Is Street Style Blogging The New Product Placement Advertising?
Sep 17, 2012 - by Samantha Lim
Fashion bloggers have become celebrities in their own right, and their image has become as important as their talent. But when they start to get paid for simply wearing clothing and walking around, how blurry do the lines of paid endorsement vs. genuine style actually get?
The NYTimes published an article last week stating that the street style you spot outside of New York Fashion Week is often times staged, and that the bloggers peacocking their best designer wares could in fact make between $2,000 - $10,000 for wearing specific outfits on their way to the Tents.
A fashion blogger's style plays as a visual calling card to the mini-brands (and in some cases, mega-brands) they want to build. Because you can visibly see their followers on media outlets like Twitter, Instagram, or blog post comments, these online influencers expose the brands they plug and wear to a very defined, very desired fashion audience. That incentive alone is enough for a brand to want to dress (or pay to dress) a blogger. Many smaller brands and designers also go this route because they do not have access to higher end stylists, models, or celebrities, and dressing a street style blogger is a more economical and accessible move. In the Times article, branding expert Tom Julian made the observation, If you give them [bloggers] a gift card of $1,000 and you pay their expenses, thats a good quid pro quo." This has become a relatively traditional marketing move often seen between brands and bloggers.
Originally, street style bloggers were praised for blurring the lines between brands and consumers, because they tapped into the insights of how real people would wear brand's clothing. However from the article, endorsed bloggers seem to be turning into another ingenuous means of paid advertising. Julian stated, These girls are definitely billboards for the brands. People still think street style is a voice of purity. But I dont think purity exists any more. The Times followed up stating, "Branding consultants estimate that popular bloggers and other so-called influencers can earn $2,000 to $10,000 for a single appearance in their wares."
This brings us to the real question: can we still see the brand endorsements of street style bloggers as genuine product recommendations?
By law, fashion bloggers must disclose whether a product they are plugging was a sponsored or free item, which is how many bloggers monetize their creative businesses, but this is not a guaranteed case for a street style photo that could be snapped and posted on a different site. For hypothetical example, if we see the Man Repeller wearing a Margiela t-shirt on Vogue.com's street style roundup, is it considered an endorsement of the brand? Did she get paid to wear it or is she sporting it out of love for the item? And, most importantly, should we go out and buy one?
How to know the answers to any of these questions for every street style blogger is hard to say, but we can definitely agree that with what the business blogging has turned into, the "I have a style blog just for fun" days are long gone. From street style photos of influential bloggers on secondary sites, brands get valuable added eyeballs on their product for a minimal cost. This brings genuinely high value to a blogger's endorsement, directly through their site or otherwise, and bloggers and brands are both starting to capitalize on it. In its best case, this is a win-win marketing move for both blogger who genuinely likes the product and the brand for wanting their product on style influencers. In its worst, it is an advertising money move that tricks consumers into thinking they are getting a genuine purchase recommendation from a trusted source, the style blogger.
We would like to pose the question to our bloggers out there: have you ever been paid to wear a designer's collection under the guise that you chose the clothing yourself? Email your experiences to [email protected]