Flop of the Month: Zoella's £50 advent calendar irks public and damages her brand

Zoella's £50 advent calendar drew much criticism this month; damaging her own brand and possibly signalling a sea change in how British consumers view the 'uber influencer' community.

The YouTube star put her name to the 12 Days of Christmas Advent Calendar, available exclusively in Boots. The £50 gift has a different item behind each door; these included a pen, key ring, candle, bauble and mini notepad.

The product was slated for being bad value for money - particularly as it only had 12 doors, rather than the traditional 24. Online reviews labelled it "tat" and "rubbish".

Fellow YouTuber JaackMaate even produced a withering, sarcastic 10-minute video taking down the product.

Zoella defended the calendar in a video, saying she "loves the product" and claimed that she had no say in the price.

This was disputed by Boots, which tweeted that it "sells products at the recommended retail price, as set by the manufacturer or supplier". The retailer later halved the cost following the backlash.

The raison d'être of many influencers is their authenticity, and Zoella’s ‘woman next door’ appeal is at odds with what appeared to be a crude and exploitative cash-in.

The incident shows the contradiction at the heart of social media stars when they become genuine celebrities; the need to stay authentic while making money from commercial activities. Zoella clearly failed to get the balance right here and her credibility appears to have suffered.

The problem was compounded by a series of tweets that came to light this month from 2010 to 2012, in which Zoella mocked "chavs" and homosexuals – the 27-year old apologised and said she is now "a little older and wiser".

It wasn’t a good month for social media stars overall. Fellow influencer Jack Maynard left the TV show I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here following allegations that he sent inappropriate messages to a female fan.

Both incidents show the new type of celebrity is not immune from traditional forms of scrutiny and criticism. Influencers are here to stay, but they should know the public and media won’t be fooled by unacceptable behaviour and rip-off endorsements.

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