28.11.14

The Power Of The Blogger & When Relations Turn Bad

The last few weeks have been somewhat eye-opening for me. I've been blogging for five years in 2015 and boy how things have changed; it used to be simply about writing and sharing things you love, but it's evolved into a monster of influence and passion that brands simply can't get enough of. With vloggers like Zoella taking over the world one book deal at a time, launching their own beauty lines and appearing across billboards nationwide, there's no doubt whatsoever we're in the midst of a new age. This digital driven period is seeing magazines and reality television being shunned in favour of girls in their bedroom, sharing their Primark hauls and talking about their new lipstick. Although the mainstream media are quick to stick the knife in and call us vacuous wastes of space with no real right to an opinion, it's clear to see that this is the type of content women (and men) of all ages want. Put simply: the stats don't lie.


Brands are falling over themselves to work with the right bloggers for them, partnering in all kinds of innovative ways or simply working with them to get their new launches out into the public eye. Interestingly, many brands are choosing to only invest in blogger relations and events, shunning the traditional press in favour of the sites that they know will work for them and generate all important sales. Whereas magazine editors and journalists used to be wined and dined to excess in order to secure that all important ten centimeters on a beauty page, brands are slowly understanding that their investment (both in time and money) may be better placed with these girls writing or sharing from their bedroom - because their readers actually trust them.

The value of blogs is huge. We don't only share our favourite picks, write our top tips and praise brands for doing a great job, but our content is available on the internet indefinitely. Unlike magazines which are often chucked in the recycling bin after they've been read, every single post can be picked up by a search engine and generate traffic for years to come. Blogs' value isn't just in the immediacy, but in the long-term brand building opportunity that comes with the flow of information and the brilliance of google. Some of my best performing posts are from months (if not years) ago as people search for reviews or information on a product before they buy it; that kind of testimonial that links directly to purchasing behaviour simply can't be bought.

With all this incredible value that bloggers bring, in every category imaginable, I'm still astounded by the attitude of some brands that think of us as silly little girls babbling about our favourite shade of bubblegum pink lipgloss. In the last week I've experienced utterly disgusting behaviour by an incredibly famous department store that clearly doesn't understand the influence of blogs, nor the way in which they work. Although I won't mention them by name (it's not hard to work it out,) this famous London store took objection to a post I'd written in conjunction with an online service. We'd collaborated to offer readers an incredible prize of a beauty advent calendar ahead of the festive season, purchased the product ourselves and happily sat back to watch as my readers understandably went crazy for it. Not only were we promoting the London store's product heavily on one of the UK's top blogs absolutely free, but they'd made a £149 sale too. You'd expect they'd be happy... Free coverage! Yey! A sale! Yey! Apparently not.

After a barrage of emails both to me and the online service demanding the competition be removed immediately because it 'wasn't on-brand', I was then spoken to in a manner somewhat reminiscent of when I'd forgotten to hand in my maths homework age twelve. How very dare I run a giveaway without their express permission to do so? What disgusting behaviour of mine to help promote their beauty advent calendar that clearly could do with the extra sales? The sheer rudeness of us buying a product from their store and offering it to dedicated readers as a little thank you for their support this year! A few heated emails later, when both myself and the online service refused to make any amends to the competition that was working well for both of us (that had nothing to do with anyone else,) and the famous London store decided to throw in the legal obligations of copyright. "You've used an image that's copyrighted, so please remove it by the end of the day." Throwing your toys out of the pram when you don't get your way is never a good look.

A few days later and the drama was still progressing. I was being bullied and pressurised into submission. It got worse. Having included an affiliate link (where I receive a small percentage of any sales that are generated) to the product within my post to illustrate the contents, I was then contacted by my affiliate network and asked to remove it. Not only had the London brand gotten into paddy not dissimilar to my best friends three year old, but they'd now gone out of their way to get a completely independent and unrelated company involved. I'm not the kind of person to roll over; I'm not the kind of person to give in and do what someone else wants just because they kick up a fuss. If you've ever met me, read my blog, followed me on Twitter or stumbled across my ramblings, then you should know that they picked on the wrong blogger.

The beauty of bloggers is that they're free agents. We can write about what we like, when we like and brands can do nothing about it. Brands have to understand that they can't control what appears and where it appears; in this digital age information is accessible via a few key words at the click of a button. Gone are the days when brands could heavily control where and how they appeared; can you imagine if Apple kicked off every time someone gave an iPad on a platform they deemed to be 'off brand'? They'd need a team of 100 just to send out the ranting emails. Brands need to understand that blogs are now incredibly influencial, that we're not just vacuous girls in our bedrooms talking about nail polish and One Direction - in a lot of cases we're now serious businesswoman that have a lot to say and a huge audience to say it to. 

