Dermalogica . A lesson on how NOT to treat Bloggers

by Katie on August 4, 2010

Founder and owner of Dermalogica, Jane Wurwand’s message was clear at last night’s Bloggers Event: “Identify the pain in a business and you have the opportunity.” Well, I’m hearing you Ms Wurwand so here we go….

Bloggers are people. Often people with a journalistic background and/or an inherent and detailed knowledge of the subject that they choose to write about. I say this, as often brands don’t grasp this very basic principle and that’s where things go awry. As it did, indeed, at last night’s Dermalogica ‘teach in’ event in Kensington.

I don’t often rant review…well maybe in the weekly Friday ‘Chutzpah Barometer’ but that’s fun and I know you love it really but this column is intended to make very serious commentary on how NOT to treat bloggers and to really engage with this strata and get this influential group of expert professionals and amateurs on board for your brand.

I find it amazing that huge brands that purport to support social media and bloggers actually don’t have faintest idea of how to engage fully with this new form of media and to exploit its huge potential to its benefit. It’s even more mind boggling to understand that brands, such as the one I attended last night at Dermalogica, hold specific ‘bloggers events’ and who openly acknowledge the power of the blog, can so misjudge and misinterpret the needs and requirements of bloggers (which believe me are basic and no different from leading journalists on national mags, supplements and broadsheets) that their aim is thwarted from the outset and indeed, often causes brand backlash.

In short, I’d regard last night’s Dermalogica Bloggers Event as a PR disaster (and I am a PR professional). It could have so easily been avoided. They only had to call and ask a couple of us.

Firstly, after a long day’s work and for the most part, a 45 to 60 minute schlep across London (many of the team having to leave work early), a group of around 30 women (and a couple of men) were invited to attend Dermalogica to meet its founder and owner Jane Wurwand. Sounds interesting. It does, doesn’t it? However, when we arrived, a straggle of us waited for around 25 minutes while the Dermalogica bods got their act together and fannied around with the digital presentation (NB. We could see this as the place is all glass). They then handed out goody bags (at the beginning?) and selected those they had time to fit in for ‘facial mapping’ sessions which would give us a grasp of our own needs re skincare, prior to Jane’s lecture. Ironically, the short facial mapping session was the high point of the evening and one I could have popped in for at my own leisure. Have I mentioned the food and refreshments? Oh well, that’s because there were practically none. We had water or vitamin water and some grapes, raspberries and strawberries. Now, I know it’s trendy and healthy and stuff, but blimey, those girls could have murdered a glass of wine or even a cup of tea to relax and feel comfortable and some REAL food after a hard day’s graft. It was almost 9pm before the session finished . We started at 5pm, or didn’t, as I explained. Would they treat journalists on mags/newspapers like this, especially after a day’s work? (LESSON ONE)

Wait, it gets worse. Jane’s brand history and marketing lecture was exactly that…a ‘Little House on the Prairie/The Waltons’ run through of her life, her major influences which caused her to establish the business and a ‘lesson’ on how important women are as a work force, as well as the importance of social media and bloggers and new methods and ideas etc. We were being sold the brand, a personality and an ‘inspirational’ story as pics of the brand’s beginnings; Oprah and Hilary Swank were flashed on screen. The overall impression was, ‘Be impressed with me. With the brand’. It was too much of an ego trip. I wasn’t. It was patronising. We get it. We could have had background information and a biog sent in advance. How much more inspirational would it have been to engage with the woman directly in an informal setting and not have it rammed down our throats unlike the non-existent catering? (LESSON TWO).

(LESSON THREE). We don’t have to understand the brand history (though it helps) to appreciate the product. I left after the lecture as I could bear it no longer but the opportunity to play with products was then thrust upon the group. They were given hot towels, headbands etc and told to play with the products one by one on their faces and in a group format. Where do I start? The group was too large for engagement (LESSON FOUR; optimum group size is between 8-12), it’s actually downright embarrassing to be put in that situation with peers whether you know them or not and it’s a very definite no-no to ask to test products on faces. I know that some bloggers refused. It’s also a no-no to force people to play with specific products one at time as individuals have different skincare needs and requirements. And here’s the rub. My fellow bloggers are hardened product junkies who don’t have to be ‘taught’ like a nursery school. They have incredible brand and product knowledge. THEY KNOW PRODUCT often much better than the consultant. Wouldn’t it have been better to have one-to-ones or to simply give a detailed skin mapping session and advice and a free product sample which would deal with that person’s most urgent skincare problem? Or better. Invite them in for a quick 20 minute Dermalogica session in their own timeline. Results could be written about and filed in weeks if not days. (LESSON FIVE). Simple and targeted is better. Treat them like professionals.

