Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Rising Distrust of Beauty Bloggers and Youtubers

I'm someone who easily follows the herd on the hot trends in makeup, skincare and fashion. A lot of it is because I usually feel overwhelmed or unsure of where to look for solid products. A lot is also because I'm honestly quite insecure, and having an outwardly gorgeous girl recommend a product is something that is almost sickeningly effective for people like me. I've recently sensed a general discontent on the internet with the sheer volume of sponsorships that these full-time bloggers and Youtubers are receiving, as well as a seeming lack of transparency around disclosure. Someone wrote that these people are essentially preying on the insecure, pushing them to purchase expensive and often ineffective products purely to gain goodwill and continued sponsorship with the big brands.

It's led me to introspect on my own buying and viewing behavior, and I'm almost taken aback by how impacted I am by these people, and often not for the right reason. Seriously guys, almost ALL of the products I've purchased and reviewed have been the direct result of seeing someone on Youtube use it. Take for example the following post on Michael Todd's eye cream. I purchased it during the MT craze on Youtube a year or so back, and while all the bloggers were raving to no end about the brand, I was left majorly disappointed. That was about $50, wasted as I can't even use the cream without getting a reaction. Then there's Lush, my recent review on Emma Hardie, the Rimmel Show Off Lip Laquers, even the Victoria's Secret body mists. Pretty much everything I own in my skincare, cosmetic, and even fashion items have been spurred on by the recommendations of these almost-celebrity like, highly successful individuals. Either I'm just super unoriginal, or product placement is truly a frighteningly effective marketing tool.

I generally consider myself a cost-conscious, reasonable person, but then I go out and spend hundreds on products that frankly don't at all deserve the hype. This really makes me wonder at the validity of the argument that sponsorship of these individuals is fine, that ultimately you're deciding whether or not to buy. Because are you really in control? When we see someone who embodies what we want, when we are subjected to repeated messages and rousing support of brands and items, how much of your choice is truly driven by rationality and how much of it is instead emotional, spurred by a very human desire to emulate and become more like the one you admire?

Certainly I've made some purchases that I'm very happy with as a result of these recommendations. But I've also frankly been very financially irresponsible, and made many more buys that I regret. The clear winners here are the brands and the blogger, who walk away with the cash given to them by the consumer. The consumer might be happy with their new purchase for a while, but only until the next item is put forward as the new "must-have." What are they ultimately left with? A stash of barely-used make-up, rejected skincare, copy-cat fashions, and a major hole in their wallet.

When you compound this essential "preying" behavior with the failure to disclose or almost sheer deception inherent in sponsored posts, that's a majorly problematic issue. I've only ever run a small blog, but the few occasions where I have been contacted to put on an affiliate link or to support a product (even without being paid) have been enormously flattering. It makes it hard to say no, and it makes it even harder to be truthful about what you really think. That's another basic human issue, that when the incentives are muddy, people tend to act in ways that reflect that. I can only imagine what it must be like to be paid thousands for a video or a post, but I'd imagine that it'd be terribly hard to express any negativity both out of a sense of owing that person / company and for fear of rupturing the future opportunities to work together.

Will I stop reading blogs / watching videos? Probably not, and the inner psychology for that likely warrants a whole other post. There's something horribly compelling about these gilded videos and posts, like seeing that popular girl in school and trying to determine her secret. But what I will do is be aware of my buying behavior, and next time a product is shown and I feel that itch to immediately buy, I will reign it in, knowing who the true stakeholders are of the underlying business partnership. And of course, I will continue this blog and make it a place where my true opinions can be shared, such that other potential buyers can hopefully be fully informed before they submit to the PPL allure.

P.S.: In case you're curious about the upper image, that's a photo of the packaging for the Bite Beauty Lip Mask, which, you guessed it, is another product I purchased through influence. The product is solid, but why have none of the initial recommenders pointed out the horrendous flaky packaging?

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