Affiliate Marketing Is Making All Fashion Blogs Look The Same

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OK, maybe not ALL. But a lot.

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with a long time friend, Angie Johnson, the designer behind Norwegian Wood. Years ago, her label was a favorite amongst bloggers. Her iconic designs at affordable prices made any outfit a statement. In our conversation, I noted how well her label was doing and how impressive her collaborations had become. Then she said something interesting in that her business has grown tremendously, but bloggers don't write about it as much.

 [Norwegian Wood's] business has grown tremendously, but bloggers don't write about it as much.

I wondered how that had happened. Granted, I took a hiatus from my fashion blog to work on IFB, so that was my reason for not writing about Norwegian Wood. Her collections have that editorial quality that makes good fodder for post content. So how did the blogosphere change where the most popular blogs used to feature emerging designers (i.e.,. Style Bubble, A Shaded View on Fashion, Style Rookie back in the day) to now the most popular blogs featuring brands solely carried by retailers large enough to have affiliate programs.

“You'll be hard pressed to find a fashion blogger who doesn't use rewardStyle.”

Ruthie Friedlander, Deputy Director of Elle.com, told Texas Monthly in an 11-page feature on popular affiliate marketing company, rewardStyle, “You'll be hard pressed to find a fashion blogger who doesn't use rewardStyle.” You know that's good news for rewardStyle, but as a fashion blogging community, that means that you'll also be hard pressed to find a blogger who doesn't feature brands also working with rewardStyle.

What's more, is that rewardStyle has interesting requirements of bloggers participating in their program. Recently Kristen Philipkoski of Stylenik found out her account with rewardStyle was “Currently Disabled.” Why? Because she hadn't made a sale in three months. In an email from rewardStyle, to become, I'm guessing… Currently Abled, one of the suggestions was “Consistent posting at least 3x a week — about monetizable products.”

Most fashion bloggers post about three times a week anyway, and to make a living off of affiliate links, you do have to post consistently. However, affiliate marketing being one of the most popular ways for bloggers to get their foot in the door to making a living with their respective sites, bloggers eager to start making money look at ways to incorporate these links.

If given a choice between a brand I could use an affiliate for, and a similar brand that I couldn't use affiliates for, I would always go for the one I could make money off of…

I know this because affiliate links affect my content as well. In my blog's resurrection, I wanted to monetize using affiliates and found that it required me to find new ways to talk about the same brands that everyone else was talking about. If given a choice between a brand I could use an affiliate for, and a similar brand that I couldn't use affiliates for, I would always go for the one I could make money off of, even if I liked the similar (and non-monetizable) one better.

Bloggers say they only link to brands love and use themselves, and I believe them. However, I can't help but to think that if monetized links could affect MY editorial choices, then who else is being swayed by the dollar billz?

[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]

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24 Responses

  1. Alison

    Affiliates aren’t anything new, what’s new is having an affiliate company like rewardStyle who intervenes by offering suggestions on how to adjust your blog or social media channels to make more money. It’s whether we bloggers decide to sacrifice our originality for the all mighty dollar, and whether our readers will stick around when we do. I still feature independent and non-affiliate brands, creating relationships with such companies helps them get their name out, supports local and ethical businesses, and often can be financially lucrative for the blogger at the same time. No one should put all their eggs in a single affiliate basket and expect to stand out. 🙂

    Reply
  2. TlvBirdie

    Oh, hello, now we got to the point…
    A good reason to slow down, and pick a side – affiliate monetizing for several $ a year and all-the-same-content-around-the-web, OR really unique content that will bring you money some other way?
    (yes,if you choose the other side, you’ll have to think over a bit and come up with a different way of monetizing your blog)

    Oly
    http://www.tlvbirdie.com

    Reply
  3. Brooke Hamilton

    I wonder the same things all the time. I have just started using rewardStyle within the past year and I certainly noticed that my shopping patterns have changed. I hate that the first question when I see something at the mall is “I wonder if I can link this on my blog” instead of “I really like this, I think it would be a great addition to my wardrobe”. I also feel silly when I link “similar here” just because the actual item isn’t part of the affiliate program. Sigh…

    Reply
      • AJ Wears Clothes

        It’s definitely possible that a lot use the “Similar” link because of affiliate links. Personally, I always link the exact product regardless of links, so if I use “Similar” it’s because that item is unavailable or sold out.

