Deinfluenching: Should Brands be Worried?

Monday 20th March 2023

If you’ve been active on social media within the last couple of weeks, you may be aware of the ‘deinfluencing’ trend, a phenomenon that is rising in popularity.

At the time of writing this article, views on TikTok for the hashtag #deinfluencing are at 172 million, increasing by 40 million in one week.

But what is ‘deinfluencing’, and should brands be worried?

What is deinfluencing?

Rather than influencing ‘positively’ by convincing consumers to buy products, content creators are sharing products or services which they have found disappointing and telling their followers not to waste their money.

Amid the current ‘cost of living crisis’, it is no surprise that this has grown legs.

Should brands be worried?

One of the first things to consider is whether ‘deinfluencers’ are putting themselves at risk of legal action for their negative reviews, i.e., where does honest criticism cross the line into defamation?

In general terms, defamation describes a statement which might lower the public’s estimation of a person or company and cause serious harm to their reputation. A written defamatory statement is libel and a statement which is spoken or in temporary form is slander. In the case of social media, most defamatory statements would be libellous.

However, the bar for a defamation claim is high. An aggrieved brand owner would have to establish that the deinfluencing content was actually harmful to the business and caused it to suffer financial loss. Even if this were established, the content creator may be able to defend a claim on the basis that the statement made was either justifiably true, or an honest comment clearly grounded in that influencer’s opinion.

A brand owner would also need to take into account the possible further reputational damage of pursuing such a claim in the first place.  Would you really want the public to view you as a brand which shoots down any content creator who is providing honest feedback on products or services?

Should brands incorporate competitor deinfluencing?

The adoption by brands of de-influencing tactics against competitors is possible, but risky.

A court considering a defamation claim may not look too kindly on a business using underhand tactics to try to gain a commercial advantage by undermining a competitor.

Consumer perception may not be too different.

If you have any queries regarding this topic or any other matter, please speak to a member of our Retail team.