While it’s difficult to imagine any downside to piles of coveted products appearing at your doorstep free of cost, many influencers are disputing that last characterization of this phenomenon: that these items come without expense. From celebrity influencers like Jeffree Star, to Canadian beauty vlogger Samantha Ravndahl, frequent recipients of what are known within the industry as “PR Mailers,” or “PR sends” are speaking out about the true cost associated with these massive gifting efforts by brands.
In his YouTube video titled "Getting Rid Of $1,000,000 of Makeup w. Shane Dawson,” Starr explains to a friend the problem he faces due to a never-ending influx of unsolicited products from brands. As the two shift around uncomfortably in front of an enormous pile of packaging debris, he explains, “It's just constant PR from every brand on the planet, every new release, people constantly want me to review their stuff. And I’m very selective, I review what the audience wants me to.”
Starr's point succinctly highlights the struggle of all three major players in the Brand, to Influencer, to Consumer chain. Brands witness the influence that popular influencers wield, add these influencers to a list, and oftentimes will proceed to send them product on a monthly basis without ever investigating whether or not these mailers contain products that are truly relevant to the influencers - or their audiences.
The conversation around the byproduct of these fiercely competing prerogatives seems to be heating up. A Traackr survey of over 30,000 Beauty and Fashion Influencers showed a 100% increase year over year in mentions of hashtags like #wastefulpackaging, and phrases “too much packaging.”
In the same Traackr survey, beauty-specific posts containing keywords and phrases such as "eco-friendliness" and “sustainability" saw a 25% increase in volume from 2018 to 2019. Frustrations regarding beauty product-overload and product-accumulation among influencers manifested in an 86% increase in mentions of product decluttering and purging exercises.
It’s clear that the industry has arrived at a tipping point, and perhaps there is really no better time. Influencers and their followers alike are becoming ever more vocal about the industry's waste. Brands are clamoring for new ways to show would-be consumers that they are different and share the same values as their audience. Some highlight their female-led organizations, some call attention to their clean ingredients. Regardless of a company’s progress in the areas of representation or formula cleanliness, nearly all brands feel the immediate pressure of their consumers to do better by the environment.
Samantha Ravndahl's November 2018 YouTube video, ominously titled “NO MORE PR…” takes viewers behind the scenes of her LED-ring-lit filming station to bear witness to the dark side of her glamorous profession. By the time Samantha moved to “quit” PR packages, she was producing more waste than the other seven members of her eight-member household combined. Samantha details that at the rate of 10 - 30 packages received per week, she was forced to develop a recycling system that involved hiring and filling an entire junk truck with the recycling generated by her mailers every few months.
Nearly a year later, Ravndahl’s video has garnered just shy of half a million views, and the online conversation around wasteful and excessive packaging doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Buried in Ravndahl’s 24-minute critique is a beacon of hope for program managers who are also tired of pushing the (literal) envelope on dreaming up elaborate, never-before-seen PR packages. "It feels crazy to think about how much money these brands must be putting into all of this packaging, for me to look at for four seconds, and then throw out.” Ravndahl goes on to say that past packages stand out in her mind not based on outlandishness or whimsy, but based on the relevance of the products themselves. She concludes, “I remember brands sending out things because they genuinely watched my videos, because they see that I like something.”
As influencer programs continue to grow, product seeding will certainly continue to be a core channel for most brands. The question then becomes: How can brands leverage data to ensure that their mailers reach the influencers and the influencers’ audiences whose interests are aligned with their products?
This is the junction at which proactive insights become essential for influencer marketing teams. When building a PR list, I recommend you analyze potential new recruits as well as existing recipients for the following key performance indicators:
Traackr serves to streamline operations and provide the insights needed to run effective and thoughtful product seeding campaigns. As brands gear up for the holiday rush, they are advised to look to data to help them make the best-performing, most cost-effective, and ultimately environmentally-friendly decisions possible. Find out more about our analysis of the industry by downloading our 2019 State of Influence: Beauty Report.