The brand of mom: The Toyota incident can happen again

February 17, 2011

Some of you might be familiar with the Toyota incident that happened yesterday. If you need a fantastic recap and timeline, Shelly Kramer does a great job laying it out.

While this type of promotion is not unique, that doesnt mean that it is the right way to promote a brand or product. I’m not just talking about Toyota or PR agencies here, I’m also talking about the mom bloggers who participate in this type of promotional bribery.

Note: I am specifically speaking about mombloggers here because of this specific incident, yes, I am very aware there are dad bloggers too.

There are AMAZING mom bloggers out there. But in the past couple of years, there has been an onslaught of momblogs that are set up purely to promote. Often, these bloggers (and I’m using that term loosely here) are promoting items they have never used, all in exchange for gift cards.

$10 here, $25 there, maybe a couple $50 thrown in for good luck. And yes, they add up. There is debate out there if this is even legal, whether the loopholes are too big, what is really a contest and what is not. but either way? These so called blogs are cheapening the brand of the mom blog. They are all paid promotion and no meaningful content.

Responsible bloggers should do their due diligence about what they write, how they write, what type of promotions they will and will not accept (have some self esteem!) and most importantly why they are writing a blog in the first place.

There are blogs that do both content and product review (and giveaways) well. There are very successful, strategic, smart moms and groups of moms who blog about mom things (and more!). Lets just say we are not talking about those blogs. They can and do make money from these great blogs. Christy Matte wrote a wonderful piece about paying bloggers: Do bloggers really deserve to be paid? *an agency must read

Now, don’t start whining to me about how I’m talking about your blog and that you closely consider every free gift card you whore yourself out for. Because you are killing the mom brand.

Lets look at the term. Mom Blogger. At one time, this was a proud term, many of us used it. It described a genre to which we belonged and we were passionate about it. It was a brand we believed in and trusted. We wrote with our hearts on our sleeves (and the great ones still do), we had a passion for what we were doing, for the people we were connecting with, for the new moms we were helping go through the same things we once went through (or still are) when once they thought they were alone. We showed each other that we are not alone and there are people out here who will listen to you and share their secrets, help you through a tough situation and some times gave you the support you needed to get through. At its birth, it felt like a mom revolution, a brigade of people who could come together with common purpose.

Now? People laugh at the mom blogger. In fact, many wont even use that term to describe themselves (lifestyle blogger?) because noone will take them seriously. Many Other blog genres dont even consider mom bloggers worth discussing strategy with at conferences. The mom blogger has become a title to avoid.

In Shelly’s post about the Toyota incident, The very first commenter sums up what everyone else was thinking. “Got to love those mommy bloggers”. Though you didn’t see it, this comment included an eyeroll of disdain.

A once proud brand. Diluted into ridicule.

But what makes the successful ones work? Passion, strategy, intelligence and meaningful content.

I think you can use that formula for success in any brand.

I also think that the PR companies are equally at fault here. I think that this is a very ineffective way to spend publicity and marketing dollars. They, as well as and those who perpetuate the myth of these campaigns, created a frenzy with these promotional contests and as a result, moms create blogs with the belief that they too, can profit from it.

(side note: How many other brands have no idea their agencies are using these tactics? Just a thought)

If marketing companies spent a little more time reading through some of the blogs, researching which blog would make a great brand partner, they would have more effective, more meaningful, longer term results. Would this cost them a little more money? Sure. But it is a more concentrated campaign which will yeild higher results in the long run.

This is simple brand strategy people. You yield stronger results with a targeted campaign.

I was reminded recently that it doesnt matter if you have 10,000 followers or 150 followers. If those 150 followers are the RIGHT followers? They are much more valuble than 10,000 empty ones.

What happened in this failed Toyota campaign is sad. Sad for Samantha Snyer, owner of Mommy Networks, sad for Toyota who had to answer to (and briefly take the blame for) this ridiculous campaign, sad for the reputation of mom bloggers and sad for brand strategy. I hope that great brands, agencies and bloggers can learn a lesson from this.

Be mindful of what your goals are. Have a strategy. Have integrity. Be smart.

And that goes for all of you.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelly Kramer, Melissa Stewart, Kate McKinney, Peter Hughes, Up On Copper Creek and others. Up On Copper Creek said: RT @ShellyKramer: The brand of mom: The Toyota incident can happen again http://t.co/ZN9DxsB | via @LizPW <good stuff, Liz!> […]

  2. This is a fantastic and poignant post about a pretty touchy subject. As a mom, I’m familiar with many wonderful “lifestyle” blogs … they are the first thing I read in the morning – even before checking the weather! As a PR person, it is a daily struggle to assure clients that it is quality, not quantity that counts. Thanks for your insight.

  3. I completely agree.. quality over quantity. And you get that by doing your research. It is refreshing that as a PR person that you recognize this. The good ones do. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Hi Liz. It’s nice to finally read you after tweeting! This is a great post. Of course 1500 and some odd people read it! There are so many of us mom bloggers who feel tainted and diminished by those who blog for swag. I started my blog because I felt alone. Through it, I’ve found a great community – one that I’d never ever alienate. See, I find review blogs alienating. I don’t have the money to buy the shit they’re “selling.” I want to read their stories, not about stuff they simply cannot live without. I enjoy some perks of being a blogger for sure, but I try to enjoy them ethically and with integrity. After all, my name is on the thing.

  5. Hi other Liz! Thanks for pointing me here.

    I hate to say it but people never respected the “mommy blogger.” Here’s a post I wrote about that back in ye olde 2006.

    I think the issue you describe is fair. But maybe it’s a semantic issue. If we called these folks ad bloggers or giveaway bloggers or coupon bloggers, we probably wouldn’t really care what they did with their space. My feeling is if you don’t write about parenting, you’re not a parenting blogger. I say it often, but I wish we could use terminology that describes the content and not the blogger.

  6. Liz: “I wish we could use terminology that describes the content and not the blogger” YES YES YES.. THAT!

    And semantics makes a big difference. If promotion bloggers or coupon bloggers was really what they were called, it would be a fair description of what I would discover on their site. But if that is what we called them, would the agencies still want them to promote their products? Or are they getting these promo gift cards because they define themselves as “mommy bloggers”?

    in 2006 I was blogging about my new role as mother.. but oh man.. I do not disagree with your post from 2006. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part that there was once a time we had a richer online parenting community that was more respected than it is now.

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