If you follow my work on Style by Fire you'll know that I review products quite often. Because I believe in transparency I have never claimed that something has been a staple in my routine for years or that every new product I try is my new favourite product ever. I think it's important to be accountable to my readers by sharing genuine feedback and test products out for an extended period of time before putting in my two cents. My reviews are on products I have gifted to me and on products that I have purchased myself. Consumers should demand more from their products and I should be able to share my thoughts on a product if I think it's too gimmicky, too expensive or ineffective - which I have done in my reviews before.
It can be a tricky business to be in because a lot of the products I review I have been gifted to me by their PR team with the sole purpose of helping promote their brand and its products. For those of you who follow me on Instagram you'll already know the routine. I post on my Instagram tagging the company thanking them for the goodies, I try it out, I *sometimes* write a product review if there was something about the product that stood out to me (good or bad), I share on my social media channels once and that's about it.
I don't share uniquely built coupon codes like "VICKI25OFF" or any bullshit like that because I want my readers to know that I don't get paid nor am I trying to get paid from them purchasing the products I review. I do not agree to share a minimum number of posts on a product/brand. While I will never be able to get used to the idea that people value my opinion when it comes to skincare and beauty I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to share my opinions with others and provide feedback to companies. Don't get me wrong, money is nice - but the day I get paid to say I like something I don't is the day I lose my personal sense of credibility and integrity.
Around the holiday season I noticed a lot of my fashion blogger acquaintances blowing up my Instagram with photos of them with McCafe cups or McDonald waffle fries with the hashtag #seasonscraving and at first it was a funny thing to see. I've been to press events with some of the same women where the event was catered to the nines and have seen them ignore what is seemingly a bountiful feast of food because they're "watching their figure" while I'm stuffing my face informing telling them, "yeah, but this stuff is for free," between bites. Don't get me wrong, I love McDonalds. The only person who loves those french fries more than I do is probably the drunk version of me. What I found interesting is how quickly people abandoned their brand or their image to make some money. I get it, I know some people who are full-time bloggers and partnerships and ads is how they pay the bills, but does that mean you should take on any sponsorship? And if so, don't you think you owe it to your readers to let them know that you're being paid to do so because native advertising isn't that obvious to those who aren't in the industry.
The Kardashian/Jenners are an obvious example of Instagram advertising. From gummy bears that make your hair strong, to waist trainers to make-you-skinny teas that will probably make you come close to shitting yourself at least once because I'm pretty sure that tea is straight up laxatives. However where the danger lies is when seemingly ordinary non-Kardashians with a decent social media following shares a product for financial gain with little to no disregard to who is listening and whether or not it's being taken with a grain of salt. Advertisements can disguise themselves as Instagram post or product reviews very easily and the majority of readers don't know the difference.
Native advertising, multi-level marketing and the blurry line between editorial content and advertising is a topic I feel very passionately about and could probably start an entire different blog on the issue with endless amounts of examples however, I'll keep it with just this for now.
Here is a snippet of one of many "will you be a brand ambassador for us?" emails I have received. So before you believe that someone loves a product so much that they just can't wait for you to try it using their promo code, ask yourself: what are they really getting out of it?
(edited to exclude company name and product)