Tuesday evening I had the pleasure to meet Chris Wiegand, film maker and husband of Casey Wiegand, a fantastic blogger and storyteller over at TheWiegands.com. He's on a long journey around the country filming a documentary called, American Blogger. He made the trek from Minneapolis straight south to my house near Kansas City. The first thing I did was take him to Oklahoma Joe's, the famous BBQ place located inside a still-working gas station and my personal favorite BBQ.
We talked about this massive road trip he's on and all the miles he's driving, along with an airstream trailing behind (not easy, so I learned). Tuesday he was on day 21 of 50, and I just can't imagine being strong enough to do this all alone, all while missing my family. He's amazingly passionate about his craft, especially this project. He's driven to do good work and in the short time we were together, I could tell, not only that he WAS doing great work, but incredibly talented and a hard worker.
Believe it or not, he didn't just drive to Kansas City for the BBQ, so once we got to work, he set up in my kitchen. We talked a lot about the rise of the blog industry, in more ways than one. Not only are there just more bloggers on the scene each year, but their influence among consumers is rising. Just last spring, 31% of surveyed consumers stated blogs as the primary online source most likely to influence a purchase, behind retail and brand sites and higher than Facebook, online magazines, Twitter, etc (source).
There will always be some push back from consumers about brand partnerships, but the overall and longterm benefits outweigh the naysayers. It's the bloggers ultimate responsibility to be selective on the brands they chose to partner with. Keeping it very natural and relevant will only benefit both the brand and blog readers. The quickest way to lose readerships, and therefore potential brand opportunities, is to turn into one large ad space. Consumers ultimately benefit from these types of partnerships, because they see how a product or brand translates into a real life situation and sort of gets to try it out via the blogger(s) they read, ask questions as they see fit and see if something might be worth it or not before deciding on a purchase.
Though not as quickly as consumer adoption, brand integration and spending with bloggers/influencers is on the rise. More brands are starting to think about how to include influencers in their marketing strategies, from Etsy shops to International, Fourtune 500 brands. But the spending in this area does not match the level of importance to which consumers hold bloggers to (source). While many brands are still nervous about this space and while it's not as easy as a fit for some brands as others, there is a lot of growth opportunity for brands and bloggers alike. But if brands are going to play in this space, to do so successfully they must give the blogger creative direction to take the campaign idea into their own words, photos and hands.
Anyways, I digress...
To hear more about this project straight from Chris himself, check out this news clip.
Thank you, Chris for stopping in Kansas! You all can follow along with his journey by following the hashtag #AmericanBlogger via Instagram and Twitter or through his Instagram account, @ChrisWiegand.