Pimping to Bloggers: Sprint’s Samsung Upstage vs. LG’s Shine

Unboxing: Sprint's Samsung Upstage cellphone
See Sprint’s dual-sided Samsung Upstage “unboxing” photos…

While LG sent out their “Shine” phone to a few popular Singapore bloggers, Sprint sent out the Samsung “Upstage” phone to the rest of us (I guessed so back in March). Since I’m not currently in New York, my housemate Aaron helped perform the ever geeky “unboxing” photographic ceremony for me, as seen in this photo set.

Just a quickie: Sprint’s Samsung Upstage a uniquely designed cellphone which is ultra-slim and yet has displays on both faces (i.e. no real front nor back). Since Sprint was marketing it as a package, we got six-months of free phone and data services. I heard that this phone maintains a solid EVDO connection, which I could use for virtual presence projects.

Back to the real deal: Having chatted with local bloggers here, there’s something different about the way companies market their goods through bloggers. In the case of Singapore, LG sent out these shiny phones to bloggers “on loan” for three weeks, with a standard letter disclaiming that any damage would be borne by the blogger. Being easily scratched (it’s shiny!), this sounds a little risky to me. I didn’t have a look at the actual letter while I was with MrBrown, but its in contrast to the way I’ve reviewed gadgets in the States.

Having blogged product reviews before, I find that Americans tend to place a lot of faith in bloggers, giving products to bloggers and not making any demands at all. Sometimes this backfires, as in the controversial case of Microsoft & Edelman’s Ferarri laptop giveaway. Some argued that this didn’t work because the “product” was far too expensive (around US$2,200), which appeared more like a bribe to the A-list bloggers (I wouldn’t mind if I could still give an honest review). Others (like me) found the messaging and backtracking of statements more damaging to the credibility of the marketing exercise (i.e. “return it or give it away”?).

Most of the time though, the trust placed with bloggers does get reciprocated. Understanding that it is not up to marketers to control the message, an honest review (whether positive or negative) drives attention. Without this first step, there wouldn’t even be an attitudinal -> behavioral change process. Having asked my readers before, it’s interesting to see how my negative review wouldn’t deter interested buyers, but rather spur interest in “checking it out” for themselves. You might have often heard the saying “don’t trust the critics”, which is in fact not wrong per say, but something that playfully points out the higher order of media…

To explain, Bernard C. Cohen (1963) once said, “[t]he press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about“. Taking this gist of agenda-setting theory forward, I find that Bernard’s statement still applies to the role that the media today, whether mainstream or otherwise (e.g. blogs).

Granted, there’s really nothing wrong with companies loaning products for review to bloggers, as it’s sometimes common practice for mainstream media as well. However, there’s is an attributional difference which grants a possible advantage to giving away such items to those who run blogs: Persistence.

My take is that unlike most media forms which report in one point in time, blogs are more of a life stream where something that a blogger uses would persistently maintain it’s chronological presence throughout (i.e. not only when it is new). For instance, if I like a particular product and I use it all the time (e.g. my Sony M2 hybrid camera), residuals of its presence would be felt constantly: In my photos on my blog, via EXIF metadata on flickr, in the background when someone photographs me (better than product placement). The utility of a product would be in line with its presence, on me in person and in blog.

In eventuality, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to surmise that the media not longer refers to the blog, but to the blogger him or her self. In other words, we as individuals become the media, where blogs, phone conversations, television appearances, all become media extensions of the original media source. What is media? It’s always been organic anyway.

Aside: Watch how Hill & Knowlton pimps the LG Shine in UK… with the LG Shine Blog and a photo competition! No this isn’t an ad, as I’m wondering if Europeans do it differently too.

  • http://decayonnet.blogspot.com DK

    I tend to trust a blogger review more than those review on magazine. Perhaps it is because the company isn’t paying the blogger for advertisment, thus the blogger is safe to blog all the bad stuff about the product.

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    @DK: Yes that is a good point. The authenticity of blog-based review wasn’t bought out, but makes for a huge chunk of discussion here. But as you know, the trend of spaces being commodified is disrupting this. For instance, land rush in SecondLife, PayPerPost in blogosphere.

    As with everything online, we have to be discerning. Far too often have people over-generalize blogs when it’s really the individuals who run them that truly matter.

  • astroboy

    i think the key challenge is to build credibility no matter in which media platform. blog review has been credible for awhile because it has not been commodified till the recent trend. I feel that if subsequently people will also become more discerning when reading a blog review compared to now.

    Personally i will still trust a review even though i know that person has been paid to blog about it as long as i feel that from the pass history, the person has shown to be credible.

    just random tots

  • http://rinaz.net marina

    To add on to what DK and astroboy mentioned, blog review by bloggers does have have its credibility. I’d tend to trust friends more because of their personal experience with a product or service.

    I think that the level of commercial advertising using blogs in Singapore isnt as rapid as the ones from our neighbour, Malaysia.

    But in retrospective, when personal blogs gets overly full of advertisising, such as the ones from payperpost, it becomes a turn off to see bloggers selling out to writing reviews of products when they have not even personally tried before!

    But personally for me, I find it interesting to see blogs creating blogs commercial wise. Like how bowiechick from youtube generated sales for Logitech with her videoas well as several other blogs which this tired mind cant recollect at the moment :P

    At the moment there are some questions nagging :

    1. Some establishments doesnt seem to be open about this idea. In some establishments, I’d take pics or vids about it, nothing incriminating, but only to have a warning by a manager.

    2. How credible are these reviews? Will bloggers be sell outs and give biased reviews after getting their free toys? Agloco has been giving out gifts to a number of high profile bloggers in order to get more buzz about their company.

    Hmmm …

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Hmm, I actually wrote this piece to push marketers to give products rather than to provision them on loan to bloggers.

    Since there’s interest in the credibility of bloggers, you guys might be interested to read something I wrote about two years ago: The Criminal Blogger: From Opinion Leader to Shill.

    This article was in response to whether bloggers could be misleading readers through their reviews, and I provided some ways to check for a blogger’s credibility.

    I actually did a year-long study on how much web users are influenced by blogs vs. web sites when looking for product reviews.

    What I found was that most users couldn’t tell the difference and wouldn’t trust online sources for critical information (e.g. what drugs are good for particular illness).

    Perhaps I’ll run a similar study here. Do note that being bloggers yourselves, you’d naturally be biased. Most of the population would not be as involved with blog culture as us.

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