Why every marketing strategy eventually will fail

Influencer Marketing is riding the Hype Cycle
Reading Time: 4 min

Marketing trends come and go. I am always surprised how slow the process is. When I think a trend is about to die, then it has almost not even started. While I watch it grow I think: “you know that this won’t work for very long right? When you say that [latest marketing trend] is the future of marketing, then you are doing so in an ironic way, right?”

But no, every new trend is the future of marketing. And eventually they will all fail. Just much later than I thought.

Everything works until it stops working

Gartner’s Hype Cycle is an interesting snapshot in time. If you look at the charts over the years you can see terms enter from the left, do a slow rise to fame. Then, without exception, they slide down into the trough of disillusionment.

The Hype Cycle gives the impression that it is a collective thing with the different phases, but it is not. Every actor is in their own phase in the cycle, and there are winners and loosers in this game.

“Too-early-adopters” are showing the way!

There is the “too-early-adopters” that sees the opportunity, initiates the trend and does the first failed experiments. The “early-adopters” are still learning and will not reap the full benefits of the hype.

Then there is the “smart-adopters” that have realized that the old tools doesn’t work anymore and are wide open for something new. And suddenly, there it is, the new shiny thing! They have the skill and experience to ride the hype wave and gets to enjoy the full attention that comes from being on top of the game.

That is when the “me-too-adopters” get going. Slow in the start, maybe because they are busy implementing their marketing plan from 3 years ago.

When the big herd starts moving the market quickly gets oversaturated. When everybody is doing the same thing it is very hard to stand out. You need to do more drastic things to get noticed, scream louder. The customer gets overwhelmed and what was “the future of marketing” stops working.

When we get here the “smart-adopters” are already riding a new wave.

History repeats itself. But when?

Here is an example that for some reason has gone totally under Gartner’s radar: Influencer Marketing! I am not really sure why they don’t think it deserves to be hyped.

Others do! AdWeek for example predicts “Influencers Are Bigger Than Ever, and They’re Just Getting Started”. Influencer marketing has grown exponentially the last couple of years, and seems ripe for mainstream. So where are we in the cycle?

Going mainstream means that more marketing money flows into the influencer market which drives costs higher, increases the number of people calling themselves influencers, increases volume, reduces overall quality, overwhelms the user, fragments the market, reduces effectiveness. All this while lacking a good way to measure results. Sounds like it is about to implode?

Absolutely! In three years.

As I said before , I am really bad at predicting timing in trends. If I think something is about to happen, then, based on experience, it is three years away.

And then there is the question about authenticity that made the fans trust them in the first place. How quick will that trust erode, especially if the market is filled with gold diggers? Oh, I forgot, three years.

This is only the beginning though, please get ready for…

“The Rise of the Brandfluencatars”

Lil Miquela. Easier to control (not my words)

Kudos to the writer of this article in Wired who came up with that word. Brandfluencatars. Wow! Anyway, the article is about Virtual Influencers and more, a must read!

With millions of followers the marketing potential is massive and getting rid of the human makes the deal even sweeter. As the CEO of an influencer marketplace puts it: “They’re much easier to control”. And the trust and authenticity? Forget that, the Real Influencer hype has already killed that by now.

Imagine social media in a world where there are an infinite number of Virtual Influencers. That is pure dystopia right there. Luckily the trend would have killed itself by then, hype cycle suicide, and we are busy hyping some other market trend.

I bet it will be something with AI.


Most brands are not capable to be authentic and earn the customers’ trust. The only alternative is to associate itself with something authentic and hope it rubs off. Influencer Marketing is one way to achieve just that.

The challenge is how to stay authentic when the strategy goes mainstream and all incentives pull in another direction. It happened with content marketing. The original idea was to deliver content with true value to the customer. By grinding through the hype cycle the content became just another disruption.

The result is marketing where the only value is distraction.

If we want a marketing strategy that doesn’t eventually fail we have to do a reset. We have to do marketing that delivers true value to the customer, where we deserve the trust and loyalty of the customers. That is a long term investment.


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