- Instagrammer @Arii said she failed to sell 36 T-shirts to her 2.6 million followers.
- In a now-deleted Instagram post, she said she was launching a clothing line, but had to sell 36 items from the initial drop in order for the company to continue producing them.
- She wasn’t met with much sympathy.
- Some people pointed out that the Instagram star didn’t promote her products well, while others suggested the news is a sign the influencer bubble is set to burst.
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An Instagram star has sparked a discussion about how powerful social media influencers really are after failing to sell 36 T-shirts to her 2.6 million followers.
Arii, whose real name is Arianna Renee, decided to launch her own clothing line, ERA, with an initial drop of T-shirts.
The 18-year-old could perhaps be forgiven for presuming her huge follower count would translate to sales, but this was not to be the case.
Renee has now deleted the Instagram post where she explained what happened, but not before countless people managed to screengrab it.
I’m not surprised.. but it’s also crazy.. couldn’t sell 36 units. pic.twitter.com/4ZHfwXyfYy
— Old Town Road Taahir (@PhillyTheBoss) May 26, 2019
The Miami-based influencer said she had been told by the company producing the brand that she needed to sell at least 36 T-shirts from the first run of products in order for the line to be continued, but Renee didn't hit the target.
In the lengthy caption, she explained that she "knew it was gonna be hard," but that she "was getting such good feedback that people loved it and were gonna buy it."
"No one has kept their word so now the company won't be able to send out the orders to people who actually bought s--- and it breaks my heart," Renee said.
"The people I thought who would support me, really didn't nor did they share any of my posts (all I asked for), sounds b----- but like no shade to anyone, I've supported everyone's music or whatever they've asked for my support on and I couldn't even get it in return."
She explained that the people who had ordered a T-shirt would be refunded, and said she would take the experience as "a wake up call to work harder."
Unfortunately for Renee, her post wasn't met with much sympathy online, with many people swiftly sharing their two cents on the marketing fail.
One person on Twitter suggested that "the influencer bubble is bursting."
The influencer bubble is bursting. This young lady has well over 2 million followers and couldn’t sell 36 shirts. Focus on genuine engagement and not followers cuz they ain’t gonna buy a thing. pic.twitter.com/uOSVxc2k4D
— Flawless and Brown (@kissmyelite) May 27, 2019
Others suggested the main error was with how Renee marketed the product, pointing out that the T-shirts didn't really fit with the rest of her style, and she also didn't do much to promote them.
Renee did not immediately respond to INSIDER's request for comment.
Influencer marketing expert Shirley Leigh-Wood Oakes, cofounder of leading brand agency WickerWood, told INSIDER she isn't surprised Renee failed to sell more T-shirts.
"From careful review of the supposed 'brand' that Arii says she launched, and the first edition T-shirts that were to be the brand's 'hero' launch product, the brand was very poorly created and weak in execution and brand image," she said.
Read more: I went on a professional Instagram photoshoot, and the lengths influencers go to for the perfect picture will shock you
There's also the fact that the T-shirts just weren't very exciting.
"There was nothing special about these T-shirts," Leigh-Wood Oakes said. "Nothing personal, or creative, or inspirational, or exciting. They were simply black, long-sleeved, branded T-shirts. And the marketing was immature, unprofessional, and lazy."
The price of the T-shirts is unknown, but Leigh-Wood Oakes said that "if she priced it too high and her mass followers can't afford they are not going to engage or purchase.
"Especially if it's overpriced and the brand image is weak. Price point is extremely important. This all goes back to understanding your audience."
On Twitter, "campaign and content expert" Jack Appleby highlighted that Renee only posted two images about the product before launching it.
Look at her feed vs her product line. These aren't even close to the same aesthetic.
If you can't imagine her wearing any of these, why would her followers? pic.twitter.com/5CdEdxKUjf
— Jack Appleby (@JuiceboxCA) May 27, 2019
Maybe I missed her IG Stories or promoted posts, but looks like she announced w/ video, only put up one more video, then said she failed 13 days later?
Not one single pic of her in product.
Only two posts even about it?
She basically didn't even try to promote her own product. pic.twitter.com/W28NAd1ogM
— Jack Appleby (@JuiceboxCA) May 27, 2019
Appleby also questioned whether Renee's 2.6 million followers were all real, but even if they weren't, her engagement suggests she should have been able to sell more than 36 T-shirts.
Her two most recent posts have good, real engagement. She definitely has a bunch of real followers.
Does she have 2.6 mil real followers? That's up for debate, as these engagement # are low for 2.6m. But she definitely has enough real followers to sell 36 of literally anything. pic.twitter.com/oNZJX3tdqR
— Jack Appleby (@JuiceboxCA) May 28, 2019
As far as Leigh-Wood Oakes is concerned, there are multiple factors at play as to why the T-shirt launch failed so spectacularly.
"There appear to be many errors in the way that this was executed from the very beginning, which is not only apparent in the way that brand was created and the launch campaign, but also in her response to the brand not selling," she said.
"Lack of promotion on her channels, no content related to the creation or process behind the establishment of the brand, and no personality or emotion."
Read more: Why brands are turning away from big Instagram influencers to work with people who have small followings instead
Leigh-Wood Oakes stressed that it's far too simplistic to assume followers will equate to customers - you need to know your potential consumers.
She added that in her experience, influencers launching their own products fail around 50% of the time, but it is possible to do it successfully.
"Some influencers know their followers and what they want from the influencer," she explained. "Whether it's their fashion style or their beauty advice, they review what their followers go for and they market to that."
She provided influencer Arielle Charnas and lifestyle brand Something Navy as a good example.
"That girl knows what works and she works super hard at creating clothing that is stylish and trendy but about her and her style. If she wouldn't wear it, it doesn't get produced.
"She also works super hard and her followers see that, every day on her channels."
She added: "Followers love to see the behind the scenes, they want to be part of the creative journey with the influencer, see the highs and the lows but see you working to build something that you can share with them. Their purchase is then their way of having a piece of it all."