Blogger's Integrity Surprisingly Affordable, Brand Discovers

A global running brand was pleased this week to discover just how little it had to pay for a blogger’s integrity.

Mizauconus, a maker of shoes and gear, last week mailed press kits to about 100 editors; fitness and gear writers; and “influencers” to promote its newest shoe, a lemon-scented model called the Zest. The kit included a Mizauconus-branded citrus zester; a fresh lemon; a short-sleeved technical shirt reading, “GET ZESTY”; and a news release with product details and links to download high-resolution images of the shoe.

The kit also included a note offering a free pair of shoes for “review” purposes.

The company declined to say exactly how many responses the mailing got, but it did note that one recipient, a self-described “wellness and nutrition journalist” named Johanna Faust, posted a gushing review almost immediately.

“And this was before she got the shoes,” said Nicholas Mephisto, director of public relations for Mizauconus. “It was incredible.”

Faust’s review, which included entire paragraphs copied from the news release, made liberal use of Mizauconus’s product photos and repeated several of the brand’s claims uncritically and without qualification.

She did not mention the fact that she was receiving free shoes, a $120 value, but did include a selfie with the citrus zester.

In addition to her 550-word review, Faust also shared photos and words of praise on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. All of them used the #GetZesty hashtag as suggested by Mizauconus. None stated or implied that the posts were anything but Faust’s honest and unbiased opinion.

The exposure, said Mephisto, was worth “thousands of dollars” to Mizauconus—all for the cost of a pair of shoes and “some crap in a box.”

“We were delighted,” he said. “And pleasantly surprised.”

A traditional editor at a print publication might require not just the free shoes in exchange for positive coverage, Mephisto noted, but also attendance at a lavish “VIP press event” with music, open bar, and other enticements. That, he said, is in addition to the five- or six-figure sums the brand would spend on advertising in the publication.

“Today, it’s a new world,” he said. “For a hundred bucks or so, we can send our message to tens or even hundreds of thousands of potential customers, via bloggers like Johanna.”

“For brands seeking cheap promotion from social media influencers unburdened by any sense of propriety or journalistic ethics, things have never been better.”

Faust is expected to receive her Zest shoes via FedEx today.