Coke's i9 Blogger Outreach Program Debated
America isn't the only place where brands use blogs and bloggers for their marketing needs. Recently, in Brazil, Coke introduced a new drink, i9, and partnered with nine prominent Brazilian bloggers to promote the drink. As part of the promotion, coke redesigned the bloggers' pages and gave each of them miniature refrigerators with a bottle of i9 inside.
As predictable as a fake ad getting submitted to Cannes (and winning), negative reaction to the promotion ensued with other bloggers crying foul and the creation of an "I am not a rent a blogger" manifesto, similar to the "ad free" manifesto that circulated American blogs a few years back. The gist of the negative reaction was that providing free product to bloggers would taint their objectivity and, perhaps, cause them to write an overly glowing product review.
The initial reaction to programs such as this is to cry foul, blame brands for manipulating bloggers and chide bloggers for accepting what opponents would call bribes.And then there's the issue of disclosure which wasn't really an issue ion this case with the design of blogger's blogs screaming "i9!"
A separate reaction this this form of marketing is to realize, whether you agree or not, the world of blogging, and all of media for that matter, is very different from what it once was. Many bloggers would argue they'd just as likely trash a product that was given to them as they would praise it if it deserved negative commentary.
With entities like PayPerPost and the seemingly endless supply of "fake blogs" that have existed over the years, it's not surprising this form of marketing receives a heavy dose of negativity. Adrants received a bit of negativity itself by accepting for review a Nikon camera. We used it. We liked it. We said so and we bought it. So yes, there was a period of time during which the camera was a "gift." Did that affect our commentary on the camera? We'd like to think it didn't although we are not so stubborn as to refuse the fact it could have. Besides, we dubbed it "research" so that we'd have first hand experience with this sort of marketing.
Is there blame to be assigned with blogger outreach programs such as this i9 effort or Nikon's long-running program? Generally, a wall should still exist between editorial and commerce. Though no one should be so stupid as to assume much of what is written about any product is because, excepting Consumer Reports which buys the products it reviews, the product was given to a person to use for a period of time so that an opinion could be formed and then shared.
However, because most bloggers are not for-profit corporations with an infrastructure that, at least in practice, separates editorial from commerce, they are an easy target for those who feel "blogger for hire-style" marketing is a dirty little trick. That also makes it very easy for marketers to approach - pray on, some would say - for these type of marketing programs.
Though it might be a lofty thought, one hopes people, for the most part, are honest and are not for sale. Sadly, that isn't always the case which, combined with the dramatic change in the way media is produce and consumed, will keep us debating this issue for years.