Friday, 22 October 2010

Friend Friday: Product Placement

This week's Friend Friday topic was sparked by the rescue of the Chilean Miners and the issue of product placement.  Friend Friday is run by Katy of ModlyChic.  To participate email katy_rose1@yahoo.com.

1. As you watched the rescue efforts of the Chilean miners did you notice the products? What were your thoughts?

I don't own a television or watch TV.  Probably one of the best ways of avoiding exposure to product placement!  So I didn't see the rescue efforts other than pictures in newspaper reports and I didn't notice what brand of sunglasses the miners were wearing to protect their eyes when they surfaced.  Someone on the Google groups mentioned they were provided by Oakley and this generated millions of dollars of free publicity for them.

I'm very familiar with Oakley.  I grew up in Australia where, after decades of a deteriorating ozone layer, there has always been a high incidence of skin cancer and eye cataract formation due to such low levels of atmospheric UV protection.  Concerned about the health of my eyes, I researched what the best brand was for daily sun protection.  Oakley came up trumps not only for the quality of their lenses but they were one of the few brands in those days that made wraparound frames for sports activities that properly shield your eyes from damaging UV rays.

Wraparounds are pretty ugly, make you look like a bug and give you hideous strap marks on your face after a summer of wear.  These days they are probably only worn by people using them for sporting activities, that antipodean wonder that is the proudly sartorially ignorant Aussie bloke and er... me.  But all those lovely fashionable sunglasses that let the sunlight in from the sides? They are actually utterly useless in stopping UV exposure.

In that sense I think Oakley has a superior product that actually does what it says on the tin - protect your eyes from UV.  With regards to the miners I don't take issue with what Oakley did.  I say smart move and in fact they probably had the best product on the market the miners could hope for in terms of sunglasses that were designed for the job.

Bug eyed but cataract free: my Oakleys, still going strong after 12 years!
Companies exist to make profits not to be charitable institutions.  Marketing is how they make consumers aware of what they are producing and how those products can benefit them.  That is just business and we have to respect the rights of companies to pursue ways of making their operations successful.

I do agree being advertised to constantly is annoying and I can see that product placement can make some people hot under the collar because it feels deceptive.  In societies with free market economies it is perfectly legal activity and that is never going to change.

But you as a consumer have free will and the intelligence to either ignore it, limit your exposure to it (don't watch TV, clear your cookies on the internet regularly and get off Facebook!), research products you may be interested in buying and exert discipline on your own consumer behaviour.  Yes you!  Nobody is forcing you to open your wallet.

2. Product placement is all around us today, what do you think makes it such a marketing gold mine?
Because it works!  Human are acquisitive by nature, more often than not with the aim of showing off their status and marketing is all about exploiting that. 

Apart from the mediums like TV, the internet and movies it is even at work when you go to the cash register to find sweets stacked up in the line of sight of your toddler.

The more we are exposed to an image of something in a subliminal way the more normal we begin to think that image is as we fail to filter it out before it seeps into our subconscious.  (I mean don't all columnists for newspapers write on an Apple laptops and earn enough for a closet full of designer labels and Manolo Blahnik shoes?)
Image from Sex and The City Movie
All the more reason why awareness of it is a good thing because if you are aware you can exert control over what influence it plays in your consumer behaviour.

The rise and rise of a celebrity worshipping culture has presented even more and powerful opportunities for companies to take advantage of as people strive to imitate their heroes and icons.  Why do fashion designers invite celebrities to sit on the front row and send them clothes to wear for free? Because they know that sales of those clothes will go through the roof when photos of the celebrities wearing them are released by the press and their label becomes forever associated with the glamour of the star wearing it.

3. On your blog, either now or in the future, what is/will be your stance on highlighting specific products?
If I have an opinion I'll state it. This has been and will continue to be on things I've personally bought.  I rave if I love something and I'm honest if I don't like something or find it doesn't work for me.  I don't expect and am not seeking to review products that some company sends me unless of course PR for Alexander McQueen comes knocking.  It is not really the aim of my blog.

If the blogger has stated clearly that a product is being reviewed for or has been accepted on behalf of a third party then that's fine with me.  It's their blog and they should do what they want to.  That's enough information to signal to me to make my own mind up.

4. If the opportunity arose would you give a bad review of a product?
If I found something to be really bad, yes I would.  I have reviewed the poor service at a luxury shop in London but stopped shy of naming which one it was after heeding the pleas of my litigation paranoid boyfriend.

5. Do you view your blog as a product? Where have you or do you hope to place it?
No.  Nor do I intend to make it one.  You know, whatever happened to the days of a blog being on online diary or mood board?  One where you could post what you felt like.  I am feeling a little bombarded these days with articles about how you should be marketing your blog, branding it, taking it to the next level, catering for your audience, post daily or you're not serious, do more outfit posts, categorise your blog, don't write long posts, don't write short posts, comment to increase your followers, don't comment to increase your followers... the list is long, contradictory and getting overwhelming.

All this well-meaning advice is fantastic for those hoping to be the next Susie Bubble or Fashiontoast.  I salute your drive and ambition because blogging, even as a hobby, is hard work.  I'm all for blog improvement and there are excellent posts I've read recently full of great tips (see Grit and Glamour for my personal favourite and in my opinion one of the most balanced).  But I have to be realistic about how much time I have on my hands. I have a very busy life which is only set to get busier and the blog has to be something that fits into my life not the other way around.  I'm also quite wary of making a product out of something I wish to retain creative control over because if I wasn't able to blog on my terms I probably wouldn't blog at all.

