The last few weeks have been somewhat eye-opening for me. I’ve been blogging for five years in 2015 and boy how things have changed; it used to be simply about writing and sharing things you love, but it’s evolved into a monster of influence and passion that brands simply can’t get enough of. With vloggers like Zoella taking over the world one book deal at a time, launching their own beauty lines and appearing across billboards nationwide, there’s no doubt whatsoever we’re in the midst of a new age. This digital driven period is seeing magazines and reality television being shunned in favour of girls in their bedroom, sharing their Primark hauls and talking about their new lipstick. Although the mainstream media are quick to stick the knife in and call us vacuous wastes of space with no real right to an opinion, it’s clear to see that this is the type of content women (and men) of all ages want. Put simply: the stats don’t lie.
Brands are falling over themselves to work with the right bloggers for them, partnering in all kinds of innovative ways or simply working with them to get their new launches out into the public eye. Interestingly, many brands are choosing to only invest in blogger relations and events, shunning the traditional press in favour of the sites that they know will work for them and generate all important sales. Whereas magazine editors and journalists used to be wined and dined to excess in order to secure that all important ten centimeters on a beauty page, brands are slowly understanding that their investment (both in time and money) may be better placed with these girls writing or sharing from their bedroom – because their readers actually trust them.
The value of blogs is huge. We don’t only share our favourite picks, write our top tips and praise brands for doing a great job, but our content is available on the internet indefinitely. Unlike magazines which are often chucked in the recycling bin after they’ve been read, every single post can be picked up by a search engine and generate traffic for years to come. Blogs’ value isn’t just in the immediacy, but in the long-term brand building opportunity that comes with the flow of information and the brilliance of google. Some of my best performing posts are from months (if not years) ago as people search for reviews or information on a product before they buy it; that kind of testimonial that links directly to purchasing behaviour simply can’t be bought.
With all this incredible value that bloggers bring, in every category imaginable, I’m still astounded by the attitude of some brands that think of us as silly little girls babbling about our favourite shade of bubblegum pink lipgloss. In the last week I’ve experienced utterly disgusting behaviour by an incredibly famous department store that clearly doesn’t understand the influence of blogs, nor the way in which they work. Although I won’t mention them by name (it’s not hard to work it out,) this famous London store took objection to a post I’d written in conjunction with an online service. We’d collaborated to offer readers an incredible prize of a beauty advent calendar ahead of the festive season, purchased the product ourselves and happily sat back to watch as my readers understandably went crazy for it. Not only were we promoting the London store’s product heavily on one of the UK’s top blogs absolutely free, but they’d made a £149 sale too. You’d expect they’d be happy… Free coverage! Yey! A sale! Yey! Apparently not.
After a barrage of emails both to me and the online service demanding the competition be removed immediately because it ‘wasn’t on-brand’, I was then spoken to in a manner somewhat reminiscent of when I’d forgotten to hand in my maths homework age twelve. How very dare I run a giveaway without their express permission to do so? What disgusting behaviour of mine to help promote their beauty advent calendar that clearly could do with the extra sales? The sheer rudeness of us buying a product from their store and offering it to dedicated readers as a little thank you for their support this year! A few heated emails later, when both myself and the online service refused to make any amends to the competition that was working well for both of us (that had nothing to do with anyone else,) and the famous London store decided to throw in the legal obligations of copyright. “You’ve used an image that’s copyrighted, so please remove it by the end of the day.” Throwing your toys out of the pram when you don’t get your way is never a good look.
A few days later and the drama was still progressing. I was being bullied and pressurised into submission. It got worse. Having included an affiliate link (where I receive a small percentage of any sales that are generated) to the product within my post to illustrate the contents, I was then contacted by my affiliate network and asked to remove it. Not only had the London brand gotten into paddy not dissimilar to my best friends three year old, but they’d now gone out of their way to get a completely independent and unrelated company involved. I’m not the kind of person to roll over; I’m not the kind of person to give in and do what someone else wants just because they kick up a fuss. If you’ve ever met me, read my blog, followed me on Twitter or stumbled across my ramblings, then you should know that they picked on the wrong blogger.
The beauty of bloggers is that they’re free agents. We can write about what we like, when we like and brands can do nothing about it. Brands have to understand that they can’t control what appears and where it appears; in this digital age information is accessible via a few key words at the click of a button. Gone are the days when brands could heavily control where and how they appeared; can you imagine if Apple kicked off every time someone gave an iPad on a platform they deemed to be ‘off brand’? They’d need a team of 100 just to send out the ranting emails. Brands need to understand that blogs are now incredibly influencial, that we’re not just vacuous girls in our bedrooms talking about nail polish and One Direction – in a lot of cases we’re now serious businesswoman that have a lot to say and a huge audience to say it to.
I can’t imagine said department store ever emailing a magazine and telling them a competition was ‘off-brand’, nor jeopardising a relationship by continually patronising and harassing to the point of it being bullying. Why is ok to speak to bloggers in this way? Why is it normalised within some brands to treat bloggers as irritants that they would rather be without? With bloggers featuring on the Amazon best selling book list, selling out beauty ranges, being judges in respected beauty awards, collaborating with brands in spaces previously only occupied by ‘celebrities’ and making a career from something that started as a hobby, isn’t it about time that some brands wised up and starting treating us all with a little more respect and accreditation?
The last few weeks have definitely made me sit up and take notice. On the one hand I work with some incredible brands and PRs that really do understand the value of blogs, falling over backwards to support and celebrate these corners of the internet we’ve created. On the other hand, I feel like we’re still patronised and treated disgustingly by brands that are happy to use us for their own benefit when it suits them, but are quick to turn when they don’t get what they want. It’s a frequent conversation amongst my blogger friends that we feel like we’re ‘picking up the scraps’ from beauty editors who are whisked off to some exotic location for a makeup launch, while we’re often lucky to even get a sample. The tides are changing; blogs have more influence than magazines, they make more direct sales and they can turn a product into a best-seller overnight. It’s just a shame that some brands are still flapping about in the water clinging onto a dingy from 1998.
I’d love to know your thoughts…