Buying Brand Loyalty Is Very Expensive


The Internet is still buzzing about Ellen’s Samsung Selfie during the Academy Awards.

I remember laughing as I watched it and thinking how smart of a marketing move from Samsung it was to pay for product placement on such a big stage. Ellen’s approach to hosting and understanding of social media made it feel more natural than it might have with a different host.

Of course, if you read marketing and advertising sites like I do than you are also seeing all the conversations about how she might have used that phone on camera, but all of her off camera photos were taken and posted with her iPhone.

This shouldn’t shock anyone because buying anyone’s brand loyalty is almost impossible to do and if you do want to do it the price is extremely expensive.

Recently I was having this conversation over breakfast with several other photographers. We discussed how camera and phone manufacturers send us products to review all the time in the hopes that we’ll use their products.

In many cases we might get involved with an influencer program that might involve going to an event or agreeing to use their product on a semi-regular basis.

But, at the end of the day we all agreed that unless there is a signed contract with compensation in place we are going to shoot with whatever we want to.

Looking around my office right now I can see a variety of products. Some I have bought and others have been given to me. On any given day I might use any of them, but the decision is going to be mine.

If I was paid by a brand to only use their products and part of the agreement was that I couldn’t use competitors than that would be a very expensive contract for whoever wanted me to sign that.

Of course, it was a product that I already used and loved it would be a completely different conversation.

Humans are going to use the products that they like and know. It really is that simple.

Everything has a price, but brand loyalty might be one of the most expensive things going.


  • But if I knew you were bought and paid for in your endorsement of a particular camera, would that water down the recommendation or would it be like any other celebrity endorsement? Are the rules different because you are from the social media world rather than the traditional media world? Are our expectations different for social media than they are for traditional media?

    • All good points and if someone is paid I certainly wonder if they believe what they are saying or not.

      I’d like to think that I’d never accept payment for something I didn’t really believe in, but who knows. Everyone has a price right?

  • Guest

    Ha! I think is was Dave Slusher who said, there’s no such thing as selling out, just selling out too cheaply 🙂

  • Neil Tsubota

    When ever anyone says to me, “…your price is higher than, ABC Company’s,…I always respond that ‘my company’ is NOT in a race to the bottom… (look at what Walmart has done to the local economy in the areas they have built new stores. Usually, it is at a “price”, of lower hourly wages, fewer ‘choices’, and a high tax burden on the local economy.) I will get off my soap box now.

  • Valerie Jardin

    I couldn’t agree more!!!

  • lucrecer

    Truth! And so well said, my friend.

  • Great post CC. As someone who is sent a lot of gear to test and provide detailed feedback upon, this is especially challenging. My thinking goes like this: I never agree to review or publish content based upon receiving freebies, and I only endorse products that I use or would recommend others to use and always with full disclosure. I’m always willing to return gear.

    It takes a lot of work (and time) to establish a reputation with your audience, there’s no chance I’m going to jeopardize that by supporting brands that just happen to send me samples. That’s sponsored content plain and simple. Free gear is payment however you look at it and how much weight do you put on a recommendation by someone who is getting paid to like something?

    • EXACTLY.

      My rule has always been that I’m going to share the good and the bad for any product. I tell that to brands going in.

      Thankfully MOST have realized by this point that giving someone something doesn’t equal an instant good review. In the early days it was harder to explain this to brands.

      Any of us who have been working in this world for a while and built up a reputation are not going to sacrifice it for a gadget or gift card.

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