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The selfless influence of tagging a brand, a novelty
This week, Kylie Jenner caught heat for not tagging Loud Brand Studios, the Black-owned designer of a dress she was wearing in an Instagram post. She’s since tagged it after a lot of commotion on social media and has released a defensive statement about it.
This situation may seem relatively minute based on everything else going on, but it’s emblematic of a larger ongoing issue with how influencers work.
On Monday, Kylie posted a series of Instagrams in this dress while staying in a luxury resort in Utah. Her endorsement of the dress is a big deal for designer Jedidiah Duyile, the 25-year-old owner of the brand. After a few initial comments called Kylie out for not tagging Jedidiah, the backlash found its way to Twitter. Some viral tweets claimed Kylie was “refusing” to tag Loud Brand Studios and that she had been trying to control the backlash by limiting comments on the photos.
Kylie then responded on Twitter. “Ok this is just a reach. why would i ever REFUSE to tag a brand and block comments. this is completely false,” she wrote, tagging Jedidiah’s brand. “i think this brand is amazing and i wanted to show support and will continue to do so. everyone go check out @LoudBrndStudios.”
This, however, did not quiet the situation. Critics pointed out that Kylie has always made an effort to tag brands, like Dior and Chanel and Maison Margiela. The situation raised eyebrows. “Why would she tag the big brands but not smaller ones? That kinda suspicious,” one person tweeted.
I reached out to Kylie’s team for comment. But here’s what I think might have happened: Kylie, like so many other huge personalities on social media, is motivated to tag brands because of either a business deal they already have or an opportunity they wish to create or maintain. Brands like Dior or Chanel do not need more promotion or visibility. However, Kylie might have been directly paid to wear their items and tag them, or she was given them for free to post, or she’s done enough business with them in the past that this was a courtesy to keep grooming their relationship.
Or, heck, she simply just wanted to get more free designer things from them. I know plenty of microinfluencers in my real life who habitually do this, and it works.
In short, many influencers are self-motivated. This is not breaking news. But it might help explain why she’s chosen to tag certain brands over others, knowing full well how much influence she has. I don’t know if Kylie “refused” to tag Loud Brand Studios as much as the thought probably never crossed her mind because she does not get much clout or capital out of doing it. Jedidiah did not pay her to do it, and Kylie does not need the relationship with Jedediah as much as she may need the relationship (money and free things) with Chanel or Balmain or Gucci.
Kylie not tagging a Black-owned business seems more negligent than malicious. She simply didn’t think to. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem, either. Kylie seems fully aware of her power and influence when she’s closing multimillion-dollar deals, so how does she conveniently forget when she has an opportunity to signal-boost a young, up-and-coming designer? If all major influencers are compelled to share and promote brands based on money — once again, in the famous words of Akilah Hughes — “you are not an influencer, you’re a salesperson for brands.”
And, to be fair, Kris Jenner has made all of her children the ultimate salespeople for brands. They are so good at it, it is absolutely a unique skill. But I’m not sure if many successful influencers were also taught to amplify other businesses just because...it might be thoughtful to do? Other businesses, specifically Black-owned ones, may not have had the same opportunities she’s had, and she could really make a difference in their lives and sales by simply tagging them. Equity.
Kylie has posted in support of Black Lives Matter, even sharing this nice Martin Luther King Jr. quote. But I hope she’s more aware than ever about how she individually can really help with basic, simple things, like a finger tap of a tag.
She may not get a check or any clout from a brand like Loud Brand Studios by tagging it. But she can, IDK, feel minimally good and responsible? And that is something.
Until next time,