Do bloggers buy their clothes/makeup? – is a question I stumble upon every once in a while. Even if unspoken it still hangs in the air.
I recently had a conversation with a girl on Facebook. An online shop somewhere in Europe had just started stocking some of The Body Shop products. I saw their post and I left a comment that I was very happy with a particular range which I had tested about a year ago and reviewed on my blog, so I can recommend it to their customers. It wasn’t a sponsored request, just an honestly shared opinion. Another user made a remark after my comment “That you obviously have to be a blogger to get to test the products”. Well, it’s not that obvious to me. You don’t have to be a blogger, to buy beauty products, right?
If talking about the particular case with The Body Shop, I can say that throughout the years I had a long love-hate relationship with this brand. When I first discovered them after I moved to London, I purchased enough products to open my own shop. I was in love with the whole concept of sustainable and cruelty-free organic products and I started gifting all my friends and family back home. Later on, I pondered the question if everything really was that sustainable when certain things could be improved. But then again, I’m still a big fan of the brand and I continue to buy lots of my essentials from them.
In a digital era when information is coming from every possible direction, we receive beauty and fashion tips from many sources and medias.
“Ten years ago beauty was somewhat elitist, being only available to those that could afford professional advice or spent their weekends chatting to counter girls in Selfridges; fast forward to 2016 and it’s never been more democratic, with everyone from your next door neighbour to world class celebrities sharing their top tips for looking and feeling great.”
Hayley from London Beauty Queen
Marketing is not limited to billboards, glossy magazines and TV adverts any more. We have Youtubers and Instagramers flooding us with product reviews; brand ambassadors bragging about their favourite picks of the month, celebrities launching exclusive ranges… and so on, and so on.
Can we trust bloggers?
So naturally, comes the question: Can we trust bloggers? Do they actually buy the clothes they wear or the makeup they brag about?
When I first entered the world of blogging a bit more than 3 years ago, I was to discover that there are mainly 2 types of bloggers. The simplest way to define them would be: Freebie bloggers and Ethical bloggers.
It’s like going to a backyard party. There is always a group of people that would walk in and go straight to the bar to find themselves a drink and they will try to drink as much as they can before they leave. On another side, you’d have people that would come in and try to find the host first to say ‘Hi’, will greet everyone and find someone to talk to. You can pour them a drink a couple of times, but they will be too busy making friends and having fun to actually take notice of how much of that home brew beer they’ve had.
Just as well, the freebie bloggers have started writing, because they’ve heard that it would bring them press samples. They blog about lots of their own shopping hauls, but you could see them swinging in any possible direction, as long as there was a PR who asked them to review something. Other bloggers will often refuse taking samples of products that are not compatible for them.
What is it to have a blog
Blogging is hard work which takes away most of your free time. You end up researching trends, products, comparing, buying more than you need, investing in equipment, learning new skills, taking photographs, editing the photographs, writing text, editing the text, learning HTML, editing the HTML… and the list of activities goes on and on.
You can often see how bloggers interested in freebies will drop after a while. The blogging thing takes too much time and money and requires consistency. If you’re not seriously passionate about it, you just can’t keep on doing it for too long, only to receive a bunch of press samples, eventually.
Ethical bloggers on the other hand are those that are here, because they have a mission. Whether it is to share their personal experience with makeup or to inspire more women from their age group to experiment with fashion styles, they have taken their mission seriously. Alright, we might receive a sample from a brand to review and share our experience with it, but more often than not, we need to invest our own time and money just to be on top with trends. We know that if you don’t keep up with the ever evolving world of fashion and beauty, you just become outdated too quickly.
Not the purchase, but the opinion matters
I work with many brands. Sometimes a PR might approach me, at other times I decide that this particular range deserves a shout. Either way, I share my own opinion. I often have to decline a brand with “Sorry, but I don’t think you’re a good fit for my audience” or “I’m not a user of your product, so I’m unable to review it correctly“.
“In the UK, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has warned that not disclosing paid-for promotional content, on a blog or microblogging platform like Twitter, constitutes deceptive practice under fair trading laws.”
Unlike magazines who receive tonnes of press samples, usually a full range of colours or sizes, so they can feature a little mention of a brand in their media, bloggers don’t get those perks. Normally we’d be happy to receive one item to sample and review. Whenever I team up with a brand, I mention this in my blog post. On the majority of occasions, I simply fill up my shopping bag so I have enough clothing to style up for the next season or beauty products to review. What matters more than who paid for the lipstick, is what I think about it. Without claiming to be a beautician, I give an honest opinion about how it feels and I share how it looks on me.
Staying on top
Because of my business, I travel a lot. I schedule my appointments from months ahead, so I make sure I’m available for London Fashion Week twice a year and for other very important events in the beauty and fashion world. Whilst other bloggers may not go, because they haven’t been given a pass for the events, I pay for my own tickets, so I can be first in line for talks and interviews. I write down notes like a school girl, so I can produce genuine unique material for the next few months. I often buy not one moisturiser, but five different ones, so I can examine each one of them for long enough to form an opinion and share those that deserve to be heard about.
When a brand’s PR approaches me and gifts me a voucher to spend on their range, it’s welcomed. I don’t see it as a payment, but I see it as work – because it allows me to test more than I could afford myself and it gives me the opportunity to create a richer content for my blog. Testing and experiencing more products, means more valuable content for my readers.
Whatever my opinion on a certain fashion trend or beauty product is, I can never force a reader to make a purchase. Social media and blogs have made products and trends a whole lot more accessible and comparable. We all have favourite bloggers – whether if it is for their writing style, photography, or because we feel connected to them.
But it’s the reader who knows which bloggers to trust. The reader compares different blogs written by girls with various skin types or fashion styles in order to inform themselves better. And… it’s always the reader who makes the final decision.