A local jewellery brand known as "By Invite Only" is caught in a public spat with an influencer it was looking to work with. This has resulted in other brand owners siding with By Invite Only, sharing their working experiences with the influencer named Elaine Heng (known as Elaine Jasmine online).
The saga unfolded when Trixie Khong, owner of online jewellery store By Invite Only, posted a series of screenshots detailing her experience working with Heng. Heng was called out for not delivering a social media post promoting Khong’s brand after multiple alleged chases, and eventually asked for a refund, which also faced delays.
Heng decided to also publicly address the matter in an Instagram Live story and Instagram post to give her side of the story. Along with explaining what led to the delays, Heng also revealed that the products sent to her were also of "poor quality" and was not something she wanted to share with her followers.
Since the story unfolded, multiple brand owners have also come out with their own screenshots which detail similar working experiences with Heng. This included Sylvia Lim, owner at Vivre Activewear, a locally-based active wear shop and brand owner of MFW (mfwstore.com), Malvina Fransisca Wijaya.
When contacted by Marketing, Khong said in a statement that the brand would not be pursuing legal action now that it has been refunded. While no formal contracts were signed in the process, emails with the brief for the engagement are available as evidence of consent to the partnership.
Safeguarding your brand
Several industry players Marketing spoke to echoed the sentiment that on top of having a contractual agreement, brands need to implement best practices where the deliverables are made before payment.
“It seemed like the company was acting on good faith by passing the goods and payment to the influencer before the promised post went up. This of course comes with its fair amount of risks from a business perspective,” Ryan Lim, founding partner and principal consultant of QED Consulting said in a conversation with Marketing.
That being said, both parties are also responsible. While influencers too have the right to decline the promotion of a product if it conflicts with their values, the influencer in this case should have reviewed the product first before accepting the payment.
“Brands also need to always bear in mind who they are working with – especially if the influencer or key opinion leader (KOL) is working independently without the help of an agency or manager. This means threading with care because such influencers who operate independent often have a tendency to run into such incidents as this is not a core business for them,” Lim added.
For Edwin Yeo, general manager, SPRG Singapore, the legal contract should also outline the timing of the posts and compensation for failure of delivery of service.
“Similarly, contracts should provide provisions for influencers who decide against posting, like how media owners can decide to pull the ad. In addition, recourse must be clearly stipulated in all contracts,” Yeo said.
Agreeing with Lim, Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner, Happy Marketer, said that even if the influencer did not like the product and did not want to honour the contract, she should have acted professionally and swiftly to let the brand know and return the product and the money. Her move to not act upon it until being pushed to do so was “rather unprofessional”, he added.
To safeguard themselves, brands can take several measures when working with influencers. This includes doing reference checks with the influencer’s past clients to get some feedback on how their experience was. Other measures include laying out the terms and conditions clearly to specify what needs to be done in case the influencer does not want to post for various reasons.
“The brands should not pay in full but rather an advance as a sign of commitment and then the remaining amount can be paid after the delivery of services. If all else fails, the brand should consider legal options,” Mazumdar added.
The incident is also a good opportunity for one of the influencer management companies to create a product that allows brands and consumers to rate and review influencers, he explained. This can help brands and agencies in the diligence process before finalising on an influencer in the future - a “TripAdvisor” of sorts for local/regional influencers.
“In this instance, as no commercial messages on social media were produced, the dispute is outside the scope of SCAP. The disputing parties involved in the contractual agreement may wish to seek external legal advice on their next course of action,” the statement added.