WORST Collaborations of 2017 (& Best!)
Just Being Honest
I asked on Insta stories (jokingly) a few weeks ago if you wanted to hear me mention brands I dislike working with OR if you prefer to hear about bloggers I dislike. The response was shocking to be quite honest and many of you wanted to know the bloggers I dislike. I knew I liked you (haha!)
After looking through my content calendar for 2017, I did over 150 collaborations with different brands. I never want to do that again. It's exhausting, annoying and just plain insanity. Every brand has its own KPIs, brand guidelines, hashtags, goals and so forth. It was too much. Rather in 2018, my goal is to focus on a smaller number of brands for long-term collaborations.
I know I mentioned writing a post like this, but I put a hold on it. Until I read Courtney's. Color me Courtney inspired the completion of this post. I had to ask my lawyer if I was okay to even mention brands I had worked with in 2017, and what I could and couldn't say. After reading Courtney's post and speaking with my lawyer, I decided what the hell. I'm letting the cat out of the bag!
Please note the experiences outlined in this post are my experiences and what I assessed from each situation. I may have been an anomaly when it comes to the bad experiences, but I wanted to be honest and share my perspective nonetheless. I hope sharing these experiences helps you choose the best partnerships for your brand in the future.
I did a lot of growing in 2017, and in the beginning of the year a lot of my opportunities came from Revfluence. Revfluence is a really cool platform, and I love the messaging capabilities, instant payments (within 24 hours usually) and the overall flow of accepting, denying and engaging in campaigns. It's all well thought out. Unfortunately most of the campaigns are very low paying. I'm talking brands wanting an Instagram post for $150 when you have hundreds of thousands of followers. Unacceptable, right?
Through the platform, I worked with iHerb multiple times. I love their online store, and the fact that you can get a pretty decent payout and their team is super responsive and positive. Not to mention Hello Fresh, which is a really cool service that sends you the exact amount of ingredients you need to make your dinners all week. I loved trying out cooking Hello Fresh style and my meals turned out amazing! Skinny Mint Com also came from Revfluence, and that was slightly more interesting because the pay was low and the requirements had quite a bit to them. I'll be honest. It's a huge pet peeve of mine when a brand offers a few hundred dollars and has pages of requirements. I had the pleasure of working with Truself Organics through the platform too. They were fantastic, and sent me a lot of their products to test out before the collaboration even started. Not to mention, they decided to work with me more long-term (over a few weeks) rather than just a one-time collaboration because I told them it would be more effective to do so. I even worked with Keratherapy which was a good brand, but again, a super underpaid campaign. Starting to think Revfluence is really for the smaller accounts. I eventually reached out to one of the Revfluence staff, and she did explain that the platform is built on engaging more micro-influencers on the campaigns, so it is more targeted towards those with smaller audiences and larger engagement. Venofye was an anomaly within the platform because it was fantastically paid. Not to mention working with the brand was so easy. They gave me full creative freedom and absolutely loved my content which I worked hard to get together. It also took me a few weeks to test the products, and they were super flexible with extending my deadline so I was comfortable reviewing the product on my blog and social media.
All of those teeth whitening products made a huge comeback in 2017. Not sure what started the trend to be totally honest, but it was full blown. I decided to try BleachBright, and it was the first collaboration I had to cancel even after I did the work. He was so unprofessional and took DAYS to respond to my messages, which Revfluence is extremely against because the platform is built for quick responses. In addition, he didn't send me ANY guidelines and I asked if I could do a flatlay and he said yes. I submitted my flatlay and he said "no, you need to take a photo of yourself holding it" and I stood my ground and said I would do no such thing because this was not in the guidelines stated + I had ASKED him if a flatlay was okay beforehand. He formally canceled the collaboration via the Revfluence platform, so I reached out to his supervisor who was kind and apologized for her employee's unprofessional manner.
Working with Brands Directly
The best collaborations usually come from working with brands directly. Having a middleman agency is so annoying, and genuinely obnoxious. Shopping Links for example takes money from the brand AND the influencer to get their middleman money, which irritates me to no end. If I was told I would be paid $1,000, why do I only end up with $900? Working with brands directly saves us money and usually ensures we get paid our media kit rates.
Last year, I worked with Desenio which is a really brand with awesome artwork. Unfortunately some brands do not understand that influencers are NOT sales people. My job is not to sell your product x (size of audience). That is NOT plausible. I will repeat this. Brands need to stop thinking we are here to sell for them. That's what your sales team does, not influencers. Our job is to provide brand awareness for you and expose our audiences to your brand. If this becomes a sale, then fantastic. After working with Desenio once (which was a blast) they didn't work with me again because the amount of sales generated weren't to their liking. I find that pretty obnoxious because again, I'm not a sales person for every single brand I work with. Nor can I keep up with every brand's affiliate program. Super annoying, right?
