item endorsed by an influencer.

Brand alignment

However, the notion of de-influencing carries varied connotations depending on the cultural context. In India, for instance, it diverges from the emphasis on overconsumption and hype found elsewhere, instead placing a greater emphasis on quality.

Mitesh Kothari, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of White Rivers Media, a digital marketing agency, observes, “This trend is taking root across India’s beauty, fashion, and activewear sectors, spotlighting substandard products and questionable practices.

Kothari concurs, emphasizing, “This isn’t about negativity; it’s a plea for authenticity. Brands need to recognize this awakening and prioritize genuine communication and high-quality products. The transition towards consumer-driven feedback signifies the evolution of the Indian market, where trust and authenticity reign supreme.

Leveraging authenticity

While some experts speculate that de-influencing might be a transient trend, others argue that there remains ample opportunity for brands to harness the potential of this niche group of influencers.

“De-influencers are undoubtedly in a favorable position to secure brand deals because they are selective about the brands they associate with, consequently fostering greater trust among their followers,” explains Viraj Sheth, CEO of Monk Entertainment, a talent management and influencer marketing agency.

Thanks to this trust, Sheth believes that de-influencers achieve a higher conversion rate “than influencers who constantly switch brands every two days.”

However, brands engaging with de-influencers should be prepared for constructive feedback, as these influencers only entertain collaborations that resonate with their values.

Although Titus isn’t particularly supportive of brands partnering with de-influencers, he suggests that if brands are mentioned negatively in de-influencing content, they should perceive it as an opportunity for improvement. “It’s quite uncommon for a feedback loop to be this rapid,” Titus remarks. “Pay attention to what your audiences are expressing, the reasons behind their sentiments, and actively participate in the dialogue instead of shying away. While engaging in potentially unfavorable discussions may seem intimidating, embracing them will garner appreciation from your audience.