The front-page story in WWD today is “Advertisers Go Social: Brand-Blogger Linkups Marketings’ New Rage.” Gorgeous blogger Jennine (of The Coveted and Independent Fashion Bloggers) is quoted extensively in the article. I’m glad the story highlighted Jennine’s “IFB Fair Compensation Manifesto” and her criticism of the Coach Poppy ad campaign, in which 334 bloggers were convinced to put Coach branding all over their blogs for free. Jennine has been a leader in helping bloggers understand that they need to get paid properly for advertising like any other media outlet does, rather than acting like total brand hos in return for a little free merch. She told WWD:
“We don’t want blogging to evolve into this thing where bloggers are so starstruck by brands that they lose all objectivity — then they’re not the great thing people came to them for in the first place. Freebies may be OK, but we can’t just work for freebies and try to pass off promotional things as editorial content because it’s not fair to the readers, ourselves or the companies.”
You know what else isn’t fair? I didn’t get a photo credit in this story! The stunning photo of Jennine that WWD snagged from her blog was taken by me.
Admittedly, Jennine ran back and forth setting up the shot herself, then stuck the camera in my hand and told me to press the button, but I think I did a pretty good job of that.
Speaking of companies and branding issues, I recently got an offer that was easy to refuse. Sears has hired itself a stylist named Francesca Mills to shill for its new shoe website. Marketing Daily says:
“The retailer hopes its microsite, hosted by fashion stylist Francesca Mills, will blend the feeling of blogs, social media and commerce with more engaging — and even useful — commentary. For example, a well-known mom blogger runs down the ins and outs of back-to-school shoe shopping.”
Sears apparently thought its shoes and my limited-edition fine jewelry were a match made in heaven, so I got an email from the company exclaiming that, “We would love to start new a relationship with you!” The offer didn’t seem to involve any money, just “… sneak peeks and content every other week prior to its release. These will include up to date video and lookbook content so you can review it first and spread the word. You’ll be first to hear about contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways from Sears.”
I would have just deleted this mess without responding except for this bit of hilarity:
“We’ve been following your amazing fashion advice on your blog, and we think it’s great! You are always on top of the latest trends at the best prices and you understand your audience well. I absolutely LOVE your letter rings. I just bought ‘NYC’ for a friend of mine.”
As those of you who have been reading my blog regularly know, the NYC rings are exclusively available for pre-order on Kickstarter. Three* sets have been pre-ordered by my regular customers, none of whom work for Sears. I replied:
“How exciting to find that you’re a fan of my NYC rings! But I’m concerned that your order didn’t go through, seeing as they’re only available in one place and I don’t see your purchase reflected. If you want to try again, please click here.”
As you might have guessed, I didn’t get a reply or a ring order. Sears doesn’t think my participation in its branding campaign is worth the $315 a set of rings costs. The most I’m worth is, apparently, the chance to learn about a giveaway of God-knows-what. As enticing as that opportunity is, I’m going to have to pass on it because I’m not stupid. But thanks for thinking of me, y’all!
Those of you who really want to buy the NYC rings can click here. Plenty of other jewelry is available too. Your orders/pre-orders will help me pay for manufacturing three new ring styles overseas. I’ve passed my initial fundraising goal of $7,000, but that only covered two ring styles: OMG and LOLZ. I’ve since added NYC to the mix and that means I need to raise at least another $3,000 to cover what’s now a $10,000 factory minimum. The rings won’t come till late in the fall, so think ahead and order them as holiday gifts! To learn more about why I need to manufacture overseas and why it costs so much to make relatively inexpensive goods, read this post from January.
*Only one pre-order for the NYC rings is reflected on Kickstarter because people who have ordered several different items can’t select multiple rewards on the Kickstarter page. I keep track of those orders behind the scenes.
That is so funny. I love when they pretend they read your blog but really don’t GAWD!
