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Gen Zers want you to know they are sick of extravagant influencer brand trips

two women on an influencer brand trip, private jet
Gen Z is tired of seeing influencers sent on lavish trips for free (stock image).halbergman/Getty Images
  • Gen Z is growing disinterested in the extravagant brand trips influencers are sent on.

  • As a generation, they favor authenticity and ethical consumption over affluence and consumerism.

  • But they may not be the target audience anyway.

Gen Z is tired of seeing influencers sent on extravagant brand trips.

The generation that has grown up with social media says the lavish lifestyles of the internet's rich and famous no longer thrill them.

And affluence, it seems, just doesn't represent what they aspire to anymore.

"They value authenticity, sustainability, ethical consumption," Katya Varbanova, a social media marketer and content creator, told Business Insider.

"And some of these trips symbolize the disconnect between the brands they support and their personal values."

Tarte brand trips are famed in the influencer world

For years, brand trips have been a way to solidify a company's name among the young people who watch YouTube and scroll TikTok and Instagram.

None have taken advantage of this as much as Tarte.

The makeup brand has been sending influencers to tropical destinations since 2013 with its #TrippinWithTarte series. In the early years, it paid off, with certain items like its "Shape Tape" concealer reaching icon status in the beauty YouTube community.

But Tarte's trips have also become notorious over time, with allegations of racial bias and unfair treatment and on-lookers labeling them a "turn-off" and "out of touch."

Tarte's founder and CEO, Maureen Kelly told BI in an email the company has "always believed in the power of genuine connections over flashy advertising," and rather than spending millions on ads, they "invest in relationships."

"For nearly a decade, we've been organizing trips, constantly reinventing them to bring our community closer together," she said.

This month, Tarte flew a group of social media stars to Bora Bora on private jets to be showered with Veuve and caviar. Their hotel rooms were full of beauty products, clothes, and other gifts.

On TikTok, the backlash started immediately, with commenters saying they found the content "annoying and not entertaining" and they were "surprised" Tarte was still persisting with these trips.

Some also criticized the company for the environmental impact of the private jets, mirroring the criticism fast-fashion brand Shein received last year when a group of influencers were sent to its factories in China.

"I have never wanted to purchase from Tarte less," one commenter said. "I haven't bought Tarte in YEARS and will never again," declared another.

Tahrea Sherman, a TikToker who covers pop culture, told BI that more than anything, it was the timing that "riled people up."

"A lot of people's dollars are just stretched thin," she said. "People are really getting sick of these corporations making millions, even billions of dollars off of the working people and rewarding people that already have money."

Young people are in their "boycott era," said Sherman, who is on the cusp of millennials and Gen Z, and are no longer impressed or feeling like they have to buy certain things to feel worthy.

For example, the term "deinfluencing" blew up last year, when a group of content creators aimed to topple the culture of needless shopping and fast fashion, telling people they don't need the latest makeup product, bag, or clothing item they're being advertised on TikTok shop.

This, along with a cost-of-living crisis, higher rents and mortgage rates, and credit-card debt racking up, means seeing already-wealthy influencers given free, luxury vacations doesn't have mass appeal anymore.

"They already make what some people make in a year on one post and now they're being flown out to Bora Bora," Sherman said.

"Nobody wants to watch somebody eating caviar on their private jet when they're scraping up money to buy eggs. They're eating fish eggs in the sky, and you can't even buy great-value eggs from Walmart."

Phil Treagus-Evans, the CEO of social media marketing agency Giraffe Social Media, told BI the shift occurred partly due to the pandemic, where people started to favor more authentic content and move away from "things being overly polished."

"More than ever, consumers are wanting content that feels 'real' and relatable," he said. "Influencers being paid to fly on private jets to exotic locations is the opposite."

Controversy means brand recognition

The controversy may not be all that much of a concern, Varbanova said. In fact, it may be exactly what Tarte is after.

"The number one killer of content and brand growth is obscurity. It's not hate," Varbanova said. "Because at the end of the day, whether you love us or hate us, at least you know about us."

She added that she thinks there's a Tarte marketing executive out there somewhere laughing and thinking to themselves: "Damn, we didn't get enough controversy this time."

"If Tarte was a brand new brand starting from scratch now, I don't think it would work," she added. "I think the reason it works is that they are already established and they already have their target audience."

Gen Z is not that target audience. Varbanova said there are some young people — mostly millennials and DINKs — who still see over-the-top, extravagant brand trips as aspirational.

This demographic is probably middle-class, fairly high-earning, and may even have a desire to be influencers themselves.

"They're not targeting the average person," Varbanova said. Rather, the content is for people with disposable income who "would love to go to Bora Bora" and want to work harder because they desire "a more luxurious life."

If Gen Z's spending money is the goal, brand trips are missing the mark. To interest young people again, companies have to find a way to put on trips that promote equality or sustainability, Varbanova said.

Sherman said she'd also like to see brands sending "everyday people" on some of these excursions: "Instead of sending these influencers that already have millions of followers and make tens of thousands of dollars, send teachers, send nurses," she said. "It'll make consumers feel better about supporting companies that give back to the community in that way."

Gen Z's issue isn't with people being rich, they're just against waste and splurging for splurging's sake. More of a focus on wearing recycled clothing and paying fair wages to the staff would go some way to bringing their interest back, Varbanova said.

"They want to see, OK, you're rich, and?" she said. "How are you using that to better society?"

Kelly told BI giving back has always been a priority to Tarte, and on the Bora Bora trip, the company donated to a local animal shelter to fund the care of 80 dogs.

"At Tarte, it's not just about makeup; it's about building connections and spreading kindness wherever we go," Kelly said.

Read the original article on Business Insider