I had the opportunity to spend 3 days in a huge exhibition dedicated to the beauty business here in Dubai, Beautyworld Middle East.
It fulfilled all my expectations, but also crystallized the dilemma I face since the creation of this blog, which is the management of the relationships between brands and bloggers.
And I realized that I was not the only one to feel this kind of “awkwardness“.
Beautyworld Middle East went above and beyond my expectations for the discovery of new brands, very promising products, meeting interesting people, and exciting discussions. However, it was also a reminder of the indestructible clichés that brands have about bloggers.
To attend Beautyworld, I registered as a simple visitor on the event’s website, such a huge exhibition, over 3 days, with an impressive number of cosmetics brands, is like the best event of the year for me!
The first day, I got there late because I had commitments during the morning, and I was there as a “simple” visitor.
I walked around, stopping at stands that I found interesting, and asked lots of questions to exhibitors.
When I introduced myself as a beauty blogger, there were very different attitudes from the brand managers towards me. Overall attitudes ranged from total contempt, to genuine enthusiasm to tell me more about their brand. In certain cases, they gave me the cold shoulder and in others, exhibitors spent time explaining their brand and products, and some kindly gave me products to try.
The people on Organic Silicon G5′s stand, an Irish brand, for example, who were particularly kind, took time to really explain the concept of their products, with a sincere passion (and in French, lol!). If I get to try some products from this brand, I will gladly speak about them (unfortunately they are not yet distributed here in Dubai or elsewhere in the United Arab Emirates).
The second day, I met a blogger friend, who had been invited by the Beautyworld organizers, Messe Frankfurt.
Indeed, this year, for the first time, the organizers decided to invite bloggers. A charming young French lady was responsible for facilitating meetings between brand managers and bloggers during the exhibition. Thanks to her, the visit was really interesting and pleasant.
Specifically, she asked us what brands and products we were interested in, suggested certain other brands and organised the meetings with them.
I certainly noticed the brands attitude was very different when I was introduced via the organizers. Most of the time, we were welcomed nicely but funnily enough, not all the time.
For example, I was looking for some information about the nail polish brand Orly, because I wanted to buy some products (I had my hands full of gorgeous nail polish and nail care products), and I was lucky enough to speak to the brand manager. He answered all my questions and very kindly gave me all the products I had intended to buy.
Indeed, having a blog post about a product is very interesting for a brand because in general bloggers will do a sincere review, often with a lot of details about the product and/or service.
And without access to a product and/or service, it is very difficult to imagine that a blogger’s review can be authentic.
This form of unbiased communication about a product is close to the principle of word of mouth and recognized as the most effective because it is considered as being honest. The cost for a brand is still very small compared to all sorts of traditional advertising campaigns.
While I can see that some brands really understand the relevance of a blog post for their brand and to promote their products, others are still very confused/embarrassed and do not know how to categorize bloggers: do they have to treat bloggers as a kind of journalist, business partner, billboard or just as a freeloader?
One person even asked me if I was well paid to “blog for brands”! WTF!
So, I would like to explain once and for all, because it is true that I’ve never done it, why and how I blog.
First, I do not blog for money, to be very clear.
99% of the time, a blogger is not a professional, and probably will never earn money from their blog, the overall costs for many bloggers outweigh any income. In my opinion, very few people live from their blogs, and in this case, they are professionals, so to be classified like journalists, not bloggers.
Furthermore, I would say that some bloggers, the ‘celebrities’ are no longer bloggers, or even journalists anymore, but more like brand promoters.
In my case, my blog is costing me money because very often, I buy the products I’m interested in talking about, not to mention it takes me a lot of time. For me, it is mostly a hobby. A very time consuming hobby, certainly, but still a hobby.
I have been reading blogs for a very long time, and I love to be able to check-out some non-biased opinions about products that interest me or that I discovered through these blogs.
And that for me is the difficulty: is it possible to remain sincere when brands offer you products and expect you to say good things about them in your blog? When does the content of a blog become advertorial? Is it whenever you didn’t pay for the product or service?
