I’m fresh from BlogHer, the largest women’s blogging conference in the world. San Diego played host to 3500+ attendees (numbers vary depending on the source) and a whole slew of official and unofficial sponsors. Compared to last year, the types of brands represented seemed different. I saw more technology vendors and start-up companies represented and less of the traditional female-oriented type brands (think cleaning and clothing).
It wasn’t better or worse. It was simply different. I also noticed that the brand reps seemed to be more in tune with bloggers this year. They seemed to understand who we are and what value we can add to a brand’s reputation and visibility. And those brands that were unsure of that were quick to admit it and open the floor for discussion.
By the time the conference ended, I was loaded up with swag (more product samples than I could count) and a slew of business cards. And then I kept wondering what to do with all of this stuff. More importantly, what were brands hoping I would do with all of this stuff?
I’ve never had the opportunity to talk to a brand rep in detail before they have attended a major blogging conference. If I did, I’d ask questions like:
What do you hope to gain from this conference?
Are there specific bloggers you want to connect with?
Are you prepared to talk about how your brand works with bloggers?
What do expect to happen after the conference?
I’m not saying that brand reps haven’t given this thought. I’d just love to honestly know what their expectations are. They give away a lot of free product during conferences like BlogHer. What do they expect will happen?
In a perfect world, bloggers fall in love with the product because it’s incredibly fabulous, because the brands reps were so incredibly personable, or ideally a combination of both. And when they get home, the love carries over to their blog where they make a mention or even write a review.
It’s never asked. It’s never even implied. But bloggers and brands both know how this works.
Some brands seemed a little new to the game. Or perhaps a little oblivious. As I was waiting in line for my foot assessment and custom insoles for Dr. Scholl’s (a rather nice piece of swag), I was introduced to some of the other Dr. Scholl’s products: high heel inserts and Fast Flats come to mind. As they were being handed out, I asked for a pair in my size. I was greeted with a cold response, “They’re only for bloggers. Are you a blogger?”
I felt a little put back. But in all fairness, I was wearing a McDonald’s branded lanyard and could have been mistaken for a vendor. I explained that I was a blogger and had placed my card in the bowl. When handed the pair of Fast Flats, we were told, “We’d really like you to blog about these.”
We’re bloggers. We blog about everything. If it feels authentic.
Lesson for Dr. Scholl’s? Make me fall in love with you: the people that represent you, the products you share and you’ll never need to ask me to blog about it.
Hot Wheels was another sponsor that had a missed opportunity. They hosted a branded suite, a place for more intimate connections with bloggers. I walked in to a sparsely decorated room promoting their new product, Wall Tracks. I was instantly mesmerized but never could get anyone’s attention nor did anyone seem remotely interested that I walked into the suite.
I’m not trying to pick on Dr. Scholl’s or Hot Wheels. I think they both have great products and working the trade show floor can be exhausting (I know, I’ve done it). But if you’re hoping for word of mouth buzz on your products, you need to engage us. If we love you, we’re probably going to love your product.
Other brands did everything right and it didn’t even matter what they were giving away. Janis, a brand rep for Imperial Toy, was one of the vendors at the The Big Toy Book Sweet Suite Event, a privately hosted party during the conference. Her enthusiasm for toys and for truly engaging with bloggers was so magnetic that not only did I include her in my video review, but so did Kate of The Guavalicious Life and Claire of The Halfhearted Housewife in their BlogHer recap posts.In fact, Kate and Claire mentioned some of the same brands that I did. In some cases, it’s because the product was fabulous but in others, it was simply the brand experience we had at the conference.
Another brand that seemed to do it right was Knorr. While they were there promoting their new homestyle stock product, they brought in celebrity chefs to cook with bloggers. Christa of c. jane create was selected to cook onstage. She clearly had a blast, learned a thing or two, and even took her product and knowledge home to try out on her friends and family. As if that weren’t enough, she wrote a full recap that almost looked like a Knorr product placement ad (it was that good).
Other bloggers, like Ann from Coupons, Deals and More, were really more excited about the coupons for free products (although to be fair, Ann is a coupon blogger). Nobody will say no to a free product coupon and it fits nicely in our carry-on luggage.
Even the smallest brands handed out samples of something with a business card or label attached saying “Contact me. We’d love to work with you on a review or giveaway!” The emphasis was on the blogger connection and I felt it much more this year.
Looking for another brand perspective on this year’s conference? Check out Consumer Bell for their wrap up by CEO and Founder Ellie.
If you are a blogger than attended BlogHer11, I’d love to hear your reactions (if any) on your blog to some of the products you received.
If you are brand that was represented at BlogHer11, I’d love for you to chime in as to how you feel your objectives were met with your presence at the conference this year (whether measurable or not).