Tag Archives: Business

A Blog Portal That Is Up To No Good

mama gogo, indiedays, bella blogit

Yesterday I wrote about the Finnish blog portal Bella-blogit, whose ethics and business model leaves a lot to be desired. Apparently this has been their modus operandi for a quite some time as I found out from the blog Mami GoGo. As per usual, I’m translating the story (very poorly) and I think it’s worth the read. The Finnish readers can go and have a look at the original write up.

When I was originally asked to join Bella, which by then had been operating for 6 months, I was very pleased and flattered. I made new friends and we had very good group of people there, at least we new ones did. Back then I didn’t wonder why one of the original team members of Bella had just upped and left, without any explanations whatsoever. Later, after I’ve seen how things were ran, I wasn’t surprised. I also was told, that there had been trouble with some of the older bloggers and it was because “they weren’t easy to work with”. Even later I realized that the things were other way around. Either case, I was enjoying blogging and our blogs grew and developed, and some of us bloggers became very professional with it.

At the same time Bella-blogit grew and became more known. One of the original bloggers began doing the ad sales. That’s when everything changed. The good atmosphere disappeared.  Everything we had agreed to in writing and verbally, were changed with one announcement. Because the portal was small, and the financial compensation wasn’t huge, at least for me it wasn’t, I made most of my income with the blog co-operations I arranged myself. Bella hadn’t brought any campaigns for me within the first year. We had to cut contact with our long-term and important partners. I understand the point that when the campaigns come via business sales, they are a part of bigger picture and therefore the financial perks are also bigger. In long-term it is more beneficial for bloggers, when companies realize they can’t buy visibility with just few products. Well, that’s all about for that now. But with Bella, everything that could go wrong, went wrong. We weren’t notified professionally but with one, very abrupt e-mail. For six months, all my contact with the business sales were more or less aggressive towards me. Me and my blogger friend Riikka were publicly called on Facebook greedy and selfish materialistic shits. By a person we thought was our friend. The CEO of Bella didn’t do anything about this even though I asked her repeatedly. She also treated Riikka very coldly, I got some lukewarm placating. Riikka gave her notice, I wanted to give them second chance. I was offered a raise and even a part in a new TV-series Bastella Media was going to start producing. Neither one materialized. It didn’t take me long to realize, the promises was Bella’s attempt to keep me on leash, I was one of the most read blogs on Bella. We didn’t receive any apologies either, even though at this point I had been receiving more than a fair share of shit from them. I also was very upset from how they had treated my friend.

Spring and summer came and went, and nothing changed. Toxic language, minimizing, bad communication, accusations of poorly made blog posts, calling me names to clients, yelling on the phone, putting down my self-esteem…There was a point, when my hands shook every time I had to open my e-mail. I was so afraid of what I was going to have to read next. Blogging, which used to be my passion and source of joy, became a revolting chore because of them. People, who were supposed to support me and work with us. I still can’t understand why we were treated this way. What was the point of making our blogging harder and treat us so badly? I can’t understand how an adult human being can treat another one such way. And even harder is to understand, how year after year things continue the same. Not for all of them but for some.

Around the same time, another blogging friend of mine, Essi, decided to stop blogging completely. Her contract was broken for many parts. For example, she should have been receiving help to transfer her blog, but she still hasn’t received her files. All the texts and images have disappeared.

I had written and re-written my notice letter for many times over, when finally the day came when I couldn’t do it anymore. I was afraid, what was going to happen after I gave my notice but in the end, I just had to bite the bullet. It was awful. I got ignored completely. I was left out from the campaigns, my posts were no longer pulled on the front page of Bella nor on Facebook. CEO went and changed the password to my personal e-mail so I couldn’t access it. Yes, at this point I found out she had had access to it for two years…My phone calls and e-mails were left unanswered. But later I received a screaming phone call where I was threatened with lawyers and contract breaks and whatnot. For no reason. You can believe me I was spent after being abused for months. After I switched blogs, all my blog pictures were gone. They had been removed from Bella’s server, against the contract, and they had disappeared permanently. Luckily the Indiedays’ IT-guy had experience with blog transfers and he had coded a back up earlier and could bring them in couple of hours. Phew. But what if I had moved to blog independently? I wouldn’t have any of the pictures anymore. One of my last posts on Bella describe my feelings and they weren’t happy.

Most insane thing to see is how everything fell apart. All the nice things became meaningless, when the true side of those people was revealed. I found out that the people, who used to work with them, had to go through similar things. Things got so bad that they are still afraid to talk about them. “I know what kind of web sleuths they have in there and how much energy they use on sabotaging other people. That’s why I haven’t spoken about this publicly”, I was told by someone. “Every time a new blogger joins them, I want to scream don’t do it, it’s a trap!”, says another. There was an explanation why this ex-friend of mine had no long-term friends. All the bridges were burned. I should have know from the way she spoke about other people. But I wanted to believe the best.

