The ‘fake wealth’ industry makes influencers rich


Collage: Marta Parszeniew

Becoming a successful influencer is not a bad way to amass untold wealth. A report released earlier this year found that just having 42,575 followers was enough to earn the UK average salary in #sponcon transactions and ad revenue, while the influencer marketing industry in its set is expected to be worth over $ 15 billion (£ 11 billion) by 2022. Lil Miquela, a ‘virtual influencer’, is estimated to earn more than $ 10 million (£ 9 million) a year, and it doesn’t even exist.

The problem is, it’s not as easy as just “becoming a successful influencer”. Being funny, hot, or “relatable” online will only get you this far; if you really want to become blue tick royalty, you’re going to need a huge stroke of luck, a reality show, or some other kind of helping hand. For some, that means turning to the “bogus wealth” industry.

On YouTube, vloggers tend to use Photoshop to show themselves on sandy beaches or on shopping sprees, to trick viewers into believing they are wealthy and therefore worth watching. The same thinking process applies to Instagram: People follow wealthy influencers and celebrities for their daily dose of high-profile serotonin-sapping content. Even if you’re not really rich, if you can at least project that kind of wealth – or at least that’s what you think – followers will follow suit.

For those who aren’t particularly familiar with Photoshop, there are other ways to do this.

Earlier this year, a Tweeter showing influencers renting a photo studio in Los Angeles designed to look like the inside of a private jet has gone viral. For $ 64 (£ 49) an hour, influencers and their friends can pretend they’ve chartered a plane and live out their dream of writing captions such as’ take flights not x feelings’ or ‘head in the clouds – and, of course, flex that they, unlike you, can afford a private jet in the first place.

In China, there is an even cheaper option. For just 6 yuan (under £ 1), you can add a recording of your voice to stock videos of expensive cars, tropical views, and stacks of cash, ready to upload to your IG Story.

While out-of-the-box private jet photo studios and influencer-seeking voiceovers aren’t widely available in the UK, it’s common to take empty designer packaging – like boxes or boxes. shopping bags.

Search for “empty box” or “empty bag” on Depop and you will find hundreds of results. Previously, the only people gagging for empty packaging were Year 9s desperate to put their PE kit in an Abercrombie & Fitch bag. These days, wannabes Molly Maes are there too. In an interview with Mag entry, an anonymous designer dealer, with a mostly influential customer base, revealed a recent surge in requests for empty boxes from designer brands – namely Hermes, Pandora and Tiffany. “At first I thought maybe it was to store things around the house, or to recycle them as a gift box for someone,” she said. Contribution. “I didn’t know they were using it for Instagram photos.”

On Depop, some sellers have an entire account dedicated to voids; more than 600 boxes and empty bags were deposited in their account. The items are repetitive, mainly Chanel, Tiffany, Pandora or Selfridges bags and boxes, or dustbags from Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Dior. Lists are also extremely expensive: a Gucci hat box for £ 35; a Dior shoebox for £ 30, four Hermès ribbons for £ 20; a Louboutin shoebox and a gift bag for £ 55 (this one comes with the original Harrods receipt, to be fair).

While you might think stacking empty boxes is the definition of anti-flex, according to the vendor in the Mag entry piece, one of the influencers who bought her Pandora boxes now has real sponsorship agreements with luxury brands.

Of course, that’s not to say that flaunting fake wealth is a sure-fire way to secure those deals, according to Scott Guthrie, an independent influencer marketing consultant. “You can usually spot it – there’s usually something a little ‘off’ in the image,” he says. “The accessory doesn’t quite match the outfit, or there may be too many ostentatious signs of wealth in sight.”

Not only is the display of “bogus wealth” very obvious, says Guthrie, but it can also damage the identity of some luxury brands. “Designers posing as brand ambassadors can tarnish that particular brand, rather than promoting it,” he explains.

Instead, Guthrie suggests that authenticity is a more realistic route to these luxury brand offerings. “A better way to catapult yourself into becoming an influencer who works with a luxury brand is to tap into the values ​​that support that brand’s positioning,” he says. “So it’s more important to be creative and innovative with your content.”

At the end of the day, pretending to be rich is obviously a lot cheaper than chartering a private jet or buying expensive jewelry – but that doesn’t mean you should. The truth is, @ing Gucci in your Instagram Story not only gives your followers second-hand embarrassment, but you’re more than likely to shut the door on the branded deals you’ve been hoping for.

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