Recently my for you page on TikTok got flooded by content creators, also referred to as “influencers,” posting videos highlighting their lavish excursions in Dubai, an all-expenses paid 3-day brand trip hosted by Tarte Cosmetics. Tarte flew out beauty and lifestyle creators with millions of followers, such as the Mian twins, Monet McMichael, Alix Earle, Meredith Duxbury, and over 40 more, with their plus ones to stay in luxury villas at the Ritz-Carlton. Followers of these creators were excited to see some of their favorite influencers together in one place. However, the trip itself left many viewers with a bad taste about brand trips, and in this case, all eyes were on Tarte Cosmetics.

Tarte Cosmetics is a high-end makeup brand that is no stranger to the brand trip scene, as they have become well-known for the hashtag they created, “trippinwithtarte.” Before Covid, brand trips were popular in the beauty and lifestyle industry. Makeup brands would invite beauty and lifestyle content creators to a luxury destination, typically right before or after releasing a new product. The attendees were allowed a plus one but would not get paid to go on the trip. Instead, they signed a contract where they agreed to publish a set amount of content for the brand, whether through Instagram or YouTube at the time, usually both.

Many viewers saw makeup brands turning to brand trips compared to traditional forms of marketing as a smart move. Similarly, brands use “brand deals” where they partner with content creators who they believe have the audience they want to be influenced to buy the product their favorite creator gets paid to speak highly about. For the content creator with a significant number of followers who can charge an absorbent amount of money for a brand deal, the partnership becomes a mutually beneficial relationship, which is what the brand seeks to build. In contrast, brand trips allow the brands to cut the cost of spending a lot of money on deals with individual creators by paying less for the trip itself. In turn, brands are still getting their products talked about to their target audience and building positive relationships with creators. Brands also intend to utilize trips for building these relationships in hopes influencers will like the products and continue posting about them after the trip because they want to be invited back for the next trip.

Due to Covid, it has been a while since the internet has watched brand trip content, and after TikTok blew up during the pandemic, what used to be watching your favorite YouTubers post about these trips switched to seeing popular TikTokers posting TikToks about the Tarte Dubai trip. What is noteworthy about the Dubai trip, which differs immensely from previous brand trips, is that many viewers of the TikTok videos posted by the attendees noticed the lack of Tarte products used by the influencers. As a result, many began speculating if creators had to sign contracts to go on the trip. In the past, you would only see attendees using makeup products of the brand hosting the trip. On Tarte’s end, this could be a new strategy for developing relationships with content creators. Although, the question remains whether or not it was the right decision to get their target audience to buy Tarte products if their favorite influencers are not even using them.

While the Dubai trip has the internet talking about Tarte Cosmetics, many are referring to Tarte’s decision as “tone-deaf,” given the current state of the economy. TikTok videos have gone viral from creators who do not fall into the beauty and lifestyle category talking about brand trips, explicitly highlighting how beneficial they are financially for the brand. For an expensive makeup brand like Tarte, which many cannot afford, it is unknown whether or not the brand deems this trip a success and how it will impact them moving forward.