I can't imagine said department store ever emailing a magazine and telling them a competition was 'off-brand', nor jeopardising a relationship by continually patronising and harassing to the point of it being bullying. Why is ok to speak to bloggers in this way? Why is it normalised within some brands to treat bloggers as irritants that they would rather be without? With bloggers featuring on the Amazon best selling book list, selling out beauty ranges, being judges in respected beauty awards, collaborating with brands in spaces previously only occupied by 'celebrities' and making a career from something that started as a hobby, isn't it about time that some brands wised up and starting treating us all with a little more respect and accreditation?

The last few weeks have definitely made me sit up and take notice. On the one hand I work with some incredible brands and PRs that really do understand the value of blogs, falling over backwards to support and celebrate these corners of the internet we've created. On the other hand, I feel like we're still patronised and treated disgustingly by brands that are happy to use us for their own benefit when it suits them, but are quick to turn when they don't get what they want. It's a frequent conversation amongst my blogger friends that we feel like we're 'picking up the scraps' from beauty editors who are whisked off to some exotic location for a makeup launch, while we're often lucky to even get a sample. The tides are changing; blogs have more influence than magazines, they make more direct sales and they can turn a product into a best-seller overnight. It's just a shame that some brands are still flapping about in the water clinging onto a dingy from 1998.

I'd love to know your thoughts...
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48 comments

  1. Well said. I can't believe that's happened to you, and even when you've spent that kind of money! They should just take it and run, no questions asked. It's your property once you've bought it, so they shouldn't be telling you what you can and can't do. It's the same concept as buying it then giving it to a friend as a Christmas present and them posting it all over social media as a big thank you gesture. Would they trace that up and say, 'You can't publicise this?'

    Brands can get a little crazy at times, and on more occasions than one will be disrespectful.

    Good on you for sticking to it, and I hope you are no longer getting any grief!

    Kayleigh x
    www.scampinchips.co.uk

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    1. Thanks Kayleigh. I don't think they understand they can't control every aspect of their brand, nor that bloggers will roll over and do as they ask; if they'd bothered to build a relationship I may have been more likely to listen. As it stands they've created a mountain out of a molehill. Thanks for your support x

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  2. Wow... I literally do not even know what to say or where to start! Firstly, the last time I went into said store, there was loads of these Calendars strategically placed so you noticed them, so they are either not selling very well or they have underestimated the demand or both. Secondly, they should have been grateful for the traffic they will have no doubt got, I know I clicked to go to said store having read your post because it reminded me I needed a gift for an Aunt and she wanted something specific (wish I hadn't now), thirdly get a life is the thought running through my mind, fourthly I am hoping you replied with "Do you know who I am" because it amuses me and finally... well I hope someone is sat red faced in an office somewhere realising what an absolute child they have been over what amounts to one calendar and no loss of revenue to them at all... like you said imagine Apple being on the phone/email to anyone giving away an iPod or Urban Decay every time a new Naked Palette comes out... eurgh! It is this kind of behaviour that really annoys me x

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    1. You and me both! I'm appalled and totally shocked at their reaction... It's not even like it was being portrayed in a negative way; they literally didn't like the fact that they were (loosely) being linked with a money saving site. I seemed to be in the firing line, but all they've done is shoot themselves in the foot. x

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  3. Great great post. I admire your courage!
    xx,
    E.
    www.theslowpace.com

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  4. I don't really have much to add to this but it's so upsetting to read! I'm feeling sad that they didn't see the great and fun side of the giveaway!

    Stephanie
    http://missstephanieusher.blogspot.co.uk/
    xxxx

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    1. I don't think the Christmas spirit has reached their office. x

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  5. I'm quite speechless! If I contacted every single brand that I ran a giveaway for JUST to see if it was okay I'd have no time at all. I just cannot believe the way they've gone about it! And even more so, the fact it didn't have ANYTHING to do with them!! Absolutely mad.

    THANKFULLY PR's and brands ARE starting to realise the importance of bloggers/youtubers and soon it will be a second nature. Stand your ground.

    x x | daisydaisyxxo

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  6. Korina28.11.14

    To quote Catherine Tate "what a f***ing liberty!".

    Have never visited the store in question - and never will now!

