Chatter: Partnership Fail

It hasn’t been long since I shared my thoughts on sponsorships/affiliate/whatever relationships between content creators and brands. I wanted to expand my thoughts on that based on a recent experience I had.

Something that runs rampant is brands sending form-letter outreach to content creators without making any effort to personalize the contact attempt. Just like you should tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for if you’re trying to go directly to a company, brands shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to working with bloggers and vloggers. Hell, if you have a template, that’s fine – just take two extra minutes to edit and add their name and something that shows you actually spent a few minutes checking out their site. For example, change,

Hey dear/Hey there/Hi <URL>,


Hi <name of blog or writer>,

That little extra effort goes a long way in showing that Brand X knows who you are, and specifically wishes to collaborate with you and your brand – and that they aren’t just clumsily grasping for advertising.

A while ago, I was contacted by an Chinese company that sells beauty products and accessories about an opportunity to work with them. A few weeks prior to that, I had seen something on their site (a unique nail-art stamping plate) that I liked, and had even bookmarked for myself . There were a few other things, some neat holo polishes and whatnot – but I didn’t provide any info, fill out any contact forms, or even create an account on their site. So, since I knew they had at least a few things that I’d be interested in trying and since it seemed somewhat organic, I asked for more information about the opportunity.

While waiting for a response from them, I did some homework – there are overwhelmingly positive reviews out there (off of their site), but I’d wager that 90% of the positive reviews came thanks to a free product that someone might not have bought otherwise (best case). Some disclosed, some were really awkward about their review. There were a handful of really, really disappointed reviews, too, nearly drowned out by the volume of compensated ones. Very few in-between. Can’t help but raise an eyebrow at that, but I won’t be bought, so it isn’t an issue.

Finally, I hear back. As it turns out, they wanted to send me 2-3 products from a limited selection with a combined value of up-to-$10. Once received, they wanted me not just to review each of them separately, but to create a tutorial on how to use them, complete with step-by-step photos (but preferably video!). Plus links everywhere! Banner on my side-bar! They want me to promote the crap out of this company, woo!

The limited selection included lots of:

  • Plastic-looking lashes
  • A multitude of lip products in many colors
  • Generic, cheap-looking, questionable quality brush sets
  • Cheap-looking eyeshadow quads, many had a frosty overspray
  • Nondescript mascaras

First things first – if you know anything about me, you know that I believe quality tools are worth having, and are worth investing in when you can. I am not a fan of buying the cheapest thing just because it is the cheapest thing. While quality doesn’t mean expensive, but you simply aren’t going to get quality from a nondescript set of several brushes, with a brush-roll, for $5-7 USD. They remind me of the brushes that come with the cheap mega-makeup kits that drugstores have at Christmas that people get for their kids – let’s face it, those aren’t quality tools.

Furthermore, I don’t like it when companies sell knock-off products. I don’t appreciate it when companies try to mimic the appearance of other products and pass their stuff off like it is something else. This company, for example, had some lipsticks packaged very similarly to MAC lipsticks, and brushes trying VERY hard to resemble Real Techniques ones. It is clearly an attempt to take advantage of a less-savvy consumer, and if you’re willing to do that, what else are you willing to compromise on?

Beyond that, item listings did not include any information about the origin of the products, no ingredient lists, no information about where they were manufactured. While I don’t have any specific limitations (I’m not vegan, for example), I would like to know what is in products I would potentially be putting on my eyes and lips. As a rule, if I can’t find an ingredient list (anywhere!), I don’t want it on my face – I don’t care how pretty it is. I wouldn’t be shocked if the ingredients were compromised on, and I don’t want to find out the hard way and potentially compromise my health or safety.

This shouldn’t be surprising, but I declined their, “partnership.” $10 of sketchy product in exchange for free product promotion for them? No – not only am I not going to accept their cut-and-paste partnership proposal to promote their shady wares, I won’t be buying the other thing I was interested in, either. My time is worth more, your time is worth more, and you deserve to read about products that at least had a chance to be decent, not knock-off tripe made who-knows-where. Partnership Fail.

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