I’ll give you the tl;dr version up front: “free shit” isn’t always free, especially when you’re an influencer or blogger. No brand gifts you anything out of the goodness of their own heart but rather in hopes that you’ll promote or mention their product. Some brands will try and incentivize with free product for post.
We’ve all gotten the IG comments before. The “hey babe, we love you style. DM @wearearealbrandandnotascam_sunglasses to collab!” I even made it the joke caption of one of my Instagram posts and it still happened. Sometimes brands won’t wait for me to DM and send me a message request right from the get go (often times it’s not even from them, but someone who “works” for them telling me to check out their actual IG profile) or they’ll send me email since my email is linked to my IG– these ones are my favourite because all of these emails start with “Hey babe/hun/gorgeous/girl” and when the robot is extra smart “Hey vickiduong.”
I’ve review one of these types of brands before (you can see it here) and I’ve said it multiple times, it should NEVER cost you money to work with a brand. Even for a 50% discount and a deadline to create content for them while sharing a discount code (that earns you pennies worth of commission) does not a collab make. That’s so much win-win for the brand. They get your money, your work and the additional money of people who trusted you.
People are seemingly wising up to this practice, but what about the brands who want to send you product for free? For blogging/IG shit I do rely on being gifted products for the purposes of review and creating content so how do I decide what’s worth taking for free?
I knew instantly from their IG page that they were one of THOSE types of brands. You know, the drop ship type. They’ve sent their swimsuits to a lot of professional Instagram hot girls who then hawk their discount code. I scrolled through their actual website and let me tell you, their photoshop looks like it was done in MS Paint. How do you post an image like this but also call your brand a luxury brand? Also a quick reverse image search on any number of their flat lay stock images will redirect you to Ali Express where each piece is about $3. So even with giving you a commission and your followers a discount they’re still making BANK.
The other baffling thing about these really crazy cut and paste photoshop images is that they work with so many influencers and they have a SHIT ton of better images they could be using to make their site look legit.
Listen, there is something to be said about IG accounts that genuinely want to review products and share recommendations with their audience. There’s something else to be said about folks who say yes to every freebie and share it online as their new favourite thing ever. There comes a point when you just become a glorified salesperson and you’re not looking out for the well-being of your audience. I would NEVER want someone who trusted me to be bamboozled by a brand like this one based off of something I said.
This is the nice copy and paste message I got. Yes, I know previously I have called the brand out by name but for this post I am opting to block out the name because a few people I know did post about this brand and this post is not meant to expose those who are hustling to create content. The fact of the matter is, some IG folk will say yes to every free thing that comes their way. Whether it’s to have product to shoot content with or getting caught up in the “free” of it all, I can’t speak to someone else’s motivation for accepting product. For myself, I live in a shoebox apartment and am really focused on quality over quantity so I am extra picky about what I bring into my home due to limited space.
Back to the message though, seems pretty standard – I even have a lot of legitimate brands that request post in exchange for product (which we can delve into at a later date because I think it’s acceptable to request payment for required posting.) I asked them to email me the contract to review because I am curious as to what stipulations they would place on me, the person who would have to be doing all of the work.
Pretty sure this is a template off Google when you search ‘influencer contract.’ First off, I am not agreeing to any deadline for content if I’m not getting paid. I am very clear with all the brands who chose to gift me product. I let them know that I will accept product for post consideration (and only if it seems like the product is a good fit for the type of brands I like to cover) but if you want a guaranteed post, well, you’re probably paying for that and it’ll be marked AD from the start.
The ambassador program when you have to pay for shipping? A scam 100%. Any brand that wants to work with you will get the product to you. If you’re doing the work of a stylist, model, copywriter, photographer and editor the least they can do is send you the damn thing.
The part near the end is the part that I think is really fucked. The part about letting them know if you’re not happy with the product. I think it’s suppose to say “should” instead of “shall” but the point of including that is that the brand wants the final say when it comes to you sharing your opinion about the product. AT WHICH POINT, PAY FOR THE AD.
Also LOL to the threat of legal action. As someone who got multiple fake cease and desist letters from Chickaberry Boutique for this post, go ahead and try.
I emailed the brand inquiring more about where the brand is based/manufactured/designed as well as their sustainability and ethical practices and their response was lacklustre. They stated they are Canadian founded, but they aren’t manufactured in Canada (a classic tactic to divert attention away from unsustainable and unethical business practices.) They also said that their swimwear was designed in Canada which is 100% bullshit. If you look at my header photo you’ll see that a quick image search proves that their exact style is available at AliExpress.
These brands capitalize on certains types of influencers:
- The type who thinks this type of “collab” is industry standard or possibly a lucky break for them. Folks who are just genuinely excited that anyone wants to send them free product. The most vulnerable and impressionable.
- The type who accepts anything free and doesn’t give a shit about misleading their audience into wasting their money. If you’re a professional hot girl this type of deal can be fairly profitable for you when you don’t give a shit about people who trust and value your opinion.
- People in it for free shit. Whether it’s to create content or to just have more shit.
Just be wary, okay? It’s around the time of year where you’ll start to see a lot of influencers and swimwear brands popping up on IG. Just try and think about it as critically as possible. Do you think a brand with 100k+ following on IG should have to use stock images with super-imposed triangles to sell swimsuits? Shouldn’t they have the budget and means to have real photo shoots? If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s probably a fucking scam for garbage product.
If you’re still here and looking for some ethical and sustainable swimwear brands check out my post feature 20 different Canadian swim brands to support here!