A decade ago, when I was working in the heart of the beauty industry at one of the high street’s most well known names, ‘big beauty launches’ involved the following things: expensive in-store displays, a big discount offer, a PR push to magazines, lots of press advertising and (if you were lucky) a TV campaign that drove traffic to store. As consumers we got all of our information from glossy mags, celebrity ads and daytime telly, but impulse purchases while wandering through Boots were also big business. In less than ten years the landscape of beauty marketing has changed forever, with budgets being (in some cases) completely diverted away from TV and press altogether, instead spent on blogger endorsed campaigns and Daily-Fail homepage takeovers. With print media titles having been reduced to only a handful, that energy and budget is now understandably being diverted to the bloggers and vloggers who collectively have a larger audience than any of those glossy mags combined.
What started off as an overwhelming amount of samples floating around and being sent out to those they wanted to feature a piece of NPD, has evolved into the most extravagant and (in my opinion) cost-inefficient ways of getting the attention of those with a certain number of Instagram followers – and in 2018 for many of us it’s starting to feel a bit crass. For the longest time magazine editors were whisked away on all-expenses-paid trips to exotic locations, gifted designer handbags and given money-can’t-buy opportunities as a way to retain their attention and interest; but the important difference was that, until now, it was never visible. It all happened under the radar and without the consumer’s knowledge of how the industry really worked.
With the change in media landscape and the transference of print to digital, the important factor to consider is that now everything we do is only an Insta-snap, hop, skip and a jump away from being public knowledge. Every stage of that press trip is documented, every extravagant gift and experience shared; it all helps to form an aspirational and glamorous lifestyle that many of us can only dream of, with a side note of pimping out the latest makeup launch. Collectively we lap up those beautifully curated and posed beach-side shots, adore the Snapchats and Insta-Stories of their exotic breakfasts and new bikini purchases, but after a while does it get too much? The conversation across social media platforms has got me thinking so.
Don’t get me wrong, any one of us would happily say ‘yes please’ to an all expenses paid trip to the Maldives; the fault or issue in my opinion lies not with the bloggers, who are simply reaping the rewards for their years of hard work, but more with the brands, who happily spend hundreds of thousands of pounds flying influencers in from all over the world to celebrate the launch of a new mascara. Their objective is undoubtedly exposure and sales, and I wonder how many of these trips and gloriously shot Instagram images actually translate into readers handing over their hard earned cash – especially when the product is far from the focus. (The most recent press trip that’s gotten the bloggersphere all in a tizz? I’ve seen a bazillion pictures of them having a great time, and a singular stand-alone image to date of the new product they’re launching.)
As the industry becomes increasingly saturated, more and more brands are vying for the attention of those with an audience; it’s inevitable that they have to go in harder and more exceptional to maintain their interest and achieve the coverage they’re under pressure to deliver, but when it becomes a glorified jolly consumers start to query the purpose and whether it was really necessary. We collectively start to question the authenticity of the opinion when they’re being showered with gifts and trips, even if we are a more than a smidge jealous. We wonder how much of the retail price of products goes towards these expensive trips and experiences, and it opens up a can of worms about the ethics of the industry.
In the interests of looking at this issue from all sides, I asked you guys what you thought. In a Twitter poll I asked what you thought of the big beauty launches and the extravagant trips that went with them, and 59% said they felt a bit OTT and crass; 16% worried this impacted the price, while 25% said they thought they were fab and were a bit jel! (FYI there were over 750 responses, so a good and well-rounded baseline.) Here are some fascinating insights and thoughts from other bloggers and consumers that you may find quite thought provoking…
@OMGgemma: “I think they are a bit OTT. I don’t place blame with the bloggers or people invited though, anyone would take that opportunity but I do think we have got to a stage where brands have to go bigger and better to compete in the eyes of the audience.”
@BethXLouiseX: “I feel like some of them aren’t related to the product and are just a competition as to which brand can have the best holiday.”
@ChloeWitty: “I’d go on a trip like that in a heartbeat but I’m also very sick of seeing the same people being whisked away. They need to have relevance to the product otherwise I find them crass.”
@Lisa_Tait: “Bloggers on holiday isn’t making me buy a mascara, it’s making me want a holiday & wardrobe upgrade.”
@MummysCorner: “It’s amazing that bloggers have these amazing opportunities nowadays but luxurious holidays that have nothing to do with the product launch are totally OTT and unnecessary in my opinion!”
