“Why is your Instagram account all skinny white girls? This is 2019, there is a lot more diverse girls out there who need to be seen.” That is what a comment on faith-based fashion brand Altar’d State’s Instagram account read this week after ir posted imagery from the recent “blogger adventure” it hosted in Denver to promote its latest apparel offerings. “There’s something missing in this photo,” another commenter asserted. “Diversity. Have ya heard of it?”
Maryville, Tennessee-based Altar’d State is hardly the first brand to be taken to task for its skewed selection of influencers, the often-highly followed social media figures tapped to help promote brands and their wares to their followers. Backlash against the 10-year old womenswear brand comes after a similar push for diversity swept up California-based Revolve in early 2018 when many of its Instagram followers, seemingly tired of repetitive images of skinny, light-skinned influencers, called foul.
Revolve – which went public on the NASDAQ in June raising $212 million – has become well-known for its frequent influencer activations. Instead of “shooting traditional fashion editorial ads, Revolve began regularly hosting getaway trips from Palm Springs to Croatia, inviting influencers to relax, hang out and have fun while posting images of themselves wearing Revolve clothing, according to Los Angeles-based creative agency, Mistress. Those images, which get posted to the individual influencers’ Instagram accounts, complete with links to purchase the items and the ubiquitous hashtag, #RevolveAroundTheWorld.
The problem? The marked lack of diversity in nearly all of its influencer-centric Instagram campaigns, which has prompted scathing comments and a new hashtag: #RevolveSoWhite.
These instances are hardly isolated ones. In fact, they are part of “a larger trend of big and small brands being called out on social media — especially Instagram — for not considering diversity in [their] picks of influencers, especially on these influencer trips,” CNBC noted on Thursday. Increased criticism comes as “diversity advocates and other onlookers question both the social and business consequences of hiring only thin, white, able-bodied, 20-something influencers.”
Not only are these campaigns angering Instagram users, they are excluding a $1.2 trillion market. According to Nielsen’s 2018 report, Black Dollars Matter: The Sales Impact of Black Consumers, which blogger Alicia Tenise pointed to in speaking to CNBC, while African Americans make up just 14 percent of the U.S. population, they are a powerful demographic from a bottom-line perspective. The New York-based data consultancy’s report, black consumers are not only “speaking directly to brands in unprecedented ways and achieving headline-making results,” they are “are making considerable contributions to the overall market—in some cases representing more than 50% of the overall spending in key product categories.”
Nielsen asserted that “mainstream manufacturers across other industries are also seizing the opportunity to create specific products that appeal to diverse consumers,” including in the cosmetics and haircare space. The dollar figures at play “show that investment by multinational conglomerates in R&D to develop products and marketing that appeal to diverse consumers is, indeed, paying off handsomely,” Cheryl Grace, Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement at Nielsen told Fortune. Yet, fashion continues to lags far behind and influencer campaigns are often hard proof.
Not only are such biased advertising efforts a bad look on Instagram, where socially-motivated users have become increasingly vocal, and bad for brands’ bottom lines, they suggest a larger lack of insight. “With 43% of the 75 million Millennials in the U.S. identifying as African American, Hispanic or Asian, if a brand doesn’t have a multicultural strategy, it doesn’t have a growth strategy,” Andrew McCaskill, Nielsen’s Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Multicultural Marketing told Fortune.