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Do influencer trips still make sense?

After the Dubai stay offered by beauty brand Tarte went viral on TikTok, opinions are mixed

Do influencer trips still make sense?  After the Dubai stay offered by beauty brand Tarte went viral on TikTok, opinions are mixed

When a story or a person goes viral on TikTok, it usually never takes long before the latest gossip or trend replaces it. Recently, however, a trip organized by a beauty brand that is not particularly big or famous has monopolized the online conversation, sparking heated debates and conflicting opinions. 

The brand in question is called Tarte Cosmetics, it was founded in 1999 by Maureen Kelly, and its latest product is named Maracuja Juicy Glow Foundation. To mark the launch of this foundation, the brand invited twenty-nine influencers (other media outlets counted thirty-three) and plus ones to Dubai for three days of luxury. Flights in Emirates first class, nights at the Ritz-Carlton (where a room costs no less than $1,000), trips to the desert, lavish dinners, and dozens of gifted clothes and accessories. From the amount of TikToks posted from the UAE, aimed at capturing every single moment of the trip, the impression was that of being in front of a live reality show

@alixearle Just incase you didn’t know we are in Dubai

The stars of this marketing operation are some of the most followed beauty and make-up influencers on ByteDance's platform. Meredith DuxburyAlix Earle - who became famous literally overnight, as happened to Emily Mariko some time ago -, Monet McMichaelEllie Zeiler, and many others, totaling 28 million followers. A huge, unimaginable, and above all, specific and targeted audience, something a brand looking for a solid fan base makes gluttonous. 

From the beginning of the trip - namely from the TikToks where the creators packed their suitcases and headed to the airport - the social network began to formulate theories and make assumptions about the stay offered by Tarte. The most frequently asked questions are about the total cost of such an experience, the financial compensation requested by the influencers (rumor has it that a creator like Earle costs no less than $70,000 per sponsored video), the possible agreements made by Tarte with local authorities or other brands. By the way, this is not the first trip organized by the beauty brand; there have been about 20 or so since 2015, but this is the first to have had such a resonance, thanks to (or because of) the popularity of TikTok. 

@meredithduxbury Glowing goddess vibes in Dubai #dubai #uae original sound - Meredith Duxbury

"Every day, brands make decisions about how to spend their marketing budgets. For some companies, that means a huge Super Bowl commercial or a multi-million-dollar contract with a famous athlete or celeb. We’ve never done traditional advertising, and instead we invest in building relationships and building up communities", Tarte's founder told Glossy. Maureen Kelly also specified that none of the creators were paid for the videos they posted and that the brand received no funding from the UAE government. 

So why all this backlash? Many users have pointed out that this stay might look tone-deaf in the current landscape, but Tarte's project Achilles heel wasn't an ethical or moral issue. Days after the Dubai trip, all it's talked about is the expensive location and the undoubtedly crazy spending, sparking speculation and rumors about alleged economic support from the local government or other companies (both denied by Kelly). We completely forgot that the launch of a new product had to be at the heart of it all. A foundation that has indeed appeared in many TikTok videos of those who were there but that has not generated hype up to the level of other items now synonymous with the platform, from Uggs to adidas Samba. In short, the viral journey has unleashed a desire, a need (even envy) only towards the lifestyle shown by the creators, not towards the product that Tarte wanted to promote. Simply, the advertising campaign failed to go beyond an aspiration factor. 

@monetmcmichael good morning vibes (cavewoman jumpscare my b) jeep ride, photoshoot, and gold dinner up next #trippinwithtarte Chill Vibes - Tollan Kim

Undoubtedly many people have learned the brand's name over the last few days, but at least for now, they recognize it linked to certain more or less successful online initiatives. One wonders if this wasn't Tarte's macro objective all along, while, according to rumors, it hasn't recorded any increase in sales after Dubai. Furthermore, on LinkedIn, the brand has posted several announcements for open positions in the marketing sector, as if to acknowledge the failure of a campaign that promised to be bombproof. 

Finally, there is a certain disconnect between Tarte's intentions and the way in which products go viral today on TT. It's Alex Earle herself, Queen Midas of recent months, who proves that the more an item is featured in a natural way, truly used in different skincare routines or Get Ready With Me videos, the more likely it is that the audience will be interested in that product and will end up buying it. The promotion must feel organic in some way, and the appreciation for an item must appear sincere. TikTok people seem to appreciate a kind of authenticity that a branded trip can't guarantee.