LESSON SIX is to do with knowing the bloggers and their blogs. At no point did the (heavily pregnant) PR representative engage with us, acknowledge our individual strengths or make any attempt at knowing our blogs or our writing strengths. As I say, targeted PR & marketing might reap rewards but just reading the columns would go a long way to engagement.

Back to ‘The Lecture’. The marketing themes discussed were also rather dated (actually bottom up marketing strategies have been in place for a LONG time). Ie Using word of mouth and opinion formers to cause a ripple effect. However, these days it’s about active targeting of mixed media and knowing HOW to speak to the communicator individually. Some of us in the room were professional marketing & PR professionals. Again, know your audience and its understanding. Don’t patronise. As Jane openly recognises, the media has been turned on its head. (LESSON SEVEN).

(LESSON EIGHT). ‘The Lecture’ lasted approximately an hour plus. I didn’t know whether I wanted to gnaw my own hand off or walk out mid lecture as our attention spans were pushed to the max. The ‘inspirational story’ waned. Even my University lectures didn’t last that long and imparted more factual information. Please note, actual fabulous Dermalogica product information STILL hadn’t been discussed at this point. A big fail and the main reason for our attendance. We wanted to know more about the products and be on side. Instead, we were subjugated to a presentation that I’ll bet my bottom dollar gets rolled out at Dermalogica conferences as a learning tool. One size doesn’t fit all. Target messaging to the audience is vital (LESSON NINE). It’s a great pity that an opportunity as vital as this was lost. Engage with your target audience and ASK them what they want from an event and press information. Don’t assume you know their needs, especially if this is new to you as a brand.

The biggest irony was that the subject matter contrasted with our experience: supporting women, supporting women’s businesses, using an individual’s experience to “identify the pain in a business so you can have the opportunity”. Excuse me? Didn’t I just say we were largely a group of working (professional) women, many of whom had come directly from work and struggled across London, in an evening, in our own time, unpaid, to actively seek out product information and support this iconic brand? The sheer lack of thought in attendees’ needs and their daily experience from Dermalogica implied that a nurturing, well being, skin care brand appeared not to nurture relationships nor care about our well being. (LESSON TEN). Actions speak louder than words.

What a pity. I’m already impressed with the sachet samples of ‘gentle soothing booster’ I was granted. The brand’s product line up is stellar. Just imagine what could have been.

So there you have it. Take the lessons. For free! I do hope I’ve helped “identify the pain to allow you to create the opportunity” re (social) media relationships.

Dermalogica has a new area on the concourse at Westfield and is also to be found in Lancer Square, just off Kensington Church Street, W8. http://kensingtonstore.dermalogica.co.uk/


If you are a blogger who attended this event (or not) and would like to comment, I’d be delighted to hear your experience or others similar. Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below or start a conversation in the ‘shout mix’ box opposite.
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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

SiSi G August 4, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Good for you, totally agree. Most appalled by the food/ drink situation, ha ha – can’t even imagine how you felt during the lecture – total nightmare. I never ever understand when people insist on doing a presentation – it’s absolutely not the way to show people about your brand or win them over. I never understand bad pr events like this either – how can it all go so badly wrong?

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@lucyjaneburkitt August 4, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Really enjoyed reading this. I’ve never been to a Blogger event as im new to this, but avidly follow beauty bogs. I was yet to read about a “bad blogger event”, untill now. Sounds like she was more interested in talking about herself and totally missed the huge opportunity she had with the people they invited. Some brands have whole departments dedicated to these events and building relationships with bloggers. Seems like they don’t have a clue. Such a shame as they are such a respected brand with great products.

Bad, BAD Dermalogica!

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Katie Chutzpah August 4, 2010 at 1:08 pm

I know. It’s such a pity as the products are fantastic. It guess, for the most part, it was treating the group (both lecture and session) as uneducated novices that really irked as well as not understanding that most of the women there had struggled to be there in their own time to actively support the brand!

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Get Lippie August 4, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Think you’ve been – slightly! – harsh, but I do agree with some of the points you made.

