Bloggers taking kickbacks drive retail trends: Researcher
You don't have to look far to find a "mummy blogger" waxing lyrical about Kmart.
Kmart's renaissance and cult-like popularity, particularly among the mothers of young children, has been the stuff of news stories over the past year.
Now, it's been suggested much of the interest may have been driven by the brand's savvy use of bloggers to promote its message.
Bodo Lang, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Auckland, said it was increasingly common for blogs to be used to influence key retail markets. Bloggers and social media personalities were seen as strong drivers of consumers' purchasing decisions.
"It's one of those tricky things," he said.
"The marketplace is very opaque. You don't know who is being rewarded or incentivised to say what. People who want to write good news get rewarded. There's a huge move afoot to influence consumers in ways that we don't perceive are there, it's troubling."
He said brands such as Nike and Adidas would also use sporting blogs and YouTube channels. He had heard of one blogger paid $200,000 to promote a product
Kmart recently flew a group of bloggers to Sydney and sends products out to them for review. It uses bloggers on both sides of the Tasman to spread its message. It does not pay bloggers for posts.
"At Kmart we host various product events throughout the year and invite Kmart fan pages, bloggers and media as an opportunity to meet the Kmart team while viewing and reviewing new product, we have a lot of fun together as we share the same love of the product," a spokesperson said.
New Zealand blogger Maria Foy, of Happy Mum Happy Child, said she worked with retail brands.
"Some I say yes to, whilst some I say no. The overall products the brand sells has to fit in with my audience. And to be honest I have to like them too. I try and only promote brands or products that I use or would use. That means everything I say is genuine," she said.
"Kmart is definitely one of these brands but I have never been paid to do any work for them. Every now and then, myself and other bloggers will be sent products if there's a new range about to be launched.
"Ultimately it's up to us whether or not we speak about these. I always do because Kmart is loved by myself and my audience. "
She said she told her readers if she had been given something or paid for a post.
"I make it really clear in anything I'm saying or writing. I prefer not to use hashtags as they can get lost in the text.
"With regards to other bloggers, I do know that not everyone discloses. I always get disappointed in this because I think it's important to have an honest relationship with your audience."
Foy's blog includes sponsored content about Werthein Series 7 vacuums, Reading Eggs, and Nutters.
Sarah Campbell, general manager at Bloggers Club, said advertisers valued the trust bloggers had from their audiences.
"Bloggers can spend years building up trusting relationships with their followers. The reason for their success is not because they are a celebrity but because people genuinely care about what they have to say. This makes that relationship a gold mine for advertisers."
Hilary Souter, Advertising Standards Authority chief executive, said any potential advertising code breaches had to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
She said it was common for media outlets of all kinds to write travel stories and disclose they had been flown to a place by an airline or hosted by a company. Most were also sent products for review, she said.
To count as advertising, and to have to be disclosed as such, the content had to be controlled directly or indirectly by the advertiser, she said.
"It's not a huge area of complaint for us but we are working on some guidance at the moment."