Adidas Yeezy sneakers worn by someone. You can only see the sneakers and about a foot of the person's legs in jeans.
Editorial

Influencer Marketing Lessons Learned From Kanye West Fallout

5 minute read
Justin Racine avatar
Thinking about partnering with an influencer on a marketing campaign? Think long and hard about it.

“I miss the old Kanye, straight from the 'Go Kanye, chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye, I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye, The always rude Kanye.”

You know, I really didn’t want to have to address this topic. I was a big Kanye fan — his entire journey and success as both and artist and an entrepreneur really were inspiring. There’s no question — Kanye made some poor decisions and said some things that no one should ever say, which is unfortunate because of all that he has achieved. The backlash and excommunication from brands that backed Kanye has been swift and unforgiving. 

The Influencer Domino Effect

Even more unfortunate, however, is the impact Kanye had as an influencer for brands that carried and supported his products. From Adidas to Balenciaga, brands have likely built and planned their budget and projected revenue for not only the rest of 2022, but for 2023. That being said, they made these projections with Kanye, not without — so now what?

How does Adidas recovery lost earnings form Yeezy branded shoes?How will Balenciaga potentially build a whole new line of fashion products that they may have planned to collaborate with Kanye on for the 2023 season?

In short, they won’t — which in short, is Armageddon for 2023 planned earnings from these brands.

Which brings up a very interesting topic. How can brands partner with influencers on a ridiculous scale who is so massive, so global and brings so much pull to consumers with the off chance that this influencer pulls a "Kanye" and goes off the deep in with comments and remarks?

It truly is, or could be — making a deal with the devil.

However, there are three ways that brands can position themselves to hopefully prevent unforeseen circumstances, like what we are seeing with Kayne.

Related Article: The 10 Commandments of B2B Influencer Marketing

Re-Read Those Chapters

Kanye West getting dropped from brands isn’t anything new; the only thing that is new is the context and reasoning behind it. Tiger Woods is another example where brands made the decision to walk away (again, under very different circumstance).

What’s important to note is that brands do their research with influencers before investing massive amounts of capital, energy and planning to back them into the products with which they go to market. Tiger Woods maybe didn’t have many red flags on this topic, but Kanye sure did. He’s previously made statements in the past that should have caused brands to raise their eyebrows.

Being able to re-read the chapters of an influencer's life will help brands understand the type of person they are looking to partner with and what they stand for — which is essential before signing any sort of endorsement deal.

Have 'The Talk'

Based upon some of those footnotes from previous chapters of said influencer's life — you may need to have "the talk." The talk should explore any issues or public statements influencers have had in the past that may be taken negatively, especially if your brand is considering partnering with this person.

Learning Opportunities

The talk should also be a legal contract, that states in writing that if the influencer says or does things that don’t align with the brand image — they could be dropped or financially responsible. (Which I’m sure the above mentioned brands have).

Related Article: Why Your Brand Should Care About Influencer Marketing

Listen to Your Customers

Hopefully, the influencer you’re considering partnering with doesn’t have any previous issues, and everything is smooth sailing. However, in the social digital world we all live in — this is unlikely. You and the brand you represent will need to decide if previous shortcomings are worth moving past, or if you should just forget partnering with the influencer and move on to someone else.

What’s important to keep in mind is your customer sentiment. What’s important to the people who purchase from you? What will your customers not stand for? Answering these questions will help you assess the risk in partnering with someone that potential has a history of "negative press" due to comments or situations.

Conclusion: Worth the Divorce?

At the end of the day, you really never can predict what will happen. In the case of Tiger Woods, many brands dropped him during the challenges he had in his personal life; however, many of the deal that he lost came back or new ones emerged. Again, the Tiger Woods story is not the Kanye West story — and I’m not advocating for these brands to take him back nor stand for his behavior.

What I am saying is that there are always signs, and brands need to really take a look at these warning signs and potential red flags before getting down on one knee and entering into a marriage that could cause significant damage to brand image. Many of the brands that dropped Kanye are warranted, but further questions will develop around why these brands entered into agreements in the first place, especially because of all the previous signs that may have been there.

Willie Nelson once said, “You know why divorces are so expensive? Because they’re worth it.” Well, in the case of Kanye — this divorce will be expensive and likely worth it. Unfortunately, brands will have to find a way to move forward. They’ll need to become creative and look inward to the historic foundational elements that allowed their brand to become successful.

Look to start dialogues with customers, understand their thoughts and feelings around what’s important to them, and move forward, together, for the betterment of the brand and for humanity.

About the author

Justin Racine

Justin Racine serves as Senior Commerce Consultant at Perficient, a global digital consulting firm serving enterprise clients throughout North America. At Perficient, Justin helps clients achieve their business goals through commerce-enabled technologies.

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