I thought that starting this event at 5pm was an odd decision – when I asked if it would be okay to arrive late (I work till 6pm, and taking time off to go to events is a big no-no these days) I was told that it wasn’t ideal, and I’d miss the talk. I do find that events which are so rigidly structured aren’t ideal for us bloggers, even the ones without a professional writing background … 😉

I still think it’s a shame I missed this though, I’ve been a keen user of Dermalogica for the best part of a decade, and I would have liked to have found out more about the brand. Though I think sitting through a “My Life Story” might have been a bit much.

So, brands PLEASE tell us about the products rather than the brand history (which we can find out any time, tbh, if we need to know – a bit is good, but that’s not what we tend to be interested in, really), a question and answer session with the makers of the products is always great – and brands can find out what consumers want if they let us ask questions!

And, if you can stretch to a cup of tea, we’ll probably love you forever, it depends on your biscuit selection.

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fashionbite August 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm

It sounds like the Toronto version of this event was more like what you’re saying- see:
http://styleblog.ca/2010/04/09/dermalogica-beauty-junkies-group-therapy/

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VexintheCity August 4, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I think you’ve been a bit harsh and some points would have been better staying addressed directly to the PR company as opposed to being ‘aired’ publicly. This was their first interaction with bloggers, so not all brands are gonna ‘get’ it first time round.

Yes, it started late and after the initial talk, my attention span had dwindled a bit but I actually found Jane’s ‘journey’ quite interesting. Like Get Lippie, I’m not new to Dermalogica and have used a number of their products in the past with good results and I started using the products as soon as I got home last night because I have faith in them – and needed to change my cleanser!

Instead of the group interaction part which DID feel like a classroom lesson, I think we would of benefited from looking at the products ourselves and mingling with the staff asking questions when we saw fit.

I was already familiar with many of the line’s products and kind of switched off as I found it went on for far too long. I wasn’t a fan of applying product to my face which I couldn’t rinse off properly either, so applied products to my hand which obviously had no effect. We WERE told about the products, (you’d left at that point), but just not in a format that I particularly enjoyed.

Re: Refreshments. You make it sound as if we were starved! LOL Ok, the vitamin water didn’t stimulate my tastebuds either but you’re not gonna get the canape and champers treatment everywhere you go – and the strawberries were quite nice 😉

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Katie Chutzpah August 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Not harsh at all. A true refelction of my experience. We certainly weren’t entertained. I don’t call water and some fruit left lying next to a sink area welcoming. Hell, I wouldn’t do that to visitors at my own flat. NB. I did air these to the PR and asked for discourse. My main point is ‘don’t bleat about honouring women and bloggers and understanding their importance and then actually not respecting them with even a cup of tea and a biscuit. Action speaks louder than words. Or, conversely, don’t promise the earth in an email (or lecture) and only deliver pizza!

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Ondo Lady August 4, 2010 at 2:44 pm

This is very interesting, I am always keen to read about how brands interact with bloggers. With all due respect Katie you seem more peeved that there were no refreshment than about the content of the event. A 5pm start is probably not ideal for bloggers who do the 9 to 5 and the event does sounds rather long but I guess the brand are probably not used to dealing with bloggers and simply tried too hard. In any case I think too much information is much better than too little.

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Katie Chutzpah August 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Nope. Wrong. I do think the format of the event was wrong and that’s the real travesty it’s a great brand and ‘they had us at hello’ to use a phrase. Though you make a good point. Take entertainment to a personal level. Would you expect a friend, coming to see you after work in her own time, who was doing you a favour by giving you advice as she liked you (say, sorting out a CV or giving professional opinion) like this? Would you entertain them as such? Would you sit them down, not meaningfully engage, dump on them and wonder why they reacted as such or got bored? The format is obviously different in other countries. Many of the girls and guys attending last night had worked a long day already and don’t expect much. Basic visitors’ respect and an easy environment to gain product information. That’s all.

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Bella Queen August 4, 2010 at 3:19 pm

I didn’t attend this event and would have loved to as I have great respect for Dermalogica and use their products every day.

I think some of your comments should have gone directly to the PR person, especially if this is their first blogger event. They definitely need to learn a thing or two about hosting in regards to the lecture (most people can only take being talked at for 20 – 25mins at a time) and refreshments. If people are coming for free, the least that can be done is provide drinks and some substantial nibbles.

I think it helps to have a little bit of brand history so you can relate better, but that can be done in a few lines and then some literature to take home.

They obviously fell down in some areas last night and no doubt they will learn from it and the difference will be seen in future events.

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Katie Chutzpah August 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

NB. I did call and speak to a PR representative before writing the piece and, after going through the various concerns I had re the format of the evening, was told words to effect (sic) “I’ll read the blog and see what you say…”.

