Home » Tarte Island: Bora Bora Influencer Campaign Met With Online Backlash

Tarte Island: Bora Bora Influencer Campaign Met With Online Backlash

by Marko Florentino
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Sonia Elyss, a 38-year-old beauty marketing specialist in New York City who has worked in influencer marketing for a decade, acknowledged the problem. “This isn’t the first time that I personally have witnessed influencer fatigue,” she said. “At peak influencer culture for Instagram, before TikTok was even a thing, we had the same scenario.”

The difference now, Ms. Elyss pointed out, is the scale of influence made possible by TikTok, which has more than 150 million users in the United States, according to the company. On Instagram, people typically seek out or follow influencers. On TikTok, influencers’ content is more likely to pop up in your feed.

Rachel Ferraro, a 25-year-old law student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., described the Tarte campaign as “tone deaf,” adding that it was off-putting to “normal people like me who are still in school, who have a lot of debt.” She added that she had followed a few of the influencers who went to Bora Bora and had been excited to see what happened on the trip, only to find herself disheartened by the conspicuous displays of copious swag.

Tarte does not buy the gifts received by its guests. Instead, other companies looking to raise their profiles donate them. Ms. Kelly, the Tarte chief executive, noted that the majority of giveaway items in the bungalows were from female-founded brands, several of which had been part of Tarte’s small-business incubator program. She added that the Four Seasons had given the company an “extremely reduced rate,” but she declined to comment on the company’s total investment in the trip.

Tarte is no stranger to backlash. Critics of the brand’s Dubai trip last year noted a lack of diversity among the invitees; a subsequent trip to Miami came under fire when the company was accused of treating Black guests differently from other influencers. Ms. Kelly said the company had made several changes since those trips, including companywide diversity trainings and the hiring and promotion of Black women in critical roles. All of the guests on the recent excursion stayed in identical rooms and had identical perks, she added.

Ms. Blackmon, the Tarte trip fan, said she was pleased to see a more diverse group on the Bora Bora trip and was not swayed by the critics of the brand’s social media campaign. “I personally don’t think it’s out of touch,” she said. “I think people are upset that they’re not there.” When asked if she would get on a plane tomorrow if Tarte were to invite her, Ms. Blackmon said, “I’d be on the plane today.”

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