I've heard rumblings of fashion blogger backlash, appreciated even, the satirical attempts to poke fun at the poses, the affected speech, the same pair of wedges running standard. Despite this, I've spent several years educating major fashion brands on the value of developing partnerships with bloggers, jumping up and down (metaphorically, of course) until blue in the face about the value of working with style bloggers, of involving them in brand decisions, working with them to help boost social media credibility and drive interest and awareness. I continue to feel compelled to shine the light on brands who are working with bloggers in new and innovative ways and am a huge proponent of listening and taking in feedback from customers and digital influencers.
And then it happened. It's late at night and I am scrolling through my "shop spam." I click through a particularly potent offer on a GAP email and there's Susie Bubble. Susie Bubble for the Gap? And the rabid online shopper part of me and the social media marketer in me emitted one big collective sigh. We might have even emitted the slightest of eye-rolls. And this is coming from someone who loves loves loves her some fashion bloggers.
This is certainly not directed at Susie, or even at the Gap. I want fashion bloggers to be able to make a career out consulting or writing and contributing their creativity. I want brands to evolve past the email pitch, the trunk show invite and work with people all over the world who are truly passionate about the industry, about clothing, about community. I love the fact that there are bloggers who are working with (or without) agents to negotiate incredible opportunities, finding real legitimacy in the fashion world, the quest or rejection from which often inspired their desire to blog in the first place.
My nose is crinkling with a whiff of impending 'fashion blogger plus fashion brand' overkill. And, I'm frustrated that there are only a handful of bloggers - a fashion blogger brat pack - if you will, that seem to be in the running for the best gigs. Brands are just going for the obvious choices, both in terms of the talent they choose and how they decide to work with them. Two years ago it was a risk to put a huge image of a fashion blogger in your store, now its perfunctory.
So in my late night delirium, I'm calling for fashion brands, and by extension their PR departments to take a step back. Think about your long-term strategy, brand perception and promise. Consider, for example, that in another six months, the fashion consumer might find her eyes glazing over and shrug her shoulders at your latest blogger-inspired campaign and if so, what's next? We've hit mainstream (it's just a matter of time before the quintessential top 10 makes it onto the cover of a major glossy) and working with fashion bloggers, while important and powerful, is no longer innovative, no longer cause for self-congratulations, or god forbid, evidence of "social media savvy."
May we please consider:
- Expanding and diversifying the bloggers in our selection set
- Engaging bloggers beyond including their faces and bodies in our ad campaigns, or enticing them/their readership through product give-aways
- What fashion blogger burnout might look like, how to watch for it, how help avoid it
- Do we risk drowning out/diluting the very voices we once welcomed by surrounding our style blogger partners with too much big brand agenda?
- How do we evolve our understanding of influence, rather than revert or convert?
I'm tired of seeing the same handful of faces. And while I'm venting (!), it's not that much of a stretch to put a girl who looks like a model but who is not a model in the spotlight and then attempt to pull the "real women, real bodies" PR angle. Yuck. I'm afraid that successful fashion bloggers are being homogenized to fit the old tired industry expectations. Sure, you can be a bit quirky - but only in the right ways - an edgy hair cut, freckles and a "curvy" size eight thrown in for good measure, but as brands and industries that work with brands to propel them forward, we have a responsibility to consider what and whose points of view get the mass brand stamp of approval. Part of the power of fashion blogging for me is the way it invigorated an industry raise the curtain and examine and reflect on how clothing is being styled, worn, analyzed and experienced by all sorts of different kinds of people. Are we sending a not so silent message that to be successful as a style blogger, you must fit this "model-lite" aesthetic, and ethics aside, is that message really going to drive loyalty long-term?
Consumers will take their cue from perceived brand endorsement. Let's consider the message behind the marketing, rather than following the herd. Let's figure out where we can take some risks, learn collectively what can be improved upon, uncover a few hidden gems, and have some fun exploring our opportunities and evolution.