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Adele August 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Interesting blogpost, but I think its a bit ridiculous you are miffed about the lack of refreshments that you would deem unsuitable..! Though it does seem quite disorganised.

Adele
http://www.thomassenland.com

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Liberty London Girl August 4, 2010 at 5:18 pm

I loathe blogger events: usually a meisterwerk in patronising. The best invitation recently was to a well known social event, where the mag writers & celebs were ro be seated in marquees with china etc, and the bloggers were invited to a picnic…Funnily enough, I didn;t go. LLGxx

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BALLET NEWS August 4, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Would be interested to know what information you received prior to attending, as your expectations seem very different from the reality ?

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LondonGirl August 4, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Really interesting to read… I’ve noticed in my short time as a blogger that some brands get it spot on, whereas others just don’t get what bloggers are all about. I get frustrated when I have to skive off work to go to an event – all they have to do it run it a few hours longer – and don’t get a decent drink.

I think brands are learning and changing how they deal with bloggers. I went to a disasterous event at Lush recently and wrote about it on my blog (www.londonbeautyqueen.blogspot.com) only to get an apology and thanks for my honesty from the brand, saying they were looking into their strategy. They even posted my fairly negative post on their own social media platforms!

Here’s hoping things are a changing x

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Cherie City August 4, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Yikes! From what I know of Dermalogica, they put on some great free events for the public in store with face mapping and sometimes jewellery workshops, but it sounds like there wasn’t much differentiation between this customer experience and the blogger event, except for the presentation.

Journalists tend to allow around an hour for a beauty event and sometimes leave early even then.
I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking my make-up off in front of the whole beauty blogging community. I would have to decline and try it on my hand.

It’s a shame it didn’t go well, but I’m sure they’ll take your points into account for their next event.

Another controversial one from the Chutzpah!

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Anonymous August 4, 2010 at 9:07 pm

what i got from the above… if they (Dermalogica) had been entertaining beauty editors instead of bloggers – i bet the refreshments would have been a little bit more plentiful… disgraceful actually

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britishbeautyblogger August 5, 2010 at 9:18 am

I think any event hosted over a natural meal time is duty bound to serve some food that is more substantial than fruit. It seems Dermalogica didn’t take on any advice about how to best interact with bloggers and just ‘imagined’ what would be the best approach. What they – and many others forget – is that blogging is not usually a blogger’s actual job, so to ask them to take time out to come to a long event is a big ask. Attending events is part and parcel of a beauty journalist’s job…but I’m pretty sure they’d be horrified to be asked to test in front of other journalists – I’ve never seen it happen in fact.

I was unable to attend the Dermalogica event but asked for info. This was declined – no attend, no info. Hmm…so that’s a good way to get the brand on my blog, then!

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The Shabby and The Chic August 5, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Hmm,

Having read all the comments on this post the view point I most agree with is BBB’s.
I don’t agree with the whole “it was there first blogger event so give them a little slcack” slant. A little research into previous brands who’ve hosted blogger events would have done the world of good and there is NO WAY that print journalists would have experienced the same sort of evening as this.

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Abi August 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm

The ‘testing products in front of each other’ thing sounds suspiciously like a focus-group activity. Not appropriate at all!

Bloggers’ events can either be great – cutting out all the stuff that we don’t need that go on at some press dos, or terribly patronising and shambolic. I can definitely see which category this one fitted into…

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Zara August 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I attended the event and whilst I agree with some of the points made, I also think that you should address what the Dermalogica brand DID right.

-The event was times at 5-8. Yes, that’s late and you can be tired, but at least it wasn’t in the day, so people who have full time jobs can actually attend. 6.30-8 would have made more sense, but at least the brand was giving heads up to the people who would miss an event set in the day.

-Food and drink. There wasn’t much, but these events often DON’T have much. Most beauty events I go to offer champers, and fiddly canapes, pretty much the equivalent of the fruit and jelly beans they had there. And at the beauty events most of the snacks don’t get eaten. Cakes would have been nice though ;.)

-They gave us a list of all bloggers who attended AND their blog URLs. A nice touch and I discovered some new blogs.

-The speech. It was long and did ramble, but remember, they weren’t launching anything new. At least with this they were offering us something other than ‘look at the products we’ve had for ages’

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Get Lippie August 7, 2010 at 8:45 am

5-8 is a terrible time for an event, actually. For bloggers who work full-time, it still means leaving work early to get there. If it’s an evening event, for people who don’t work in the industry, then it shouldn’t impact on people who work outside of the industry.