If The Coveted was part of the Coach scheme (which was beyond stupid…using Karla for Coach…does Coach even KNOW who their target audience is?!), why is she now criticizing it? I agree with what she’s saying, but I’m just wondering why she participated.
hi there, i understand what you are saying and have thought this myself. the thing is, it wasn’t until AFTER i participated in this type of campaign that i realized how little bloggers really get out of putting the work in.
when i participated, i thought it was going to be an exciting opportunity, but it was a lot of work, and while i got traffic for a few days from the coach, the traffic didn’t stay.
it was after then, i realized that these types of promotions really don’t qualify as editorial content, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
The part where they say you’re always on top of the latest trends at the best prices just kills me considering how well I know your stance on “cheap.”
Pretending to be a reader is one thing…but pretending to purchase something. WOW.
That IS some serious Bullshizz. I’m just now starting to starting to get offers so this is all new to me. I’m learning fast though! The “building a relationship” crap is something I’ve already dealt with. It pretty much means, “let us use you”.
I also just got my first product review, which seemed to go off without a hitch and then, after the post went up… the emails. Oh man the emails… a few links weren’t the way they wanted, could I please include this… I fixed two links and I quit responding to the emails.
It is incredibly flattering when they write and tell you they love your blog but you have to read between the lines and not be afraid to ask for what you want.
I never thought it was going to be like this!
Wendy, you have moxy and you’re never afraid to use it, which is why I love you. I’m glad you and Jeanine are bringing a lot of these issues to light and aren’t afraid to say what you mean.
I too sometimes get random emails from companies who don’t seem to have a clue about me or my blog and think I would be “honored” to have them link me and think everything’s for free. It’s not and the more I see bloggers pimping out certain brands the more less likely I am to go back to them – they’ve changed, lost the charm and originality of what made them appealing to me in the first place.
wow, that’s pretty disgusting of Sears, they clearly think you’re one of those naive STARSTRUCK bloggers. It’s funny, they don’t do their homework but expect some free press from you. Well, they sure got it!
ugh it even reads like a spammy, canned email.
Sears got off lightly compared to these peeps: http://wendybrandes.com/blog/2008/04/no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity-lets-test/
The Licentiate says
As Charlie Brown would say, good grief!
Oh geez… Yeah, I love it when they try to make it seem like they\’re familiar with your site but they get some fact glaringly wrong. At least they got your name right? *eye roll*
elena daciuk says
um…sears shoes and your jewelry is compatible?? right…i know it was a hard choice for you to make…such a great opportunity and all…i mean…come on…getting to hear about a giveaway right away?? ok…i’m done…
btw…fabulous pic of jennine…
OMG! I can’t believe they lied about having one of your rings. Well, I’m glad you didn’t take the offer.
fashion butter says
I enjoy that you linked the word hos. Hahaha!
Miss Janey says
Congrats on your offer to work for free! That’s SO incredibly generous of Sears. Jeez- they didn’t even offer some freebies of their craptastic shoes as inducement???
Nice reply, WendyB. Miss J is sure that jewelry order will come thru any day now.
Grit and Glamour says
You were indeed robbed on the photo credit, but you know Jennine has your back.
And this: “Sears apparently thought its shoes and my limited-edition fine jewelry were a match made in heaven”…the hilarity. W.T.F.?
I seriously need to find a way to get to the IFB conference in September, if only to meet you in person. I haven’t met a triple-threat like you in well…never. I’m a fan.
You’re so nice I edited that “your” for you 😉
Julie Anne Rhodes says
I won’t lie, dying for the OMG ring set, but not in budget until the book sells. Love reading your posts in the meantime.
Hi Wendy~ Just wanted to stop by quick and say thank you for dropping by my blog earlier.
I LOVE YOUR BLOG! It’s faaaabulous! I’ll definitely be back!
Enjoy your weekend!