I read and often comment on articles about this complicated relationship between brands and bloggers (here, for example). I talk about it with other bloggers I know, and is a recurring discussion we have.
I’m currently working on a personal web project, I feel it is important to not only separate this from my blog, but as it is commercially oriented, to not link the two together unless it is relevant.
I have questioned myself about this separation, because I really want my blog to be as honest as possible, hey, maybe my opinion will change…
I’m not even talking about sponsored posts. I’m not sure I really understand the principle of sponsored content, but as a blog reader, this type of content always seems a little bit suspicious to me…
That being said, I’m not against receiving free products. Clearly, I won’t turn my nose up at relevant products / services.
But if I’m given a product, would I have been interested enough to buy it myself, if the brand haven’t offered it to me? I always remind myself of this when I’m writing reviews.
And of course, if I haven’t bought the product, I mention the fact in my blog post.
So what if I don’t like a product?
Among bloggers who I asked this question, some told me that if they don’t like a product, they don’t speak about it on their blogs.
I’m OK not to speak about a product some brand has given me if I’m not interested in it. Let’s imagine that a brand has sent me a product that is not suitable for my skin type, my complexion, etc. I had no expectations, or it’s not relevant, so I would not have spoken about it on my blog anyway.
However, with a product that interests me and I am lucky enough to get it as a gift, and finally I’m disappointed about it, why censor myself and not talk about it?
Because, yes, as a blog reader, if there is a ‘negative’ aspect, this is really something I want to know when I plan to spend my money on a product.
Of course, it will be the same if I buy a disappointing product myself.
If I like a product, I will do a positive review and I will explain why the product is good in my opinion, and if it I don’t like it, I will of course explain why the product didn’t match my expectations.
I don’t work for cosmetic brands via my blog:
I really want my blog to be independent from brands. The fact that the brand gives me a product or invites me to an event for the launch of a new product does not guarantee a post on my blog.
Also, for me, the brand needs to make as much effort with a blogger for them to want to try the product, not the reverse.
On my blog , which remains for me a personal space, I talk about products that really interest me and if a brand speaks about its concept or product with real passion and transparency, this will make a difference, and convince me.
I sometimes feel with some brands that my questions are ‘annoying’, while I just want to understand more about their product / service.
Finally, if someday I decide to organize an event with a brand, it will always be mentioned in my blog post, to remain transparent to my readers, so that everything is clear for everyone.
When I review a product, I really have tried it.
It may seem obvious, but on my blog, I want to understand as much as I can about a product in order to give a review that is as complete as possible.
It’s unthinkable for me to write a review about a product I haven’t tried, and this long enough to fully appreciate its effectiveness.
I also do a lot of research first before writing a review because the type and context of a product plus other reviews will really help me to forge a complete opinion. Blogs that have mixed feelings and/or detailed reviews are particularly interesting to me, unlike reviews that are always very positive about every product, just making me doubt their overall integrity.
I also blog because I know the beauty business.
I find it very interesting to “help” (modestly, of course, just at my level) people who are interested, like myself, in cosmetics.
I was a trainer for almost 10 years for a cosmetic brand, and my job was to transfer knowledge and a technique to Spas and beauticians.
I have always considered my blog to be a sort of extension, even if it’s a bit more personal, of my job. For this reason if you want to ask me questions after reading a blog post, I will always be happy to answer them.
One of the objectives of a blog is to be interactive, which means of course that I must accept opinions that are different from mine (not the easiest thing for me, I must admit , but I’m working on it!:)).
Because after all, I also blog to share with my readers.
What is great about a blog is that the post doesn’t stop with the last word of your article. It can continue or even grow through the comments.
The debate remains open and many new ideas and concepts can be added.
I’d also like to refer you to 2 very good posts, one from Jane (British Beauty Blogger) and one other from The Hungry Australian who have expressed their feelings on the subject.
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