A blogger I follow regularly recently posted about complaints from some of her followers that her blog had branched out from her original street style content into other things and that she should go back to focusing on street style.  She rightfully pleaded that she has a right to feed her own creative needs by pursuing other avenues.  I would take issue with people telling me what sort of posts I should be doing on my blog unless I've asked for suggestions.  Hello?  I'm the blogger.  Let me remind everyone that I am not being paid to do this!  This is supposed to be fun!

While it is wonderful to have readers and their comments on my posts, this is a creative outlet and a hobby for me which I use to wax lyrical on my love for fashion and to experiment with photography, writing and style.  Apart from perhaps changing the layout at some point in the future I don't have plans on "placing" it anywhere or to drastically change it or the types of posts I have been doing just to make it more marketable.

I enjoy the social networking aspect of it and will continue to network it in that way.  The best thing about my blog is that it now feels like a cosy cyber meeting spot for some amazing, interesting and stylish people from whom I take inspiration from every day and I trust that will continue to be the case.

11 comments:

  1. Hear, hear...I couldn´t agree more with you or explain it better.
    I didn´t know about Oakley sun glasses. I must look for some.
    You are wonderful, you know...
    Un beso grande.
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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  2. I always love reading your Friend Friday posts - they are so informative and well written. This is no exception.

    You don't have a TV?? As Joey says, "What's all your furniture pointed at?"! I jest - my mum doesn't have a TV and has no desire to have one but my boyf always says this to her!!

    I totally agree about the culture of celebrity meaning that product placement works so well and that without the success product placement wouldn't take place.

    Was interested by your comments re Oakleys - need to look into them!

    Also re the blog and being told what to write. I read that same comment, I think. I thought the same as you - if it's your blog you should be allowed to write or post what you wish without others trying to tell you to do it differently. Particularly when we're not paid to do this.

    Have a good weekend :) xx

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  3. Great post. It is very hard to retain the spirit of blogging and stay outside of the mainstream or the marketing vultures. I keep resisting as I like to be free to be a critical eye etc xx

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  4. I dipped my feet into the advertising waters but then backed out because I didn't like the idea of losing creative control over something that is a fun little hobby for me. I remember the Pierce Bronson James Bond were notorious about product placement. It even had its own website devoted to all the brands featured.

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  5. Loved this! Before I start: I accidentally deleted my blog before making an announcement, but I am now at http://thosegraces.com! I didn't want everyone to think I fell of hte face of the internet.

    I agree in my post about what you said about Oakley. If they're the best, they're the best!

    I slightly disagreed with the negative review, but I took my answer from the idea that I would have a more formal relationship with the company (ie: someone asks you to review something). I didn't think about informal relationships, it which case I may be more blatant in my negativity. haha.

    I think there's a lot of ideas swirling around about consumption ESPECIALLy with facebook. I hear something on public radio once that people on the internet assume privacy when they should really assume that everything is public. The internet makes everything odd.

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  6. You're answers are always good, so I'm going to jump to the part I really like which was your last answer! I think can get overwhelming at times with all the info about making the most of your blog (especially if you're new) and bloggers lose sight of why they blog in the first place. First and foremost, it's your space to have fun, learn, social network, and express your creativity. Once you have that focus, your blog will naturally grow on its own! :)

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  7. I always enjoy your writing so I'm late in commenting as I love to savour every word and nod in sage agreement.
    I'm not a fan of blog advertising, I prefer my blog to be a sort of daily on-line diary about what I've worn, bought or done. xxx

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  8. @Shopgirl @sacramento looks like I did a good job plugging Oakley (though hardly 14 squillion dollars worth of free publicity)

    @Shopgirl thanks sweetie, very touched by your comment. Yes it is true I don't have a TV! Even the TV license inspector who came around to check couldn't believe it! By the way who is Joey ;)

    @Vintage Vixen @Pret a Porter P @Make Do Style Good for you ladies on resisting the move to the mainstream rather than risk compromising your creativity!

    @Courtney it is unbelievable how niave people are about privacy on the internet. And companies do exploit that.

    @MJ I do find all that overwhelming, like I need to throw myself into a competitive blog rat race. I started off doing things to promote it and then just found my energy to keep pursuing it petered out fairly quickly as I'd rather spend the time writing the post, reading other blogs and replying to comments. Thanks for your lovely encouraging comments!

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  9. I really appreciate your answers, especially to number 5. I voluntarily joined Friend Friday, but for the past two weeks, I have not participated because the topics didn't seem pertinent and I too have no desire to monetize my blog.

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  10. @Terri - I think you're right too, if it is not pertinent then you shouldn't feel pressured to try to write something just for the sake of it. Two weeks ago I didn't write because, apart from being strapped for time, I didn't feel I had much to contribute as my blog is still so young.

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  11. Apparently I'm in desperate need of catching up on your blog - I had missed this post! (My Google Reader is a little full - it's intimidating.)

    I just wanted to say thank you (and give you a big virtual hug) for posting this and your thoughts on the last question specifically. It's a good reminder for when I'm feeling overwhelmed with my blog, commenting, posting, taking photos, etc. You're right: it's supposed to be fun!

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Thank you kindly for your comments! Please be aware that comment moderation is on to weed out the spammers and I can only check comments once a day, so please don't worry if you don't see your comment come up at first - it is probably there and will be up later xx

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