(HS Insider)


#TrippinWithTarte: When do we stop buying into influencer culture?

In light of Tarte's recent influencer trip, it's time to reconsider the ways in which we put influencers on a pedestal.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/lilyneil/" target="_self">Lily Neil</a>

Lily Neil

March 29, 2023
There are few moments in the day when we are not inundated with information. Every time you open TikTok or Instagram, there is someone peddling a new mascara, viral Amazon finds, or new TV series. From the clothes we wear to the food we eat, we are in a constant state of being influenced. According to InfluencerMarketingHub, the influencer market was valued at 1.7 billion dollars in 2016. Six years later, it is now estimated to be worth over 16.4 billion dollars. Although the influencer economy is sensational and undoubtedly fascinating, its flaws are becoming more prevalent than ever. 

This month, Tarte Cosmetics, a popular beauty brand, took 29 influencers and their plus-ones on a lavish trip to Dubai to promote the launch of their new $40 Maracuja Juicy Glow Foundation, which hasn’t even hit retail shelves yet. While brand trips are nothing new in the world of influencing, the extravagance of Tarte’s trip is making headlines and dominating social media feeds, but not in a good way. Social media users are calling out the brand for being unrelatable given the impending recession in the United States. While it is hard to deny the opulent nature of the trip, it was a controversial yet brilliant business move. 

Several TikTok users estimate that it cost Tarte around $100,000 per influencer and their plus one. This ticket price included $22,000 Emirates airfare, hotel accommodations, food and beverage, and activities. In return, influencers were expected to promote the Tarte products across their social media platforms. While the trip was extremely expensive, it is likely that Tarte will make a profit from it given they enlisted top-performing influencers such as Alix Earle and Monet McMichael. These content creators are not only relatable, but they have dedicated fanbases with buying power. 

In response to backlash Tarte Cosmetics faced on social media, Tarte CEO and founder Maureen Kelly explained to Glossy, “Tarte has always prioritized spending its marketing budgets on ‘building relationships’ compared with, say, a Super Bowl commercial.”

Partnerships with the brand usually involve a paid social media post, which can range anywhere from hundreds of dollars for a micro-influencer to hundreds of thousands for influencers with bigger followings. Instead of paying influencers for this traditional form of marketing, Tarte took their marketing efforts a step further by hosting a trip that would likely result in multiple forms of advertising for the same price they would pay for a single Instagram story or 15-second TikTok clip. Not to mention, the trip itself further encourages people to buy into the influencer’s lifestyle, which is now forever associated with Tarte because of the sensational nature of the trip. 

Tarte has now set the bar incredibly high for other companies, including those outside of the cosmetics industry. While not all companies can afford to host an over-the-top trip like Tarte, the campaign demonstrates the power of experiential marketing, which is key for Gen Z and millennial consumers. Billboards and TV advertisements are no longer enough for these demographics. Instead, younger consumers want to buy into a lifestyle, an experience, or a memory. 

While only time will tell the true success of the #TrippinwithTarte campaign, the trip raises important questions surrounding the tone-deafness of the influencer industry. If the United States goes through a recession, how are we going to hold brands and influencers accountable for insensitive behavior surrounding wealth and excess? After all, these influencers rely on people to buy products regardless of the financial climate. Ultimately, it begs the question: Do we punish them for trying to make a living? Regardless, it is time that we take off our rose-colored glasses as both fans and consumers and see the industry for what it really is.

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