It’s unbelievable how unprofessionally everything was handled. Now that I’ve heard the latest scandal a la Shitty Thrift Store Finds, it’s clear they are still unprofessional. Contractual issues are contractual issues, and business is business, but where are the courtesy and manners?

The latest scandal puts down all the portals. The actions of one, or two people shouldn’t ruin the reputation of other portals. Me and many others find that being part of the portal is for the best. I like having a team of people behind me for help and support. Even if it is in the middle of the night. I never would be able to pull of campaigns of this magnitude or even make a living of this by myself. There isn’t enough hours in the day for it. What about all the technical stuff! Support, help and tips from my colleagues too! It’s very important to know there are others in the same boat. Blogging can get lonely.

I don’t mean to put anyone down with this post. Me and many others were wronged, and I don’t think it’s right to be silent about this anymore – especially now, when it’s clear they’ve been continuing doing this. I hope this helps others in the same situation and in the best case scenario, stops this kind of thing happening completely. I know a lot of people on Bella and I wish them all the best. This probably doesn’t feel too good for them and I hope you understand my reasons to write about this and won’t take it personally. I know that many of you have a really good thing going on at Bella. I’m not encouraging people to join barricades in boycotting Bella. The bloggers and the staff are not responsible for the actions of these two people. The purpose of this text is to lift the weight of my shoulders and to tell my story. As well as defend blog portals. If they work well, there’s no better place to blog at :-)

Wow. I don’t know what to say. I only have a note about the portal wide campaigns. Sure, they probably are lucrative but as a reader, they’ve become embarrassing. The most recent example was a Lidl-meat campaign. I don’t remember in which portal it was but it was weird seeing write-ups how Lidl-meat is the most delicious and how they always buy Lidl-meat but at the same they never before once had a blog post about Lidl nor even about eating meat. Like I said, embarrassing. It’s a hard balance, making money and trying to stay original and personal. Most campaigns these days fail to do so.

-Thrifty Finn-

 

 

Today’s Good Homo News

tom of finland, finlayson, design

Image via out.com

All is not bad in Finland. Even though gays over here can’t get married, they can sleep in their very own sheets! Wow! Finnish homewear manufacturer Finlayson teamed up with the Tom of Finland  Foundation to produce a line of sheets, towels and whatnot.

out magazine, tom of finland, finlayson

Via out.com

Admittedly these are very cool. You can buy yours from HERE and if bedsheets aren’t your thing, there are items for kitchen coming out too! Hopefully all the products stays in production for long time. That would solve my Christmas giving problems for years to come!

Well done, Finlayson, well done indeed.

-Thrifty Finn-

P.S. You can read about the line in English HERE. In Finnish HERE, HERE and HERE.

 

I <3 Marks & Sparks

You know. I like to think I’m somewhat conscious consumer. I buy what I use and think about the ethical consequences, within my own means of course. But I do appreciate good business too. I can much easier justify spending money on clothes and support textile industry because the materials for those you can re-grow over and over again, where as for smartphones…Once the metallic is dug up, it’s not replenishing itself.

This same goes for all kinds of packaging. I like well designed packaging and I think ALL the packaging in the world should be designed well. Once you use any kind of natural resource, you should use it the best possible way and the sum of all the parts should always be bigger than the basic cost! Nice surroundings and things create nice people.

With these thoughts…Let me tell you how excited I am about MARKS & SPENCER OPENING THEIR FIRST STORE IN FINLAND!!!

Note: This is not an advertisement. I haven’t received any compensation from M&S. I’m just a huge fan of British high street.

marks & spencer helsinki

Last Saturday, after the demonstration against #TTIP (yes, I’m aware of the irony but ethics and business are not mutually exclusive things), I bumped into a friend of mine and convinced him to accompany me to the newly opened store. (I had a good reason for this. I knew I was going to get all kinds of fashion fan-girly embarrassing once in the store. Needed support and backup).

My swooning started already at the entrance. The huge bouquet and dim lighting immediately gave me a feeling of luxury. Me? A luxury buyer? Yes! Please! Butter me up! Butter me up!

marks & spencer Helsinki

The ground floor has the more expensive (still reasonably priced) M&S- brands like Autograph and Per Una. I kept bouncing from one display to one another because I loved every single outfit. This orange coat with the plaid dress with electric blue highlights is a perfect example of everyday luxury that just oozes confidence, style and good taste. And oh glorious…I checked the dress on the hanger and there seems to plenty of room for hips & butt. Praise the English and their pear-shaped lower bodies. Now in Finland!

marks & spencer Helsinki, footwear

The British have perfected the smart casual office style. Even the shoes have details that make sensible shoes cute and sexy. And the price point…I found black ballerinas, leather, with those hidden heels that make ballerinas good shoes instead flat, feet killers for 60 euros! SIXTY EUROS! Usually I have to pay over 100 for them.