@Lil_Fairy_Doll: “I see it as just an attempt to sway bloggers /influencers attending… You hardly ever see them criticise these products and it totally prevents me from buying.”
@WellsyWoo: “I wonder how genuine the review/blog is after being taken on such an extravagant trip.”
@Mrs_Tubbs: “Most trips don’t seem very relevant to the product at hand. If the product is meh, it ends up looking like a bribe to overlook that basic detail and only talk about the lovely time you’ve had.”
@MikhilaMcDaid: “As a consumer, a blogger trip doesn’t make me want to buy the product any more and most of the social sharing has nothing to do with the actual launch. More ‘look how much fun we’re having’… This is why people hate influencers!”
@JayneKitch: “If the trip is irrelevant to telling the brand story then it’s just the brand bribing people to write about them because the product on its own wasn’t exciting or engaging enough.”
@NerdAboutTown: “I think it’s important that the campaign/launch should have something in common with said trip, otherwise it just looks like extravagant bribery.”
@ohaipatricia: “It puts me off buying from that brand. Completely unnecessary. A launch party with cocktails? Ok! A trip to the maldives for 10-20 bloggers? No!”
@alicekathleenb_: “They look fabulous but honestly they don’t make me anymore likely to buy the product. If anything I become disinterested because the trips have become so outrageous… I feel like people who usually barely mention a brand are suddenly all about said brand?”
So what’s my personal opinion? I don’t have any issue with bloggers or influencers being whisked away on incredible trips whatsoever; we’ve all worked hard, over a period of often years, to build up an audience and loyal readership that really does compete with other forms of media. Having been away on many a press trip myself, they’re often informative and leave you with a real understanding of the brand and product in question that you can retain for years to come – if they’re done right. One of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a blogger was a trip to the L’Oreal labs in Paris, which combined a rather fancy hotel stay and extravagant dinner with a hardcore full days work getting to know the science behind the brand and what they had coming up in the year to come. (I generated no less than six Instagram posts and four blog posts from those 48hrs in Paris!) They’re not supposed to be a jolly – they’re supposed to be work, even if in a rather nice setting.
From both a blogger and brand point of view, I feel like these trips need to add value, build a relationship and tell a story; they need to provide amples of content and leave the creator in question itching to share everything with their audience. When a press trip is formulated effectively it really is work, leaving you feeling like you actually need a holiday to recover from the holiday, but more often than not they now appear to be nothing more than a way to keep influencers on side and offer a nice backdrop for a few outfit shots. Consumers are no longer buying it and are in fact starting to question the motives and the cost behind such experiences, especially with the economic climate the way that it currently is.
Jane from British Beauty Blogger summed up the latest controversy perfectly in a recent post: “Benefit has been heavily criticized for lavish and conspicuous spending at a time when economic power play isn’t as well received as it once may have been. I have a feeling one way and another that the launch of Badgal Bang is one of the last of its type that we’ll see. There’s a great feature in the Guardian that says, “When asked what comes to mind when they (Gen Z) think of global corporations, they typically volunteer words such as exploitative, selfish, arrogant, greedy, cheating and untrustworthy,” and bearing in mind Gen Z will form a large part of the current and future consumer for any beauty brands, how you present is crucial.” If brands are seen to lavishly spend on influencers who are in turn normalising experiences that often cost more than someone’s yearly salary, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the consumer that’s more economically aware than they ever have been before.
So how can brands work moving forward, ensuring wise investment and effective PR while building relationships they can capitalise on in the years to come? Firstly, stop trying to out-do everyone else, and instead focus on creating an experience that’s relevant to your brand or launch; some of the best press trips I’ve seen have been to honey farms, rose fields and Swiss spas – not exotic beach resorts. Secondly, understand how the experiences are perceived by the consumer and take that into consideration; if your objective is to sell product, find interesting ways of telling that story instead of trying to make an influencer your best mate. (The reaction to the latest influencer trip says a lot about the state of the beauty industry and how it needs to evolve to stay relevant.) Thirdly and finally, don’t always default to a trip away when there are so many other ways of engaging with your audience.
What are your thoughts on extravagant beauty launches and influencer press trips? I’d love to hear from bloggers, brands and consumers – do they work, do you like seeing them and do they help inform your purchasing decisions?
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