Retailers Flog About Their Own Wares, Biased Blogging Becoming Commonplace

The Wall Street Journal has an article detailing a type of flogging that is becoming more commonplace, the retail fashion flog:

Ken Downing might look like any other reporter at the New York shows. But he’s the fashion director at Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based department-store chain that caters to well-to-do shoppers. Starting today, Mr. Downing will post his reviews of around 18 shows at New York’s fashion week on the Neiman Web site….
Unlike other media covering the shows, these commentators are in the awkward position of reviewing their own suppliers — and their aim is more to boost sales rather than offer impartial critique.

Does it work? Absolutely. When Downing links his comments to specific merchandise the store sees a “sales bump” that exceeds expectations, according to a Neiman Marcus spokesperson. As shady as Ken is, least he’s honest about his identity and job function as he lavishes his purple prose on nearly everything he sees.

Not like Dawn Fox, Marketing Manager:

“We all agree on our love of the sequin stripe sweater dress,” said a commentary on Nanette Lepore’s fall collection posted yesterday on the Web site of Olive & Bette’s, a chain of four trendy Manhattan boutiques. The anonymous blog is written by the store’s marketing manager Dawn Fox, who presents herself as one of “Olive & Bette’s Shop Girls.”

We’re on to you, Dawn. No one could ever love a sequin stripe sweater dress. Even Ebay is in on the fun:

“EBay Style Director Constance White, who posted her first fashion-week blog on Friday, acknowledges being “pretty gentle because we still do want to have great relationships” with designers.”

Maybe Constance should worry about having a “great relationship” with customers. —MEGHANN MARCO

The New Fashion Bloggers:Retailers Review Own Wares [Wall Street Journal]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Kornkob says:

    *shrug* all they are really doing is taking the middle man out of the review process. Have most product reviewers been honest all this time? I mean, come on– one of the chief ebay ‘scams’ is selling instrucitons on how to get free products from companies by putting up a website with a coupel favorable reviews and then hitting up evry marketing department you can find for free ‘review copies’ of hardware, software and services. (and yeah– that’s pretty much the entire set of instructions in the scam)

    Reviewers are frequently compromised from the outset because publications don’t want to end up on the ‘shit list’ which will keep them from getting earlyc opies of products (or any products at all) by giving a truly horrible review to a bad product. That’s why you see so many ‘7 out of 10’ ratings given to what is in essence a crappy product and few reveiws have really damning language in them and instead either focus their complaints on a few rather insignificant issues or don’t really focus on the negative— so that they don’t piss off the company and lose a valuable free product channel.

    What’s a flog but a simlified process to get the same result: positive press.

  2. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Wow. Flogs are/were popular in the tech industry. A lot of those computer hardware/software review sites are just shills for certain companies. I guess the scam is shifting to other industries. Consumers beware.

  3. Fake reviews are not a good way to run a railroad, long term. Yes, some people get away with it, and it’s impossible for anybody to be completely objective. But readers do notice if you invariably give blowjobs to the advertisers.

    I expressed my own high-flown opinions on this subject at the end of this column. I’ve even, curse my integrity, got a Review Policy that specifically discourages bribes.

    Plus, I was the first to suggest the form the Floggie should take.

    So you can’t pin the rap on me, see :-)?

  4. pestie says:

    As shady as Ken is, least he’s honest about his identify and job function is as he lavishes his purple prose on nearly everything he sees.

    Uh… What? Oh, OK, I see. Let me fix that for you:

    As shady as Ken is, at least he’s honest about his identity and job function [is removed] as he lavishes his purple prose on nearly everything he sees.

    Apparently the strikeout HTML code isn’t allowed. Dammit.

  5. scottso says:

    No idea what makes Ken Downing “shady”; after all, as you noted, Neiman Marcus is quite clear about what he’s doing.

    Save the rhetoric for the truly shady ones!

  6. kimsama says:

    Maybe the post was written on a blackberry and that’s why that sentence came out so garbled?

  7. I think that if the flog is honest, like who’s paying them, then I have no problem with it. If you’re stupid enough to buy a piece of junk because one person on the take wrote something good about it, you deserve the piece of junk.

  8. phrygian says:

    I thought a flog was a “fake blog.” If the blogger is honest about his/her position and motives, it seems like just another blog to me. (Albeit one with a more commercial purpose than your typical Moveable Type blog.)