The "Influencer" Dilemma: How Bad Products Get Sold

The Influencer.

If you’re not familiar with the term, here’s the definition: a person or social media profile with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.

Influencer marketing is one of the most popular strategies clothing companies use to get their products out in front of people. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a great strategy. Brands pay influencers for their recommendation and association. This helps to give their brand some credibility and hopefully increase sales.

For a while, this wasn’t a bad strategy. Good clothing brands paid good influencers to promote their products. Men were exposed to great stuff that they might not have known about, the clothing brands continued to make quality items at a nice profit, and the influencer earned both cash and trust from their audience by recommended something that was valuable.

But, like all things that are profitable, the market soon became saturated, both by influencers and clothing brands.

It’s not shocking that so many people want to become influencers. From the outside, it seems like a glamorous gig. You get free products, people pay you to post content, and all you have to do is take some photos. Plus, the barrier of entry is low. As long as you have a smartphone and a social media account, you’ve got a shot. This has lead to a plethora of men’s style accounts run by people who don’t know much about men’s style.

You also have the clothing brands. Right now, it’s never been easier to start a brand. You can outsource nearly everything. Because of new advancements, you don’t even need to store your own product. There are companies around the globe that will put your logo on a generic product, and even ship it out for you. This leads to lots of crappy product out there with a lot of people pushing it. All you need to do is bring in the orders. But finding customers is a lot harder to do, especially with new brands popping up daily.

Decades ago, your brand would have to build up a reputation before people would buy from you. People would talk. You’d have to sell the clothing stores and their buyer on carrying your line. You’d spend thousands on traditional advertising methods.

With the internet where it is today, we’ve shortcut all of that, which isn’t a bad thing for quality brands, but since the barrier to entry is significantly lower now, bad brands have a much better shot at offloading crappy product currently than they did years ago.

Let’s say you and I want to start a clothing brand. We're going to make accessories for men. We have no experience, but we've heard this is a good way to make a quick dollar. We've found someone in another country who will stamp our logo on some stainless steel bracelets. In fact, we already have some product ready to go. We’ve built out a website and we’re ready to take orders. Now, what is the quickest way to actually get people to buy our overpriced product?

Taking it around to stores is worthless and time-consuming. Store buyers will easily see that we’re offering a subpar product and don’t commit to quality.

Traditional advertisement is too expensive. We have no customers and thus no money. Online ads are cheap, but no one knows our product yet and we have no reviews, so people aren’t likely to trust us, and for good reason.

The best solution? How about we pay someone with a large following to tell the world about our product. This way, we get exposure, align our brand with someone on a higher level, and get a trusted endorsement. They don’t have the discernment to tell if this is a quality product or not, and they aren’t even charging much (For the sake of this example, I’ve assumed were going to hire a lower-level influencer).

And so the cycle goes. A lot of bad companies, putting bad products in the hands of bad influencers.

This is not always the case or even the majority. There are some fantastic influencers out there that bring well deserved attention to some great brands, but the market has become so saturated and I’ve seen this play out so frequently that I feel obligated to bring attention to it. I believe that influencer marketing as we know it, will end, much sooner than later.

Too many bad apples ruined it for everyone and now men have a hard time trusting what any influencer recommends. I know this because guys usually find me after they’ve blindly taken the recommendations of an influencer, only to be left with a pile of shoddy products.

There is really one way to make sure you’re not getting duped:

Do your homework.

Read the reviews, do some Googling, and learn what goes into making good clothing. This takes some time, but in the long run, you’ll be able to swerve past subpar brands from a mile away.

If you don’t want to concern yourself with learning this stuff, then the other solution is to stick with heritage brands. If a brand has been around for a long time, there’s a good shot they know what they’re doing. Heritage brands have a lot more reputation on the line and they’ve been doing it a lot longer, so you can bet they know a thing or two.

Guys are surprised when I’ll often suggest a pair of $50 Levi’s. Hardcore menswear guys like me love brands like Levi’s. They invented jeans. You don’t mess with that.

I'll also regularly suggest other items from heritage brands. Shirts from Brooks Brothers (1818), eyewear from Moscot (1915), or boots from Redwing (1905). All great brands that are still killing it today with their main offerings.

Learn this stuff, do your homework, don’t default to influencers, and when in doubt, go with heritage brands. I promise you that the new brand you’ve just heard of on Instagram isn’t holding the keys to your style solutions.