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Can Influencers Ever Really Rebrand?

Can Influencers Ever Really Rebrand?

One week ago, JoJo Siwa took to her Instagram to issue a content warning. 

“The following content is not made for children and may be disturbing or offensive to some viewers,” the post reads. “May contain sexual themes, violence, strong language, traumatic scenarios and flashing lights.”

What followed was a string of 30 posts (and counting) promoting JoJo’s new single, ‘KARMA,’ her first foray into more mature music. The lyrics, positioning JoJo as a “bad girl” who has “done bad things,” are a definite shift from her cookie-cutter persona, once awash with sparkly bows and rainbow merch. 

While internet users have been begging JoJo to move beyond her “giant toddler” era, this new, more adult persona is not exactly what they had in mind. Since she started teasing ‘KARMA,’ the 20-year-old’s comment sections have been flooded with hate, with many users calling it all “far too much.”

Screenshot via @itsjojosiwa Instagram

Every child star (creator and mainstream celebrity alike) will eventually have to grow up. That much is obvious. But watching our favourite celebrities rebrand often brings growing pains—Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and Selena Gomez have shown us that. 

Content creators, on the other hand, aren’t constrained in the same way as these mainstream celebrities. Many don’t have the traditional management structures, teams, and comprehensive marketing strategies to tell them what to do and how to do it. Given that influencers have the opportunity to forge their own path forward, this can be an asset. But sometimes, the lack of guidance leaves creators floundering, struggling to make a rebrand seamlessly. 

Having established herself as an unattainable brand (similar to classic Disney stars) while also fostering intimacy with her followers through her vlogs, JoJo toes the line between creator and traditional celebrity. However, the frosty reception to JoJo’s new era begs the question: Can someone deeply embedded in influencer culture effectively rebrand?

Reinvention has long been a part of celebrity culture.

Over the years, we have seen our favourite pop girlies transform entirely in anticipation of a new project. From wiping their Instagram to dropping their entire aesthetic, these artists will completely change their music and (sometimes) their whole public persona. 

Of course, one of the more drastic examples is Miley Cyrus. We need only cast our minds back to 2014, when she was in the throes of her Bangerz era, to truly appreciate how far these pop singers can go. She was a completely different artist from the woman who performed ‘Flowers’ at the Grammys last month. 

Having said that, the concept of an era has become so embedded in mainstream culture. When stans suspect something new on the horizon, they will hunt for Easter eggs to no avail— with many going full-tilt conspiracy theorist.

Building this sort of excitement and intrigue is beneficial not only for a celebrity’s career, but also for the celebrity industrial-complex at large. Here, an intricate network of industries— including but not limited to entertainment, media, marketing, and PR— work together to create, promote and commodify celebrities. Rebranding and evolution sustain this never-ending cycle. 

In a celebrity-obsessed culture, it’s no surprise that we feed into the different eras of our faves by buying merch, streaming their music, or following them closely on social media. 

But what has become clear over the past few years, is that we rarely embrace an influencer’s new “era” in the same way.

Take Charli D’Amelio, for example. After Charli blew up in 2019— becoming the first TikTok creator to earn 100 million followers— she pivoted away from social media. 

Switching TikTok for TV, Charli and her family inked a deal with Hulu for their reality show, The D’Amelio Show, in 2020. Now in its fourth season, the show has followed the D’Amelios as they attempt to balance social media fame with a healthy family life. 

While the D’Amelios were primed to follow in the Kardashians’ footsteps, the family seemed to fizzle out after the show started airing. 

Their various business ventures under the D’Amelio Brands umbrella, for instance, failed to meet the expectations set by internet users. Many described D’Amelio Footwear as “overhyped, overpriced and boring,” while the family’s Be Happy Popcorn Snacks left Charli and her sister Dixie embroiled in controversy.

As the D’Amelios seemed to fade into irrelevance, it’s clear that the attempt to rebrand Charli’s social media fame into mainstream celebrity didn’t go over so well on the internet. Countless videos have since flooded TikTok, documenting and analysing the D’Amelios fall from grace.