Love love that photo of Jennine, so sad you didn’t get credit for it! 🙂 Wow that is quite strange of Sears to pretend to have purchased your ring set. Why bother? I think most people can smell a fake email a mile away. Just last night I received one that was an obvious cut and paste job, what tipped me off the edge was the fact they hadn’t even bothered to write the correct site that I own. Surely it’s not that hard to approach bloggers/sites while still being genuine?
ps. I am dying for a ring set of yours, alas my teeny tiny budget won’t allow it 🙁
How about just the asterisk? http://wendybrandes.com/pro-detail.php?colid=33&collect=true&id=507
If you buy it via Kickstarter, you get free shipping too!
Tony Wang says
Oh my haha. If someone ever made a Worst Case Scenario handbook series on PR – your story would make it right inside. Wow – thanks for exposing all this to all Wendy!
Youve written some amazing outrageous things before but I think this takes the cake Wendy! I’m totally flabbergasted at what that PR person would say to you! I’ve totally gotten used to marking all this crap spam in the morning when I wake up, they don’t even try anymore
Oy. I better be careful with my potential giveaway contest. LOVE the photo of Jennine! Well done!!!
Emily and Abigail says
lusting those rings.. good for her paving the way for us bloggers! 🙂
Dear God in Heaven.
You get used to the generic copy/paste emails, but the fact they lied about having bought your rings is flabbergasting. I can imagine how hard it was to refuse such an amazing opportunity. D:
joann, sidewalk chalk says
I cannot believe they lied about buying your jewelry. That’s pretty low — it’s like they took a quick glance at your site, saw the ‘NYC’ ring and decided to make you an offer. I’m glad you write posts like this to make all of us aware of the pr tactics some companies use.
sharon rose says
Hi there-a lot of these companies have no shame, glad you put them straight!! have a great weekend!! x
I get this pretty often too. Very funny (or is it) to catch them out lying so royally. Well done with your answer. Love it. Xxxx
Amy Sanders says
Those rings are amazing! I love the GAGA one. So over the top that it’s stylish.
Alice Olive says
Excellent post and it’s good to hear Jennine is forging the way. I agree, no blogger should give away advertising space, particularly to the ‘big brother’ brands out there. Helping out independent designers is something different (and hopefully details are kept private).
Meanwhile, some of the larger brands are losing me as a customer as they take over some of my favourite blogs. American Apparel is one such retailer. (No doubt they’ll survive without my custom…) Their ads on some of the blogs I read are absolutely APPALLING. They completely distract from the content I’m there to read/consume. A more constrained approach would be more suitable, frankly. Show some respect for the blog authors!
You pay attention to EVERYthing that goes on behind the scenes!
I love how you sussed out that silly Sears scam! Superb!
OMG, how completely offensive.
This REALLY makes me want to run out and try the new Sears shoe collection.
Marta from With Love... says
It’s amazing to the degree that some of the brands would try to use bloggers to their advantage. Sears did such an offensive thing, so glad you did not go along with it 🙂
oh i love your commentary about sears and how you handled it. I adore that you added some humor to the situation. I also love that you are empowering bloggers by writing posts like this. Many people do not know that their blog and their work is worth more than the “craptastic” things that they may be offered by people/companies wanting to advertise.
XOXO from italy http://fashionismyway.blogspot.com/
Make Do Style says
Good all round post xxx
kudos to you for this post– i admit i was laughing at the way you wrote it, being hilarious and informative at the same time. good bottom-up voice against these companies.
Natalie / Fashion Intel says
Ha, those emails kill me. Great article Wendy! I truly hope that a lot of fashion bloggers read this and seriously give it some thought.
fashion herald says
I loved the “throw us a mention or two…” Sure! Because I write a blog that’s all about shopping on 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan, and you love reading my blog, and there’s a Sears on 34th Street, and… wait, there is no Sears on 34th Street. Oh, well, almost a perfect match.
One of the things I love about you…your gumption!!
