As their influence grows, bloggers such as ones from The Blonde Salad to Gary Pepper are increasingly present at recent fashion shows. And designer brands are taking note by forming year-round partnership deals with them.
The fashion bloggers are paid via affiliate marketing arrangements with the brands, which — in simple terms — involves technology platforms that pay the bloggers a commission each time they refer to a brand or retail site.
And it is big business. Forrester Research expects spending on affiliate marketing to reach $4.5 billion in 2016.
But it is a tricky endeavor — coming at a time when the fashion industry seems to be seeking a transformation — that requires a high-degree of authenticity between the blogger and the brand, according to bloggers, who add that readers are keen enough to know when a writer is touting a brand just to make a buck versus truly liking the brand or product.
“Followers are smart and it is important to work with brands that [bloggers] truly believe in,” said Heidi Nazarudin of theambitionista.com who is also cofounder of Blogger Babes, which is an association of more than 5,000 lifestyle bloggers. “Followers know the difference, so the [content] must be authentic.”
To that end, Nazarudin has a screening process: when approached by a brand, she immediately asks herself if it is a brand that she would wear or use. Adam Weiss, general manager of Affiliate Network at Rakuten Marketing, said the partnerships are “a huge value-add for brands.”
“There’s a growing desire from brands to have editorial content,” Weiss said. “But it has to be authentic and sincere. So, if a blogger looks to [monetize] their site that’s where we come in.”
Through Rakuten Marketing’s Affiliate Network, bloggers and brands can track and report referrals, and then issue commissions. Nazarudin said the process is simple, “which allows me to spend time on the editorial.”
Weiss said fashion blogging is changing the way brand marketers think about affiliate marketing because it essentially creates an advertising channel that is not disruptive to the blogger or the consumer.