As fashion bloggers gain more prominence among consumers, they are becoming an integral element of communications and marketing strategy for retail brands.
In addition to consistent out-reach to bloggers to secure influential product placements, brands are increasingly giving bloggers larger roles in their communications campaigns, from the creation of co-branded lines to ad spots to design input.
For example, designer Rebecca Minkoff incorporates bloggers into most aspects of marketing and social media engagement.
Blogger Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller has walked the Rebecca Minkoff runway. Jenni Radosevich of ISpy DIY has collaborated on in-store campaigns. Megs Mahoney Dusil from PurseBlog.com has participated in design collaborations, while others have contributed content on Minkette.com, the interactive hub of Rebecca Minkoff.
"Outreach to bloggers has helped us tap into the new influencer," says Daniel Saynt, marketing director at Rebecca Minkoff. "We see publishers that provide shoppers a vote of confidence in our brand and a trusted voice as having a huge effect on how we're perceived in our market."
Bloggers are often a go-to fashion source for girls looking for realistic style, Saynt explains. As opposed to rail-thin models, they often embrace imperfections, which can increase their appeal among consumers.
"Bloggers make fashion feel attainable," he says.
Benefits aside, the company faces some challenges, such as finding bloggers with an authentic voice and determining which bloggers are a good fit for the brand.
"To combat that, we stretch our outreach to influencers on networks such as Polyvore, Instagram, and Lookbook.nu, choosing to go beyond the blog and looking at the ways these publishers influence our Minkettes," Saynt says.
Interacting with bloggers is a great way for communications professionals to establish reach for their clients, explains Katherine Barna, communications head at Tumblr.
"If you're doing marketing for a fashion brand, there's already a really engaged and interested community in that space," she says. "Why not be a part of it, interacting with the people who already care about the things you are trying to talk about?"
Tumblr is a highly visual platform with established communities across a number of verticals, so bloggers are often drawn to utilize the site to share content, thoughts, and ideas.
"It can drive buzz and attention from people who maybe weren't super aware of who you were," Barna says. "To interact directly with these tastemakers and influencers in the community is an amazing thing."
Bloggers not only represent consumers who are shopping in stores, but also have audiences that aspire to mimic their style, explains Karen Robinovitz, co-founder and chief creative officer at social media agency Digital Brand Architects.
"Most important is finding the right blogger with the right audience who can actually convert for you," she says. "It's really imperative to understand not just who the blogger is, but also who is reading the blog."
Stars of the show
Lindsey Calla of style blog Saucy Glossie was featured in a TV ad where she gave budget shopping tips.
Kelly Framel of The Glamourai style blog helped design a razor.
Swedish fashion blogger Elin Kling launched a co-branded fashion line.
Jane Aldridge of the Sea of Shoes blog collaborated on a footwear line
Consumers who frequent the blogosphere will often purchase products they see on blogs, so it can be a powerful place to gain product recognition. Similar to traditional media relations, it's important to keep relationships personal and tailored to each individual.
"You really have to understand the detailed nuanced approach to who they are and then figure out how to work with them," Robinovitz says.
She adds that the relationship between a brand and retailer should always have an organic feel, from both the outreach side and the content perspective.
"The truer everybody stays to who they are and the more open minded and creative they are able to be, the better it is," advises Robinovitz.
Doug Zarkin, VP of marketing for apparel firm Kellwood Co., says bloggers are a vital part of a core marketing strategy.
"Bloggers have evolved from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have," he suggests.
Zarkin's company takes a proactive approach to communications, which often includes providing bloggers with early, frequent, or exclusive access to products.
"It's not a one-size-fits-all," he says. "We're very strategic in how and who we approach."