    Will stick to my favourite, Selfridges - they're more 'on brand' in my eyes!

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    1. Haha totally. Selfridges forever ; )

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  7. Wow, that is disgusting. If you are made to remove the competition I would return the item for a refund if possible to make a point!

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  8. Quite shocked that this happened. I'm glad PR's and brands are realising and noticing bloggers, but oh my that was plain rude and quite off putting ever working with brands in the future. I blog because I love it, like many or most bloggers. Them talking to you like that is unacceptable and rude. Name and shame them really, I'm glad you wrote this post x

    pintsizedbeauty.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thanks Lily, I appreciate your support x

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  9. Wow! I'm stunned! Literally don't know what to say to that. Very interesting read though, thanks for sharing x

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  10. Wow I'm shocked, they obviously don't know what good PR is... Well done to you for standing up to it!

    vvnightingale.blogspot.co.uk

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  11. I think the brand has been over zealous and patronizing - it can't be any of their business surely if you bought the product! What's next - someone on the door seeing if you're on brand enough to shop there? Brands that consider themselves 'luxury' generally consider the internet as untameable so have gone with it - but there's a history of brands considering themselves too posh for publication. When I used to do a fashion page, it wasn't uncommon for luxury fashion brands to say 'we don't lend to that publication' and because everyone accepted it, it just became a given. Publications with budget would go out and buy it anyway. I remember Jo Malone was like this when it first began (but not any more) and Tom Ford still is, being the only beauty brand ever that I've come across to refuse to be in Metro. My attitiude is proprietorial - like, how DARE you say that my readers (either when I was on Metro or now on BBB) aren't good enough to see your products! It makes me furious. But brands can't stop you buying product and good luck to them trying.

    I think it's okay as a brand to want to guide their target market, but beauty snobs are really tedious whichever side of the fence they sit on and they cannot possibly police a consumer purchase even if you do have a blog. I think brands often think that bloggers will only feature free stuff but that's just not the case. Particularly if your blog has a commercial arm, sometimes buying product is a necessary expense for good content.

    I've never heard of another brand doing this to a blogger - not Chanel, not Dior, not Selfridges, not Harrods. Like Korina (above) has so brilliantly put, what a bl**dy liberty.

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    1. I believe this stems from that old adage that if you make things accessible they lose their desirability, which is, in my opinion, a load of bullshit. The beauty of beauty (heh) is that no matter who you are or what your budget is, there is someone out there who wants to accommodate you and make you feel beautiful and no one, absolutely no one, should try to make you feel less just because you're not their "target market".

      I believe this happens much more than people are aware. I'm young and when I go into department stores employees barely pay any attention to me. Similar to Sephora. Don't even think about MAC, you'll have to flag someone down in most of their counters. This makes people very uncomfortable and is exclusionary and short-sighted. Not everyone can buy a Tom Ford lipstick every week but maybe someone wants to save and get it as a present to themselves for a special occasion - and both of those customers should feel welcome and cherished.

      I enjoyed both of your perspectives and I will stop patronising that department store when I'm in the UK.

      Julia | Wing me a dream

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    2. Refused to be in Metro?! I don't know a single person who doesn't read Metro and a fairly hefty proportion of them would be Ford's target demographic. How very arrogant!!!

      Sorry to hear this about all the hassle over the calendar. What a load of w*ankers.

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    3. It's unfortunately all too common; brands don't understand the value of certain publications or platforms because they're all too obsessed with being 'on brand'. The Sun and Fabulous Magazine are well known to generate huge exposure, interest and sales - yet hundreds of brands would far rather be in Vogue (and generate nothing.) Thanks for all your kind words and support ladies x

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  12. I wonder if it had anything to do with that guy with the beard - you know the one who looks like a Guess Who card?

    The fact is that as a buyer I don't bother with magazines any more (I haven't for years), I'd look to blogs, Youtube and forums for reviews, swatches etc. And even within that community I'm learning to be much more selective about who I trust - who's giving honest reviews and who's being paid to sell a product. (interesting sidenote about the ASA getting involved in Vlogger advertising).

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    1. Totally agree with you - I do think things are changing and that even bloggers/vloggers are going to be held to new rules and regulations. Blogs have huge influence and we have a voice... I just can't fathom how some brands still don't understand their value.

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  13. Ok this company has been very childish in its approach to you, and if anything it is them who should apologise. I think that the fact that you haven't mentioned the brand name directly is testimony to your professionalism. Have you considered going to the Press page on the Contact Us section of their website and emailing the Head of Press & Marketing and telling them your story, even just directing them at this page. If anyone there has any sense they will see immediately it is them at error.

