Malcolm McLaren, the controversial ‘Godfather of Punk’ always said of his creation: “Punk was an attitude. It was never about having a Mohican haircut or a ripped T-shirt. It was all about destruction and the creative potential within that.”
So, the Chic Stirrer asks, are bloggers the new punks?
Their role and their impact seem very similar: both break down boundaries of the accepted norm. Their capacity to disrupt the conventional and their appetite to mock the Emperor’s New Clothes are identical. They create (or at least imagine) a world unconstrained by the pressure to conform, and that freedom of expression is a virus they tantalise us with. It’s a virus that fascinates and their influence shows that.
As Matthew Maxwell, Imagination’s Digital Creative Director puts it; “The power of citizen journalism lies in its unaccountability: where the advertising revenue is negligible, the viewpoint is more candid. When the legal and editorial control is loose, the reporting can be sharper and cut deeper.”
And while many bloggers provide us with sharp, well edited and deep content, the seeds of capitalism are taking root.
Before the worlds of social media and fashion collided we were understandably dubious of the value of bloggers. Fashion brands desperate to control their image tried to ignore bloggers as much as possible for fear that they would say something negative about them. Brands are now simply turning this on its head and finding ways to control, manipulate and own the blogosphere and its power for free speech by offering freebies and developing collaborations.
Bloggers are therefore faced with a big problem: Is it possible to write ‘unique’ content and maintain genuine relationships with audiences while earning a living from it?
Navaz Batliwalla of Disneyrollergirl fame says some bloggers have sold out but feels it is possible to find a happy medium between genuine content and sponsored content. “I’m noticing certain popular bloggers don’t seem to have a filter any more. They’re offered money to promote so many different brands and they say yes to all of them! This means that their blogs then lack a point of view and just seem to be full of sponsored posts, both of which can turn readers off. I notice them being called out about this on Instagram which is a sign that the readers don’t like it and feel exploited. I understand the temptation, but I work hard to resist it, and if there’s a week or month when I’ve said yes to more than a couple of commercial campaigns, I’ll make sure I compensate with extra content that has come from the heart. That way, the ratio of pure content, to paid-for content is kept in check and I won’t piss off my readers.”
Key to a blogger/vlogger’s success is the trust they build with their audience. That relationship makes them valuable to advertisers. And the reality is that our love of everything ‘on demand’ continues to develop and our expectations of how we will consume content change. As with Punk, society accepts the changes and moves on to the next trend.
We seem to want to be outraged that some bloggers are earning such big bucks. Perhaps it is similar to the reaction we had to supermodels claiming they didn’t get out of bed for less that £10,000. Over time it will be come the norm and the fees grow ever higher particularly as ‘social talent’ agencies jump on the ‘blogwagon’ dedicated to managing, promoting and negotiating bloggers’ deals. The difference between the supermodels and bloggers is that models never really claimed they did the job for any other reason than the money whereas bloggers need to maintain their integrity and justify their motivations.
With more Twitter followers than Cara Delevingne and more than 5.4 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, Zoella has become a dream ambassador for brands that want to reach young consumers. She is represented by social talent agency Gleam Futures who are keen to highlight the importance of ‘trust and credibility’ when it comes to a blogger and their audience. Managing Director of Gleam Dominic Smales says; “No amount of money is worth betraying the trust of your audience. There may be, however, a proportion of bloggers/vloggers who will accept brand integration over credibility.”
“At Gleam we are incredibly sensitive to how brands work with our talent and, in-fact, turn down 90% of approaches. We are looking for brand partners for who want to integrate organically and credibly with our talents’ content. The ideal partnerships are with brands who the talent genuinely have a relationship with and love, whether there is money changing hands or not.”
“As Social Talent or blogger/bloggers become more influential and gain higher reach brands and their agencies must realise they should have strategic partnerships with the very top tier of talent, not to foster insincere opinions, but, to add social talent reach to their strategy in a more controlled way than simply supplying free products and hoping for coverage.”
It looks like this topic will continue to rock and roll…at least until the next big trend. Step back from the hype and there are some genuinely engaging collaborations and campaigns between brands and bloggers happening. They can be as fun and engaging as non paid-for content. The key to success for both sides is finding the perfect partnerships. The audience is savvy and The Chic Stirrer is pretty sure they can spot a non-genuine blogger and over time, just like with natural selection, these bloggers will lose their appeal to both their audience and to the brands and become extinct and irrelevant