Some of the more sensitive issues raised during Singapore’s annual Social Media Week were surrounding the topic of bloggers. In the wake of the publication of Suzy Menkes’ infamous article entitled the ‘Circus of Fashion’, in which she argues bloggers today have come to be known to simply parade around like peacocks at the bi-annual fashion weeks, the debate was relevant and exceedingly fresh in everybody’s minds.
In this post, I share a bit of my opinion on some of the main questions brought up during the sessions I attended.
– Are blogs/bloggers important for luxury brands?
My answer is YES. Sure, luxury brands don’t often engage hoards of bloggers like the mainstream (with good reason – so as not to jeopardise the reputation of their brands). When they do, they pick quality over quantity, perhaps engaging just one or two bloggers for a particular campaign.
Bloggers can humanise luxury brands and make them that little bit more accessible, acting like a bridge to the general ‘normal’ person sitting on the couch and surfing online. They’ve had bags, cocktails and clothing lines named after them, as have celebrities. Today, ‘top’ bloggers grace the front rows at fashion weeks, are flown all over the world and are inundated with free merchandise. In return? They can give a luxury brand public coverage online, reaching certain tiers of consumers that they would not be able to reach otherwise.
So, my verdict? Yes, bloggers CAN be important and very beneficial for luxury brands.
– A laptop and iphone doth not a journalist make.
Hold the phone. This is partially correct, there is a lot of poor blog content out there, rife with badly taken pictures (of which I can be guilty, but please note this is not a photography blog – duh) and awful spelling. But since when did people who choose to blog go in with the intention of being conveyed as journalists? Sure, there are people who aspire to be writers, editors and such like, but since when did the virtual pages of blogs have to resemble the meticulously edited pages of a high fashion magazine?
The beauty of blogging is that is it accessible to virtually everyone, anywhere, at any given time. In the age of smart phones, tablets and other mind boggling portable gadgets, blogging has never been more convenient. Bloggers have the ability to share a moment instantly, giving up-to-the-minute coverage at a rate at which magazines cannot. Undoubtedly, this has its advantages, which is why many brands will engage bloggers as they create some instant buzz for the public.
– Bloggers can be easily bought. Is this why brands choose to invest?
Ha! Well, I believe there is a large portion of truth in this, especially in Asia, to the point where brands sponsor the most ridiculous aspects of bloggers lives (sponsored weddings, sponsored meals, sponsored PLASTIC SURGERY?!) just to gain coverage on their site. The general consensus is: give a blogger something for free, or invite them to somewhere exclusive/endorse them for a campaign and ta-da, you have instant coverage.
To those critics who cynically roll their eyes at such activities, however, I say: Would you turn down a free meal ticket? If you had the option of receiving designer goods through the post just to write a couple of lines on a blog or wear to an event, would you say no?
And, may I add, brands don’t just practice these kind of tactics with bloggers. Fashion editors, celebrities, politicians, anybody with a good degree of public influence gets sent stuff for free. I work in PR – I do the sending. And yes, they may wear it, write about it in the next issue, or talk about it in a public interview, whether it be paid or for free. So where can we draw the line?
On the flip side, there are bloggers who have cleverly monetised their blogs and worked hard to build a real business through advertising. Bloggers who have become their own brands. Some have worked hard daily to create relevant, engaging and consistent content and yes, if their hits are lucrative enough and they can make a fair bit of extra cash out of advertising each month, why the hell not? Wouldn’t you?
Then again, as I have encountered in Singapore, there are those who have just bought followers (yes, it is blatantly obvious if you have more followers than The Straits Times and nobody has heard of you) and gained their success, exposure from brands and monetary gain that way. How you live a lie, I do not know. Perhaps this is why some brands, especially luxury brands, are hesitant to venture into the market – how to filter the wheat from the chaff?
And so the debate continues. What is your stance?