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    1. Unfortunately it's the press team that are the centre of this whole debacle. To be honest I don't want any further communication from them, unless it's a huge bunch of flowers to apologise for being ridiculous! They know what they've done, I'm sure they'll stumble across this and I can only hope they'll learn from it. Thanks for your support : )

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  14. Anonymous28.11.14

    This is actually pretty shocking, how unbelievably rude and nasty. I wouldn't blame you for being really upset by it, but good for you for standing up to them. Who on earth do they think they are? Snobby, bullying and totally uncalled for. But they've shot themselves in the foot there; I happen to have bought the calendar in question and this sorry business makes me wish I'd opted for a different one. Reading about this vile behaviour has left a nasty taste in my mouth that I won't forget, and I'm sure I can't be the only person reading who feels that way. If blogs are beneath the company then I guess so are all of their readers, who I'll wager make up a large proportion of their customers, so they won't be needing our money anymore. Like I said, well done for standing up for yourself, don't let these sad, petty people bring you down.

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    1. Thank you. I'm sorry it's left you feeling you wished you'd opted for another calendar, but I appreciate your kind words. Unfortunately I think this episode has left a lot of readers and followers refusing to go into store again, so they've lost a lot more than a piece of their reputation. Power to the blogger though : )

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  15. If this is the brand I believe it to be, judging from their TV show they need all the help they can get go drag themselves into the 21st century and actually make some money. I see it's not just their store that's dated but their approach to marketing. Don't know who they think they are!

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    1. I agree 100%. I was working with them to do a lot of work earlier this year, attempting to modernise their brand a little and communicate some of the great things they offer customers. Unfortunately it all got cancelled and then followed up with this whole drama - I seriously think they need to think at their complete strategy for 2015!

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  16. I'm angry on your behalf. You put do much time and trouble to help and inform us *normal* people who don't have the time to investigate products or just don't have the inclination at times but lime it fed to us by a fair and honest blogger. All in all, you give fair and impartial views that we can choose to take on board or not. They don't have the power to stop voices of people, what's the difference? Anyhow, you bought and wanted to give free coverage to a product that you thought was worth putting up as a prize and bought their product to the attention of somebody like me who would probably never of know about it without you. Carry on your great job/blog. X

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    1. Thanks so much Sheerie - I'm glad you enjoy the blog and really appreciate your comment x

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  17. I've never purchased from Liberty as I don't live in the UK, but I was signed up to receive their email as I could order online from them. Well no more. If that's the way they treat bloggers they won't ever be getting my business (I'm sure that upsets them greatly ;D ), I have unsubscribed and whenever I am in the UK I will bypass their store in favour of ones who can treat people with a little more common decency.

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    1. Thanks for your support Yvonne. And can I recommend a trip to Harrods instead?! : )

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  18. I can not believe the way they treated you. Good on you for sticking up for yourself. I hope you have managed to sort the problem out.

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  19. Anonymous30.11.14

    I'm sorry to hear you have been treated this way. Be assured, that women like myself are increasingly turning to blogs such as these for honest and personal opinions. These hold significantly more meaningful influence than magazines - which I now find myself shunning in favour of blogs such as yours. Ultimately these badly behaving stores and brands will be hit where it hurts - their sales. Don't let them get you down, and keep up the fantastic work please! :-)

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    1. Thank you! And thanks for your kind words; it means a huge amount when people enjoy my site and really value my opinions. x

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  20. Wow, I'm shocked! You'd think they'd be grateful of the exposure and support, not sending out their lawyers , what the hell is wrong with them?

    I really hope they don't make you take your competition down. I mean, what do they care, an item sold, they got paid for it and they're getting extra exposure out of it - short sighted idiots.

    Georgina

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  21. Wow, I feel so angry having read this! I completely agree with all of your points - we are in a new age, and brands need to wise up, or they're going to be left behind. And in this case, the brand who has done this do not deserve to be mentioned by bloggers if that's how they're going to treat us.
    Well done for speaking up about this, bloggers have a huge amount of power to say what they like and call it out when things are wrong in a way that magazines just can't do. So I'm glad you've used your platform to say something so important!
    Lydia x
    www.LydiaRosexo.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thanks Lydia. I think the fact that this post has been my most popular in months, that hundreds of bloggers have gotten in touch via commenting/twitter/email to let me know how disgusted they are and that readers have said they'll never shop there again, shows how much brands need to wise up and embrace online. Thank you for your support!