Hey! At least they made the effort to personalize the email. I got an email that said they wanted to work with me because ‘they loved my.’ Loved my…what? I didn’t realize we were playing fill in the blank. I’m still trying to sort the whole sponsorship/partnership thing on my blog… but I do know that my occasionally grammatically incorrect yammerings and pouty looks at the camera are worth more than a lipstick or socks.
Sister Wolf says
that article was flabbergasting in so many ways. I am planning to write about it as well. I will be featuring the quote from Sea of Shoes, which is so…..so something that I may print it on little cards to hand out.
OMG is right Wendy. That is SICK of them. “Sick” might sound like it isn’t the most fitting word for what has gone on here…but I can’t think of anything else that can describe how disgusted I’ve been by marketers posing as bloggers and worse, luring real bloggers into their game with things like the poppy project and what has been proposed to you. CAUGHT IN THE ACT. What nerve. Honestly I’m worried that people like this will ruin the game for all of us who are interested in sincere reporting/sharing love for what we’re passionate about – sick and sad.
ps – these kinds of things have made a mess oh what true creativity in marketing, journalism, and blogging really means.
Lolz, so glad you called them on their bs!
I just started reading your blog since I just started to make my own jewelry (and hopefully selling it will be in the future soon). I would love to do what you do some day (successful jewelry blog and make jewelry that people was to buy) and I am fascinated but your story.
I can’t believe the blatant lie about buying the jewelry. Saying that they like your website and you are so on trend, that is the type of lip service we expect in our life. It is like saying you like someones hair cut or that the bride was beautiful. But saying they bought something when they didn’t, well that is just tacky. I hadn’t given much thought to this topic or how I would handle it if they asked me. I would be naive and think this was a great opportunity. I guess I have a lot to learn.
That's Not My Age says
Well said Jennine and well done you for standing up to Sears. I just think it’s shoddy that these big companies think they can manipulate bloggers – and that some bloggers don’t question what they’re being asked to do, are simply flattered by the attention and just go ahead and do it regardless. Shocking.
PS nice photo!
Vint Junky says
Interesting! Will be hopping over to read Jennine’s words of wisdom right now.
oh and what a crappy lie…Bad sears!!
I completely agree, it’s ridiculous that they would think that you would ever agree to promote them! What I love about your blog is that you cater to an incredibly select group, why would you ever want to support such a widely recognized brand. You would never want to become some common household name, you’re above that!It’s far too average and what you represent is, again, above all that, it’s disgusting the way that they didn’t study your brand and realize how you choose to keep a select exclusive following. Fight the good fight, remain obscure!
I would like to expand my customer base all over the world and I welcome any reasonable opportunity to do that. But why should I work with a company that’s offering me NO money in return for publicizing THEM, while also telling me a ridiculous and unnecessary lie about buying my jewelry? Is that the kind of business deal that you’d jump on? “Ooh, let me advertise you for free, because you lie to me!” Then you’re as dumb as you seem from this comment.
BTW, my anti-spam is “muddclub” — give you any ideas?
Congrats to Jennine! Gorgeous photo, she looks beautiful and Wendy, the NERVE of WWD! Jennine, I’m going to steal those gloves.
And OH SEARS, SHAME ON YOU! One word… LAME. I mean really, WTF?
Great post. I also like how you called out Sears. 🙂 I’ve wanted to call out the many brands that like to take advantage of bloggers (cough…shopbop…cough) I have a huge long list of companies that have asked me to do various things for them with no monetary compensation but offer me “great exposure for your blog!” I’ve written back to them with the response of my blog statistics and my fees but they either don’t respond or tell me they have no budget for blogger campaigns.
I am not about getting paid for blogging, but I wish that companies would recognize that they are truly insulting me (and all bloggers) with their proposals of what they want us to do in return for nothing.
RIGHT ON Tiffany!
so tired of,
“Oh just put my F***in link all over yr blog for nothing.
that WWD article is like a BOOK! Yikes
very glad EVOLVING INFLUENCE is coming up this Thursday!!