  4. Donna

    There will always be smaller blogs that feature indie designers and smaller labels, hopefully. I like to read blogs about clothes that I can actually afford to buy, so the larger blogs with expensive brands don’t appeal to me. My problem is finding the smaller blogs.

    Reply
  5. Rebecca for TRENDENEUR

    Absolutely LOVE this post and I completely agree. I’ve had my blog for 1.5 years now and in the beginning I used quite some affiliate links on my blog but now I rarely do since most of the time I feel that they don’t have the links to the smaller brands. It’s such a shame since it makes all the blogs feature basically exactly the same brands and smaller brands rarely get any space at all.

    Even if affiliate marketing is a great way of making money of your blog I think it’s important to realise that there’s a thin line between actually genuinely recommending a product and making it look like you’re just featuring links because they’re on reward style. I would rather make a bit less than being a sell-out.

    http://trendeneur.com

    Reply
  6. Jessica

    I have no problem with affiliate marketing as long as it is used with moderation. Someone above me talked about picking a side, but why not choose both? You can still feature a young unknown designer while still posting some affiliate links here and there.
    http://www.daarboven.com

    Reply
  7. CynthiaCM

    I’m beginning to find many fashion and beauty blogs…boring. It’s nothing but outfit posts and the same reviews that everyone else is writing. I understand that PR companies contact hundreds of bloggers at the same time, asking for promos and usually requiring the same type of verbage, but really? While I do write sponsored posts on my site, I try to make it my own as much as possible and my non-sponsored posts (majority) tend to be from my personal perspective and often on issues that other sites don’t tend to discuss. I know that this isn’t something that many companies like (especially because I don’t really have outfit posts), which is likely why I don’t get many offers outside of my blog network, but at least I try to be different, even if some people find me boring or WTF-ish.

    Cynthia
    http://www.delectablychic.com

    Reply
  8. Ann Krembs

    I have to be honest: I get so frustrated with RStyle and the new “LikeIt” scheme. I was a member with Reward Style, and then it got taken away–without me knowing! Now, I try and try, and it’s as if they are unreachable. No I don’t have huge numbers, but I do link everything everywhere. Do you have any advice for someone trying to reconnect with Reward Style? Often I’ll see someone with it, and I’m like, Hey, I’m just like them! I can have it too.

    I know, I know, I sound like a little kid, but I just want in! Any tips!!

    Thanks,

    Ann of Kremb de la Kremb

    Reply
      • Ann Krembs

        Thank you Fashion Party Blog. I wrote again today! You inspired me to do so. This happened to years ago. I wrote often at the time, and they gave me the feedback of what I needed to do to improve. I wrote again last year, and now today. In two years, I have definitely gained a reputation as a fashion blogger here in Hong Kong. Hopefully I will hear back from RewardStyle….

        Thanks for getting me to write again today!

        Ann of Kremb de la Kremb

  9. Steph

    As an online boutique owner I frequently do collaborations with fashion bloggers. I haven’t worked with any blogger that is not using affiliate programs nowadays and I have no problem with it since I totally understand that is their job and they want to make money. However, what I found very unethical and disrespectful is when they charge you to wear an item from YOUR business and they add the affiliate link for a “similar” item from a big store since your business is not listed in any of them. That’s really bad…

    Steph
    The Inside of LoveShoppingMiami.com

    Reply
  10. Lisa

    Very interesting post and viewpoint.

    I think one of the reasons for rewardStyle’s success and ubiquitousness is their outreach. They really make an effort to educate bloggers on how to best use their platform via summer school sessions, phone calls, and so on. Sure, they have the most retailers and the biggest affiliate program around, but they ace the educational aspect tool.

    Incidentally, I met some of the ladies from rS at a summer school session and asked them about featuring more local and Canadian retailers on their platform. The reason why they don’t is legal and technical. One, a lot of smaller and indie retailers don’t have their sites set up in a way that allows rS to generate the custom deep links required to track commissions. And two, there are legal implications to an American company taking on Canadian retailers.