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  22. That is shocking - would be interesting to see if your competition actually increases some sales for them as well? They'll be quick to shut up then!!

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    1. I know it sold a few as people told me, so I really don't understand the issue?!

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  23. Anonymous5.12.14

    From my perspective as a PR, this is exactly the kind of thing where we get a bad name for ourselves, and it's in situations like this where we clearly we don't do ourselves any favours.

    I think this kind of behavior from them is really disgusting. You're completely right, in this digital age where online presence is more valuable than ever and traditional media has had to adapt its output to reach its target market (iPad editions, newsletters, social media channels) and keep up with the change in technology, brands and PRs who don't understand the world of blogging are really showing their ignorance and their reluctance to see how the media is rapidly changing will be their own shortfall.

    Also, I can't see how they would think this wasn't suitable for them; you would be reaching out to its target audience who trust and value your opinion. Your readers (me included) might not be able to go in this shop and therefore we don't let it be on our radar because of its association with being expensive and 'high end', but this is a bit of fun where we enter this very lovely and generous competition and hear about the goodies involved and where we can buy them from. The lucky winner of the competition might think "that hand cream in is lovely; I'll pop into that shop and treat myself", all of which means an increase in brand awareness and footfall and the result of a sale.

    Well done on speaking up on them. As one of the most successful beauty blogs in the UK, I'm sure your post will be noticed.

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  24. I don't follow your blog but having worked there I can pretty much guess that particular £149 advent calendar comes from Liberty?

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  25. I have read this post open mouthed!!!!!!! What a shock gosh I don't know what to say I just can not believe that kind of behaviour! Actually that's not completely true I can believe it as I am a 'normal' woman who likes very luxurious & expensive items I have had my share of rude sale people looking down at me when I am interested in looking at something which is often to purchase. I once went to purchase a handbag that I had saved for for over 8 years (I could of brought a decent car) in this place you had to book an appointment so I planned a trip down to London especially. The first thing the assistant said to me was 'I really can not be entertaining people who just want to look at these bags' her attitude was disgusting & nasty so I asked to have my appointment with some-one else so I was booked in again a few hours later with someone else & I had great pleasure saying I'll have that bag whilst the other assistant stood there in shock as soon as they knew I was parting with this amount of money they quickly brought me out a bottle of champagne for myself & friends and their attitude completely changed. I am glad you stood up for yourself & I for one can say that if blogs didn't exist I wouldn't buy most of the beauty products that I do now!

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  26. Loved reading this - thanks for posting .I have worked with some great brands who understand the value of bloggers and some wonderful PR agents. However,I have also worked with PRs and brands who treat bloggers badly in my opinion and expect you to move mountains for nothing basically. One example recently was a well known baby cream brand who approached me and asked if I would review and write about a cream - what they were expecting for what would have cost me £2.45 in my local supermarket was insulting but they did not like me pointing this out, telling me I was getting it FREE. Well I beg to differ, it isn't free if they are giving me follow links and expecting several hundred words in return. I do write and post on many things where I receive nothing in return but that is my personal choice and often to offer support to charities or to raise awareness of something particular.

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  27. I've always been suspicious about liberty for months now, i'm glad you sticked it on them. they are lucky enough that you are giving them more publicity. I'm still so shocked about that kind of behaviour

    www.bumascloset.com

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  28. Anonymous10.2.15

    While I agree that the store does seem to be having an extreme reaction this is standard policy for a number of brands. From a reader's point of view it is very hard to distinguish from a giveaway that is endorsed by a brand and one that isn't. While your giveaway was genuine there are many scams out there, and brands need to protect themselves from being associated with these scams.

    You mention how you can't imagine Apple kicking off about iPad giveaways, however Apple has very strict guidelines against this sort of promotion and has done for a long time http://thenextweb.com/apple/2011/06/02/want-a-letter-from-apples-legal-team-give-away-a-free-ipad-gift-card/ if you ran an iPad giveaway you'd could get the same, if not a more serious response.

    While I agree there is no excuse for rudeness, I can see the brands point of view. They didn't ask you to run the giveaway and it would be hard for them to know for certain your giveaway is genuine. If it wasn't they could be facing a Twitter feed full of complaints from readers who didn't realise that they had nothing to do with the giveaway in the first place. It's probably not that your blog doesn't fit the brand, and if it was a straight up review it wouldn't be a problem, it's just that a giveaway can be seen as an endorsement and they have a policy not to do that.

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