Colleen Rothschild is one of my all-time favorite brands to collaborate with; not to mention their entire line of products is incredible. It's why I go back to them time and time again. Not only are they reasonable with pricing, they are so easy to work with and they make sure I have complete creative freedom. I also choose to do a travel beauty post, so they sent the products to my hotel in Boston, which was super sweet because I didn't have to take the products with me and could receive in the hotel. The goodies were a travel friendly set of all the products I already loved from their brand, so it worked out perfectly. They are super flexible, and again, a great brand overall. This is one of the top brands I collaborated with in 2017.
I worked with Babbleboxx several times throughout the year, and I love the various boxes filled with incredible products. My favorite was definitely the bride box, which made my recent engagement at the time even more surreal. They are a great group, and while they may not have the biggest budget, the requirements are pretty straightforward and easy to follow.
Working with Kissbobo was the worst experience in 2017. Many elements of the collaboration were super frustrating, including their terrible English. I understand brands wanting to work with the American market (makes sense from a business perspective). However, their English was so terrible it was hard to understand and their team completely lacked empathy. They sent me examples of the specific photos they wanted in their bra, and I did similar photos in my own way. They flat out told me they didn't like my photos, even though they were higher quality than the garbage examples they sent to me. I had a photographer take photos of me in our hotel room in Norway, and they completely shit on those photos because they wanted more skin. I completely went off on them, and let them know that the amount of money they were paying for, they were lucky to even get me wearing the sports bra. Overall, super unprofessional and super underpaid. I wouldn't wish them working with my worst enemy.
Another real stud was Charming Charlie. While their clothes are super cute (and some of my fave things come from their store) they filed for bankruptcy. Not really helpful when you're awaiting payment from a brand, am I right?
Instyler is a great brand, and I do love their tools but the pay was awful. Unless you're just starting out or have a small following, or for some odd reason want free product in exchange for work, I wouldn't recommend.
MeUndies was another experience similar to Kissbobo. I don't wear lingerie in photos on my channels, and it's just the way it's been from the beginning. MeUndies never explained they wanted me to wear the undies. If they had, I would have said no, absolutely not. However, once I submitted my photo for review, they said I had to take it in the undies and I told them absolutely not. This was not stated previously and I've done the work based on the guidelines I was given. They definitely didn't like it and were not happy with my content, but they let me post it live and did pay me. While they do have good causes from time to time, that entire experience really rubbed me the wrong way.
I have heard the absolute worst things from 99% of bloggers about watch companies, but I love watches and most of the brands that choose to work with influencers. This particular watch company had worked with me back when I had 1,000 followers and they were willing to work with me recently for Black Friday. I hadn't lost my love for the brand...yet. After our collaboration, they let me know that they did not want to work with me anymore because they did not see a return on investment with my post. This is when I went off, and explained working with Kylie Jenner or any celebrity is not the same as working with me. If Kylie wears anything, it turns to gold. Influencers are very different in that regard because we don't turn every single product to gold because our audience knows when we're authentic and genuine with our interests. It's very clear when that's the case. In addition, we influence people to make decisions but not everything sells and not everything sticks. For example, if I'm talking about a new mascara, a consumer is likely not inclined to run to the store that second to buy it OR buy it online. Likely they have a mascara they're currently using. In a month, when they run out of their current mascara they will remember my photos and consider or even buy that mascara. However, it's not a decision someone makes in the moment. That's why it's hard to judge certain campaigns. People are not inclined to spend $150+ on a watch on a whim because there's a discount code available. Brands must take that into consideration.
Eva NYC is a wonderful brand to work with directly, as their partnerships team gives all the creative freedom. The best thing about creative freedom is you're not stuck in a bubble of any kind and you can run freely with your ideas. I continuously posted about them, and decided to keep working with them throughout the year because they liked my posts. It was not the highest pay, but it was a pleasant experience and fairly simple to get the photos, especially since I love their hair products.
Kingdom and State was my favorite boutique to work with in 2017. Not only do they understand the influencer market, they know that having influencers rock their clothing is going to give them the best turnaround for consumers to want to buy their clothes. Not only that, but they were so accommodating and understood a lot of the information I shared with them about long-term relationships. All in all, I genuinely feel I made a connection here and I love their cute clothing. Anxiously waiting for their new arrivals!
