Cosmetic brand Tarte’s expensive Dubai trip ignites TikTok controversy over lavish influencer trips

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Social media is no stranger to seeing groups of major influencers embark on extravagant brand-sponsored trips, but a recent retreat by a makeup company sent the internet into a frenzy of criticism over the excessively lavish trip.

Makeup brand Tarte Cosmetics recently hosted a group of major influencers and their plus ones on a trip to the outskirts of Dubai to promote their products. Some of the names include TikTok stars Alix Earle (4 million TikTok followers), Alexandra Pohl (xandrapohl on TikTok, 597k followers), and Ahnesti Monet McMichael (2.8 million TikTok followers), just to name a few.

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Critics of this trip came out expressing concern on TikTok over the seemingly immense cost of the trip, and for it being “tone-deaf” to host such an event in the midst of a looming recession. 

Tarte Cosmetics has been a flying out editors and influencers on extravagant trips since 2015, using the hashtag #trippinwithtarte, a hashtag that has grown in popularity to advertise their iconic trips. Prior to the recent Dubai trip, some of their prior destinations had been Hawaii and Bora Bora. 

Controversy over the trip happened on TikTok when some creators began looking into the extensive cost of the trip. One of the videos that garnered a massive amount of attention was from Barstool Sports blogger Jack McGuire.

McGuire looked into the overall cost of the trip, breaking down what a first class Emirates flight for two (the influencer and their plus one) would have costed the company, as well as the nightly price of the Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khamaih, where the brand retreat took place.

“The economics of this trip do not make sense,” said Mac. “All of these ladies flew first class on Emirates to Dubai… do you understand how much money that costs?”

“If you want to fly Emirates from New York City to Dubai, it’s going to cost around $22,000. Now, on top of that, all of them had a plus one, so that’s $44,000 just on the trip alone,” explained McGuire.

The Barstool blogger also looked into the price to stay at the Ritz-Carlton. 

“This is one of these hotels where you can’t even find how much money it costs to stay there. You have to like, call somebody, because it’s like, they know rich people ain’t booking on Expedia.”

TikTok creator Lindsay Borow (@iblikes) expressed her take on the trip, asking others on the app if they also think “this was a really weird marketing move from Tarte.”

While acknowledging how influencers who got invited on this trip “hit the jackpot,” Borow explains how “as someone that’s just like a regular consumer, this like kind of does the opposite for me. It makes me not want to use Tarte.”

“I kind of feel like they’re being a little tone-deaf. Like, in this economy and everything, like this is just so unrelatable and if there’s one thing I feel like we’ve learned in influencer marketing this year, it’s like, you need to be a bit more relatable,” Borow said.

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In response to the controversy over TikTok about the event, Tarte Cosmetics founder Maureen Kelly spoke to Glossy to explain the motive for the massive trip.

“This isn’t our first trip, but I can, of course, understand how people may have a knee-jerk reaction to seeing content overload like this,” Kelly said, emphasizing how the brand has placed importance on and budgeted for building relationships with influencers.

“Every day, brands make decisions about how to spend their marketing budgets. For some companies, that means a huge Super Bowl commercial or a multi-million-dollar contract with a famous athlete or celeb. We’ve never done traditional advertising, and instead we invest in building relationships and building up communities,” the founder said.

In response to questions surrounding the sheer cost of the trip, Maureen told Glossy, “You also have to consider that we’re inviting people to take time out of their jobs and life, and get on a long-haul flight for a quick, three-day event. That can take a toll on anyone, no matter how excited you are for a trip. We want to make this a seamless pleasant and experience for everyone.”

Kahlea Nicole, another creator on TikTok, weighed in on the controversy. 

“If you look up everything online, it is $200,000 or more, which is why there is controversy around it,” she said, adding that the marketing move could actually have a positive ROI for the company.

“A lot of these girls charge anywhere from $70,000-$100,000 per TikTok they post. So, if the trip is like $200,000, and if they have, let’s say, 10 girls that are there, then it’s well worth it to spend that money on the trip to have those girls posting,” Nicole said.

However, some TikTokers, like @thoughtswgracie, postulated that the trip didn’t result in an increase in sales for the company, and pointed out the recent job listing for director of brand marketing Tarte posted on LinkedIn.

Nicole, weighing in with a different perspective on the marketing goals for the trip, discussed how the job postings might not necessarily mean the trip ended poorly for Tarte.

“If the trips are doing really bad, then why do they need these people?” she asked. “What if it wasn’t just about sales, what if it was also about brand awareness? What if it was about earned media value?”

Source: Fox News


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