Although we can’t assume that everyone is aware of the ethical and sustainable implications of every purchase they make. We can hope that if you’re selling something, you will understand the moral integrity linked to that product. Unfortunately, influencer marketing is about earning profits and not ethics.
Part one of this series features a post on the problem that influencer marketing plays in the landscape of impressionable youth. Today we’re taking a look at influencer merchandise.
The Ethics of Influencer Merchandise
Last week we touched on the idea of flex culture and promotion to live a certain lifestyle and support the people we look up to. Whether it be a celebrity or increasingly more common, a popular Youtuber.
Psst! I highly recommend Tiffany Ferguson’s video on Flex Culture for a more in-depth explanation.
Many fans want to support their favourite creator. Oftentimes this comes in the form of branded merchandise. Whether it be a t-shirt, pop socket or pillow. There’s an endless amount of merchandise floating around the internet.
I don’t want to pretend that I haven’t fallen victim to purchasing merchandise from my favourite celebrities. I actively purchased band t-shirts at concerts and (embarrassingly) too much Gwen Stefani memorabilia years ago. No one is perfect or immune to influencer marketing.
The Story of the Hypocritical Sweater
I’m a huge fan of Youtube. There’s some great creators who have inspired me to live a more sustainable, minimal and conscious lifestyle. I’ve also been able to easily spot the people that just want to monetize.
Somehow I came upon Acacia Kersey and her hypocritical merchandise.
It’s a blessing and a curse to be able to see this problem so clearly. Acacia is pushing consumption to purchase a hoodie that says “love our mama” or “live intentionally.”
When you begin living a more sustainable lifestyle you become more critical of consumption. As someone who adores our planet and wants to protect it, I can’t help but see the hypocrisy behind the statement.
That sweater is truly what spurred this article.
Influencers often use Third Party Companies to produce Merchandise
Fanjoy is the company that Acacia and other well known creators such as Jake Paul, Dave Dobrik and Tana Mongeau use. While other creators like Safiya Nygaard use a third party company called Mad-Merch.
Obviously, these creators cannot afford to fund their own factory to produce merchandise. They want to earn a profit and more importantly fans want to support them. Creating a branded garment is the norm.
Reaching out to Mad-Merch
Out of curiosity, I sent an email to Mad-Merch. I wanted to gain information on where their products are produced. I received a very short and simple response:
We have production done in many different places Nicaraguan, China, El Salvador, Guatemala..
There is a lot of different places for different items. Hope this helps!
Spelling Error Included
And yet, this answer does not give me hope. Because there is no further transparency provided on the end of the retailer. In short, no Alex. Your answer didn’t really help. Sweatshop labour has been occurring in every country he listed.
A Broken Record
If you’ve been around a while then you know I push transparency. As a consumer it is our only way of knowing the truth. When companies are not open about their manufacturing and supply chain practices we can only assume the worst.
I recommend reading Why Third Party Certifications Matter.
Workers Pay the Price
I guarantee you a shirt that retails for $20 is not produced ethically. There is always a good markup on any product you purchase.
You’re looking at profit for the influencer, profit for the retailer and of course, profit for the factory. If something is able to retail for a $20. You can almost bet that the retailer purchased it for half that cost. Otherwise they don’t make enough money.
The Harsh truth of Influencer Merchandise
In a perfect world you could support your favourite influencer or band without the stress of wondering whether their merchandise is made in a sweatshop. As consumers the best we can do is ask questions. The more we reach out and question the more likely that brands will value transparency.
Show your Support without Buying Merchandise: Patreon
It’s a way to support your favourite creators without having to purchase something physical. You can make a one time donation or a recurring payment. We don’t need physical memorabilia to show our love.