M&S has four floors and they are shared with the Finnish department store Sokos. However it’s clear what’s M&S-space and what’s not. There’s signage and of course the presentation is much more well thought:

MarksSparks4

I took a separate tour to the Sokos-side so I could get a full shot of this:

marks & spencer Helsinki

Me and my friend just kept nodding and repeating “they know how to sell, they know how to sell”. Even the music supports this. Very cool, very danceable and very, very selling. It was the kind of music that makes you want you to put your best face and clothes on and go out. M&S (and H&M among others) gets it. Even if I’m buying period panties, I don’t want to think that I HAVE to buy something. I want to want it.

Even the men’s wear department got me all excited.I mean, look at this display:

marks & spencer Helsinki, men's wear

If a guy wearing any of those looks, smelling really good came to me and said even so much a hello, I would put out. Yes, I said it because it needs to be said. A smartly dressed man is same to a woman as a half-naked woman is to a man. Suit catalogs are porno for women.

I have a feeling a lot of men in Helsinki will be finding Marks & Spencer-clothing in their Christmas-socks. Men, if you do, take the hint.

Anyhoo, on the same floor is also a small food section. It mainly has biscuits, candies and other packed snack foods. Do I even need to tell you my excitement level here? If you, like me, are package enthusiast, you love this section. Every single thing in here is such that you can give it as a gift. Even if it’s cheap, the packaging itself makes it a special and more thoughtful gift than, let’s say a TV-mix, from a regular store. Bonus is that you get the fantastic shopping experience.

I bought some chocolate covered honeycomb crunch thingies. Delicious. I joked with the sales assistant that this was my breaking point. After buying this one thing, I won’t be able to stop shopping there :D

My only negative thought is that M&S was brought to Finland by S-Group. S-Group is one of the two chains that control 80% of Finland’s food retail (and presumably a lot of other retail too since they own any kind of retail chain possible), so M&S is not really new competition. That also probably prevents them from opening a full scale M&S food retail space because S-Group wouldn’t want anyone new on their turf. Although the basement of the building where M&S now resides, already has a grocery store and the space would be perfect for M&S.

What comes to the fashion retail, I think the biggest blow will be for Stockmann (that’s the “better” department store in Helsinki). Their clients are more international and they have learned to shop at M&S when abroad. M&S clothes are also better priced and like I said, feel very luxurious. But then again, M&S brought much needed newness to the Helsinki- fashion and shopping scene and could bring everyone’s sales up. From an artistic and designer’s point of view, it’ fantastic have a place where I can get international inspiration. Patterns, cuts, displays…Hopefully an endless treasure trove.

Edited to add: The opening hours Mon-Fri 9-21, Sat 9-18, Sun 12-18

-Thrifty Finn-

P.S. When I got to the lingerie department, the first thing I asked from the manager was that do you have the multi-packs? They did:

marks & spencer Helsinki

H&M just lost about 30-50 euros of business per year from me.

 

The Language Barrier

Warning. This post will be the reason why I go to hell when I die. Please, proceed.

You know. Branding is very important. You want your brand to evoke feelings, emotions and memories and hopefully turn those into sales. Some people might spend years to develop their brand before they dare to start a business. There’s so much to take in consideration. Style, colours, fonts and the most important, the name. You want something memorable and something that rolls easily off the tongue.

Personally, I love many brands. I have my favourites in craft supplies, cosmetics and fashion but I do like to like brands even if I don’t personally buy anything from them. Children’s wear for example.

Kulli, knitwear, kids

Kulli is, I think, a Spanish, indie knitwear maker. Isn’t he a cutie? And the logo looks fantastic! How about this one:

molo, children's wear, logo

Molo is a Danish company and they have very cool philosophy behind their clothes. And the clothes do look very cool too:

molo clothing

You might be wondering, why would she go to hell? This is just a post about children’s wear brands.

LET ME TELL YOU WHY!

It’s a post about two children’s wear brands whose names mean PENIS in Finnish! Not even pretty penis names. They mean DICK! Dick in its ugliest forms!

GOD! Didn’t they check when they were branding? Didn’t they Google? HORROR! There we have Molo brand logo with the word PENIS and the handprint next to it. Then the kid is wearing a shirt that effectively says “Raised by a PENIS”. And Kulli? That’s the word you use of penis when someone sends you a d*ck pic via social media.