    Reply
  11. Noemi

    Isn’t it sad that everything that begins like something “alternative” and genuine always ends with having to do with money?
    Blogging was born to give people a genuine view on fashion, beauty etc. Now it’s all about money, money, money.
    Honestly, I’m starting to get tired of lots of blogs I used to follow, most of all when it comes to beauty products. A blogger who writes about a brand as her favorite 2 days after writes about another brand as the greatest and so on. I don’t believe it. Some bloggers don’t even review a product, they copy and paste the press release, sometimes add few words and that’s it. That’s the same thing I can read on a magazine, thanks.
    Now I understand why “similar here” doesn’t often bring to a similar item, it’s just for money.

    Reply
  12. Ms YoLee

    I am torn about this debate, because a part of me have monetized from affiliate marketing, not from either of the two mentions (rewardstyle or stylenik) but from CommissionJunction and Adsense. But either way, monetizing is one’s choice. I think this also depends if you are taking your blog to the next level, going for it full-time, and making a steady income to pay the bills, then sacrificing a bit of creativity and control of your blog may be realistic. After all, even in a Professional career you sacrifice ideality and creativity for the real world, which nobody, even Schools do not prepare you for.
    And even the few artists that stay ‘true’ to their colour (be it musicians, actors, etc.,), I wonder if they have never been tempted by money, because it is what makes the world go round.
    I see blogging no differently, either you are in it professionally and full-time, getting paid to pay the bills. Or you have a day job and started blogging on the side, so while not all of your focus can be on your blog and may not get the exposure as others do, at the end of the day you may have more control and say on your blog and pick and choose whom you want to collaborate with. Atleast from my own experience.
    And then, there are those that are in it for the wrong reasons, and just regurgitating the same news and shamelessly promoting whatever it is that they can get their hands on, so long as they can get that 15 seconds of attention and clicks, but whatever it is, don’t lose your passion and focus and the real reasons for why you started blogging in the first place, and that will truly have great rewards as a result.

    Reply
  13. Adrian

    Very interesting! I have a small blog and haven’t dabbed into affiliates yet. Definitely looking into it, but I’ve noticed so far some places want you to have significant hits before you can. Anyways, thanks for sharing this article.

    Reply
  14. Jacqueline Jax

    Honestly I’ve been blogging for four years and as far as affiliate linking I believe that bloggers to have to do it if they want to create an income through their blogs however with that being said I have my own fashion line and I have noticed that my own products are what make my blogs more unique. There is also something more authentic about creating something and blogging about it it’s almost like a more professional DIY project. I have discovered that articles where I picture and write about designs that I have created are much more engaging to my readers than posts about other products that may not be as unique. It’s great to follow trends but you have to do it in your own way, it has to be done in a way that no one else has done it. What I love about really popular blogs is that there are no other blogs like them and the creators of those blogs have a very distinct voice and opinion. They have an edge over the competition because they know who they are and they stick to it, no doubt after many years of trial and error.
    Jax http://www.jaxcouture.com http://www.blondibeach.com

    Reply
  15. Will

    One overall observation is that the issue of fashion blogs beginning to all look the same – it seems like it is a microcosm of what’s going on right now in so many fields, many having precious little connection to fashion. Is anyone else noticing this?

    Reply
  16. Lynne

    As an Aussie plus size blogger I don’t see many affiliate opportunities for me, even if I wanted to do it. And I don’t read a lot of “big” fashion blogs because I’m in my own bubble of vintage inspired plus sized lesbian femme world. I do however read “Get Off My Internets” which perversely inspired me to work harder on my blog.
    http://youlooklikemynanna.sidherian.com/wordpress/

    Reply
  17. Estefania

    You read my mind. I’ve become fed up of this mindless fashion content, it is degrading our own fashion blogs and how we perceive them and we are all spiraling down to becoming just what fashion blogging was against when it started.

    After not posting anything and having realized it is because of this, I will start by changing my own blog.

    Reply