The length of the event doesn’t matter, if it’s a good event, btw. If you’re having fun, you’ll be happy to stay, no matter what kind of day you had beforehand …

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Anonymous August 9, 2010 at 2:34 pm

First I think 5-8 is a good time, works for employed and unemployed. Everyone is invited but no one is forcing anyone to go. If the time doesn’t work then it doesn’t work, i.e. you don’t go. You can’t please everyone. No one is being paid to be there.

I think most people go for these main reasons:
Socialisation
Free drinks and food
Free treats, such as pamperings and the goody bag

Finding out information about the brand and products comes along into the mix in varying proportions, according to how desirable, sexy, new, elitist and exclusive the brand is.

Bloggers are at these events as their guests, and it is always good manners to behave and react well to your hosts. If the format, info, refreshments, trials and freebies don’t work for you, so what. Move on to the next event. You can always get in touch with your hosts directly after the event.

If people have a desperate desire to find out about a brand, i.e. Dermalogica you can always pop into a shop, talk and test out the products. Beware, you might not get a glass of champagne and a goody bag.

As for any differences in treatment between paid up journalists who might feature the promote the product to the masses and treatment to bloggers who might promote the product to a couple of hundred people – well that sentence alone perhaps xplains a brand’s view on promoting to bloggers. Do they know just who are behind the cyber names? Know how many and to whom we bloggers connect with? Anyone can set up a blogspot and start writing their views on anything at all. I do it as it is fun, gives me something to do, etc, etc. But I don’t expect anyone to take it very seriously, it is just my personal opinion.

This may all sound harsh, but I think it has many true points if we can face up to them.

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RedlegsinSoho August 10, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Blogs make a lot of money for companies, clever PRs pick suitable blogs and targeted marketing is one of the most effective and difficult kind to organise. Before the net this kind of thing was expensive and time consuming.
If I was treated shoddily I would be rude about both company and product, and I am too old and stroppy to be exploited. The bloggers were doing Dermalogica a favour by turning up and should at least have recieved gifts, refreshments and an interesting evening. Glad I didn’t go, I’d have left and gone to the pub! x

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Anonymous August 13, 2010 at 5:02 am

This is Jane Wurwand – Wow. OK – I take the points to heart and can only say that we clearly got it wrong. Sorry. I did fully realize that we had all had a long day – me included (plus a bit of jet lag) and I’m sorry that we were not as succinct, focused or targeted on what you needed to hear from us. I also promise to have more food in future! I purposely didnt talk about the products because I didn’t want it to seem like a product push. Maybe I should have spent time speaking about them though as that is clearly what makes us a brand. I apologise if I got that wrong. I intended only to share my story as it is Dermalogicas story. I didn’t mean it to come from an ego point of view and if it did, then I have some reflection to do. I appreciated everyone that came and value your thoughts on the evening. It can only help us do better next time!

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Katie Chutzpah August 13, 2010 at 9:06 am

Firstly, a big thank you to Jane for replying and leaving such an honest comment. Not many company owners would take time out to do so and its greatly appreciated and shows complete professionalism and attention to detail. As I have said (and I can now confirm after trialing) the Dermologica products are fabulous and bloggers (whether professionals, passionate enthusiasts or just plain all round product junkies, all have a profound respect for good product and love to sing its praises. I also appreciate that honesty is the cornerstone of blogging and that brands willing to put themselves out there and engage with social media, take risks. The commentary here was always intended as a signifier for the event and to highlight ‘how to’ or rather ‘how not to’ and not in any way or form meant to demean the brand or its products. I look forward to working with any brand with (such) integrity and to highlighting its strengths.

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The Style PA August 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Just thought I’d give my opinion as I was also at the event. I do agree with the product testing lesson being a little too patronising, but Jane’s talk was exactly what I had been expecting and it was a great experience to be able to listen to her story first hand.

I don’t think the PR company misled us in any way – they didn’t say they would feed us, they told us how long the session would be. If I’d had any concerns I would have emailed ahead of the event to get more information. As a rule, I grab a snack on the way. It’s not just about the goodie bag, food and wine but a way of finding good content for your blog.

Dermalogica was never going to try and entertain us as that just doesn’t fit their brand – I’ve been to the store and a consumer event there before and felt prepared for it to be more educational than fun.

It wasn’t the best event I’d been to, but it was very far from being the worst. It’s a shame that you didn’t find more positives from it.

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