Yeah, I maybe burning in hell for all the eternity for telling you about this but people need to know:

WHEN BRANDING, TAKE YOUR TIME WHEN CHOOSING THE NAME.

-Thrifty Finn-

Edited to add…P.S. The shirt the boy is wearing is named Casual Whisper. The creep level just went through the roof.

 

 

 

 

Marimekko. Conclusions.

marimekko, copyright, scandal

Image via Marimekko.fi

What a week. In my last post I talked about Mika Ihamuotila’s TV-interview, which didn’t go too well for him. If you remember, he got caught by surprise when the journalist showed him the picture from 1960’s. He still stayed in his position that no copying had happened but about 8 hours later, the company released a statement saying that Maija Louekari’s design was inspired by the Markku Leppo’s photograph.

I’ve linked to Kritiikkiblogi several times during my Marimekko-reporting, as he writes and argues more intelligently than most people (I included). His analysis of Hetkiä/Moments print is brutal and he says about the birth:

Maija Louekari’s drawing was born most likely like this:

1. Competition for young designer gets 21-year old student of Taik all excited
2. Louekari gets an idea to use a cityscape as a basis of her work
3. Urban Sketching is no longer in the curriculum of Taik, so she proceeds to the direction of Taik-library
4. She takes few photography books from the shelf, section 75 Graphics, Photography
5. Book by Markus Leppo, Helsinki ja helsinkiläiset 1966, is found.
6. The other copied photographs are found next to Leppo’s book, which “inspires” Louekari and she then proceeds to trace through even more winning images.
7. The (competition) win brings a profession, honour and glory.

About the technical aspects of Hetkiä he says:

My suspicions were raised by three issues: Urban Sketching-experience, pictures of different cities and few car details. Louekari wasn’t outside herself, in different cities, sketching and drawing. She traced through, which you can see in the closing patterns, even line thickness and the closing elements on the front that cover the backgrounds.

He finishes off with following conclusions:

-Marimekko’s CEO is constantly deceived by designers’ art ‘loans’, deceptions of birth of the art and covering up the chain of events.
-Marimekko’s communication manager betrayed the CEO: Mika Ihamuotila went to the interview armed with false information, wrong attitude to design and searching pity. The communication manager did a company-wide murder/suicide (with her actions).
-Marimekko’s owners are amazed how it’s main value giver, meaning artistic quality and value, is totally disregarded by its design directors as well as management.
Marimekko’s creative direction has completely lost its way. (Kemell-Kutvonen and Karske)
-University of Art & Design and its teachers are, in their part, supporting the copying and stealing the birth of art when birthing art
-For years, has Louekari been aware of the copied Hetkiä-print on Barcelona-bags but haven’t defended her rights. Louekari has been avoiding confronting the bag because she herself copied her work by changing it, meaning covering the origin of her work. This proves a small feeling of shame and difficult forthcoming for a period of 10 years
-Marimekko may have intentionally adopted one of the main points of Moorhouse-effect, meaning, the deliberate covering of the birth of art. The picture from Esplanadi was taken, just in case, if someone asks after the background story.

When the second statement from Marimekko was released, it didn’t take long before industry people began arguing that copying happens all the time and it’s just the way things are. However, during Kristina Isola and Metsänväki-scandal, the union for designers, Ornamo, told in YLE-news that “designers rarely copy” but from the comments I’ve seen, designers in Finland do NOTHING but copy. Someone even tweeted that her design teacher said that nothing new can be made anymore, everything is done. I say, stop talking like this. You are arguing for running the design education to the ground and yourselves out of work.

Another aspect is that this past 6 months has been a steep learning curve for Finnish companies when it comes to communicating with the outside world. Marimekko has been making mistake after mistake, showing arrogance and disregard to their clients and fans in every turn. One of my Twitter-followers, Sami Sundell, sums things up in his blog: “It doesn’t matter at all how things are done within the business. You are not communicating to the insiders but to the audience.” He then proceeds with a comment about another tweet: “In a way Mika Porspakka is right: copyright isn’t necessarily relevant in this case. It doesn’t change the fact that there is a need for discussion in the topic itself and the industry standards.”

 

I will finish this off with one last quote from Kritiikkiblogi:

Supporting Marimekko is important. It won’t happen by staying silent and approving questionable methods for making art and creating. Support comes from harsh analysis and by presenting radical ideas.

Thrifty Finn- Wondering about the little bag from Barcelona that started this all.

P.S. I have another blog, Thrifty Finn’s Investigations & Opinions, where I wrote about various interesting topics. I know, I know. It’s ridiculously pompous name, but hey, being ridiculous and pompous are not reserved only for the men.

P.P.S. It’s hard to believe that paid professionals can’t create original content if us crafters do that shit constantly. For free.