I recently had a conversation with the president of a haircare brand. He asked whether his company should “buy a blogger” to promote his company’s products.
I told him that while I’m sure there might be some bloggers or vloggers that are willing to be “bought,” buying one would defeat the whole purpose. The power of these bloggers and vloggers was the credibility they have with their audience. And if they were to tout the benefits of only one brand, their credibility would be gone. And so would their value to his brand. When we started NaturallyCurly almost 16 years ago, there were no bloggers or vloggers (YouTube didn’t exist and Google was just starting). Brands got their messages out to consumers in the traditional ways – TV and magazine ads.
Today, bloggers and vloggers have become an integral part of how most hair-care brands promote their products to consumers, harnessing the strong trust and relationships they have with their audience to spread the word. But as more bloggers and vloggers are getting paid to review products, it’s changed the dynamics.
Because of all the talk about the topic, TextureMedia gathered some thought leaders on the topic for a webinar on the subject. We brought in Richelieu Dennis, CEO of Sundial Brands (makers of the SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage brands); Shannon Boodram, an award winning TV personality and creator of her Shannonteresa.com blog and her ShannonTBoodram YouTube channel; and Jordan Maney, a NaturallyCurly member who regularly looks at a variety of blogs and vlogs, including TightlCurl.com, UrbanOG and JustKellee 101.
There is no denying the power that bloggers and vloggers have to influence product purchases. But does the dynamic change when brands are paying for those product reviews? Do they risk losing their authenticity, and therefore their audience if those reviews lack?
The panel discussed the changing landscape and the new challenges they face as bloggers and vloggers become a key part of a brand’s marketing strategy.
Legally, bloggers and vloggers must tell their audiences if they’ve been paid to provide a review. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission released Testimonials & Endorsement Report, which was updated in 2013. It requires the disclosure of endorsements, sponsorships and other payments from online endorsers, including bloggers. The primary reason for the disclosure requirement is to assist readers and viewers in determining whether a blogger or endorser has a material connection to the brand about which they’ve produced content. It seems pretty obvious (to me, at least) why this is important to know.
Boodram said she knows firsthand that getting too financially tied to one brand can be tricky.
There is no fine line, she said. “There is a thick, black, gaping hole. If I feel the line is fine, I have already lost your trust.”
The marketing dollars moving toward the blogosphere aren’t likely to go away, especially as influence of bloggers and vloggers on purchasing behavior continues to grow. It may soon rival traditional forms of advertising such as TV and magazines as our society increasingly looks to one another for their product opinions rather than slick marketing messages from brands.
But that will depend on restraint and integrity on the part of both brands and bloggers and vloggers to ensure that money doesn’t distract them from “keeping it real”.