A deep dive into the downfall of the damelios, marketing mistakes they made and why I think this is the end of their era. #damelios #charliedamelio #dixiedamelio #downfall #brand #failure #marketing #marketingmistakes #longvideo #rant

♬ original sound – Bee better

But it seems these users spoke too soon. TikTok’s obsession with Charli was reignited after she shared a dance video featuring a remix of Ariana Grande’s ‘west side.’ The first clip, posted on March 17, has gathered almost 27 million views, while a follow-up video of the dance has reached 81 million at the time of publication. 

Hundreds of users took to the comment section, writing, “This is why we made you famous,” while some even posted entire videos expressing their excitement that Charli is “dancing again.” 



♬ original sound – Dexter Carr

The belief that Charli stopped dancing isn’t entirely accurate. But she definitely took a step back from this kind of content, opting for transition videos and fit checks instead. 

Her last TikTok dance before ‘west side’ was posted at the end of February— a stark departure from her frequent uploads during her early days on the app. Last month, she even jokingly addressed the lack of dancing content, captioning a video with “Why don’t you do TikTok dances anymore” while stumbling through choreography.

Charli’s move away from TikTok dancing could be attributed to the broader trend toward political discourse and social commentary on the app. But it could also have been part of a larger effort to rebrand away from social media fame.


why dont you do tiktok dances anymore

♬ original sound – Devante Latorre

Her resurgence on TikTok points to an important (but often overlooked) aspect of influencer rebranding. Due to the sense of ownership that many internet users feel over creators— seeing virality as some sort of communal achievement—they expect influencers to continue embracing social media, even as they pursue other ventures. 

Emma Chamberlain has had a similar experience. Though she has transcended influencerdom, whenever she returns to YouTube, her followers rally around her like never before.  

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That said, unlike musicians who can undergo dramatic transformations in the name of their vision, influencers have limited flexibility to reinvent themselves. This is largely due to the perception that what they do is not considered art; they are often seen as personalities first and creatives second.

As a result, influencers struggle to convert their online fame to successful careers in music and film.

When Addison Rae, for example, made her film debut in He’s All That, many internet users were underwhelmed. Instead of viewing her pivot as a genuine effort to expand her craft, users saw her casting as an attempt for the film to capitalise on her fame and make money. Much like Charli and her TikTok peers, it became clear that internet users did not support Addison’s attempt to break into the mainstream. 

But everything shifted when Addison’s album was leaked, leading to the subsequent release of her EP, AR. The success of ‘2 die 4’ featuring Charli XCX on TikTok altered Addison’s trajectory, providing her with another opportunity to rebrand herself: this time as a “niche hyperpop artist.”

She has since joined Charli XCX for her viral boiler room set and has collaborated on a remix for ‘Von dutch,’ the lead single of the singer’s next album, brat. A clip of Addison screaming for an ad-lib has cemented her rebrand in the best possible way. 


i love seeing @Addison Rae’s influencer to niche hyperpop artist extravaganza pipeline 😌✌️✨ #addisonrae #charlixcx #vondutchremix

♬ The von dutch remix w addison rae and a. g. cook – Charli XCX

One factor that contributed to the success of this rebrand is that Addison hasn’t been super overexposed. After her father’s problematic behaviour years ago, she took a step back from the public eye. This helped her cultivate a more mysterious public image. Since then, she has been gradually introducing this edgy aesthetic with cool girl photo dumps and her 2014 Tumblr vibes. 

Ultimately, her decision to scale back from mainstream celebrity to a more niche demographic helps her maintain that underground feeling that resonates with influencer culture and social media users. 

“There is just something so cool and mysterious about her to the point that we don’t know what move she is going to make next,” TikTok user, @nikkyupnext says of Addison’s rebrand. “[She] kind of disappeared from the public eye in terms of the way we once knew her, and then she’ll pop up occasionally posting these super cool photo dumps.”

The varying success of Addison, Charli, and JoJo’s attempts to rebrand shows that influencers can evolve and reinvent themselves, but the landscape is extremely volatile. 

Given that Gen Z has grown up consuming copious amounts of media, this demographic has become well-versed in the strategies behind branding and marketing. With this awareness, internet users favour a more understated and authentic approach to rebranding when it comes to influencers— the opposite of JoJo’s strategy. While this dynamic may evolve as influencers become more integrated into mainstream entertainment, it’s clear that they face numerous challenges when they attempt to switch things up.

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