My favorite skincare brand collaboration for the year was Stacked Skincare. Their dermaplaning tool is incredible and completely changed my skin, and made it so much smoother. I'm talking baby's butt smooth. After learning their goals, and having the opportunity to develop a relationship with the owner and her team, I am completely in love with the brand as a whole. They're open-minded and understand that influencers are the new form of advertising and they've been so kind. When I did my collaboration with them earlier this year, they were responding to you and all of your questions and comments in my blog post and in the video, which is incredibly hands on.
Activate, Brandbacker, Clever, HerCampus, Tidal, TapInfluence, and Influence Central
For years, billboards were a huge source of advertising and there was no true return on investment. You can put a price to a billboard, but you have no idea how to calculate return on investment. It's not really possible. The same can be said (to some degree) with influencers. Not everything is going to be a direct correlation.
While Brandbacker is not my favorite platform (at all; I pretty much despise it) I found the most amazing brand through it. Working with Peter Thomas Roth in 2017 was such a joy because it is an incredible skincare line, sold in Ulta and Sephora (so super easy to get your hands on!) and there's so many products. You will definitely find the perfect set for yourself.
One platform I'm a fan of is Activate; but only when they pick me for campaigns. Ha! In 2017, I worked with them on a few really cool ones including People. Those were all simple, fun photo shoots promoting #metime which is something I am all about so the content was perfect for my brand. The Bloglovin team does a fantastic job getting good opportunities and they're great with communication. Working with them on a Dr. Scholls campaign was also a great experience, and a cool campaign to promote during NYFW in September. Activate's campaigns pay well, and the campaign guidelines are given ahead of time so you know exactly what to expect and what type of content to deliver. Always a fan of how they lay it out nice and simple.
Another platform I did genuinely enjoy working with in 2017 is Clever. Their team is so friendly, so organized, provides guidelines upfront and is very responsive. I got a few campaigns through them, including a few wine campaigns (these are amazing!) Cameron Hughes Wine and JaM Cellars. The only downside to Clever is that the pay is very low. There are very minimal campaigns that pay even $1,000 but they require a blog post + social shares in most cases.
However, I got to work with a few of my favorite brands including Curel, Aquaphor, Tom's of Maine, Hanes, Nature Made, NFL series and GoDaddy. Brands I likely would not have worked with otherwise, so I genuinely loved working with their team. All of the campaigns follow the same structure. You apply for opportunities you are interested in, and you find out soon after if you were accepted or not. Once accepted, you're given all the guidelines upfront and you have a posting period. The best thing about Clever is that you have complete creative freedom to do whatever you want when it comes to the content. Once your post is ready and you're in the live date period, you just take your post live, submit your links and wait to hear from the Clever team. If you don't hear from them, your post is all good. If you do hear from them, it's likely that you have a few quick edits to make to ensure payment is not delayed. It's a great system.
HerCampus is another good platform that slowly continued to increase cost through the year for me. I did a few collaborations in the beginning of the year for $100-$200 (I know crazy) but I love the brands they work with; over time, the pay continued to get higher and higher, and I'm much more comfortable with the payment nowadays. They gave me the opportunity to work with Essence Makeup throughout 2017. Not to mention BedHead by TIGI. They are so easy to work with and by far, the most organized influencer agency. Every other influencer agency should follow their style because they have everything always outlined, super organized (they send reminders, follow-ups, etc.) and they are so nice. I've thoroughly enjoyed all my experiences with them.
Tidal is a platform I recently got the hang of, but it's super effective for a lot of influencers over the past year. I adored working with them for a campaign with Clarins. They opened the door for me to work with a brand I've loved for years, so I am grateful for this platform.
Finally Vizsense, a.k.a. Tapinfluence, helped me work with Differin Gel and Neutrogena in 2o17. While the pay was very low in the beginning, it's gotten better over time as I've gotten to know my contacts and they've gotten to know the quality of my content. It also opened the door for more long-term opportunities.
I worked with Influence Central on at least two collaborations this year. One of my absolute favorites was Reebok, and then I also worked on my recent Britney Spears Fragrance campaign with them. They are well organized, and the IC team is very practical. Only grief here is that the campaigns are very low-paying, even though the brands are very well-known.
Top Collaboration of the Year
When it comes down to it, the best collaboration this year for me was Neutrogena x Amazon, which is one I'm still working on into 2018. The Best of Allure Beauty choose many Neutrogena products as their best in 2017. I've been reviewing each of the four products, because they are all so good and work incredibly to improve the quality of the skin.
Honestly it's so surreal to say that I worked with Neutrogena and Amazon. Such an incredible opportunity!
Working with my Amazon contact has been a true highlight this year. We were emailing back and forth late at 11 PM through midnight my time, right before Black Friday, to lock our plan in place for this campaign.