Company offered free breast enlargement to young female bloggers

This story is definitely a candidate for the Social Media Hall of Shame. Q-med is a listed biotech/medical company in Uppsala, north of Stockholm, Sweden that manufactures and sells medical implants. Two weeks ago the company sent a letter to 15 young Swedish female bloggers and offered them treatment during one year with the products Restylane and Macrolane in exchange for writing about the products on their blogs. In other words, Q-med offered young women breast and lip enlargements and treatments against wrinkles free of charge.

One 25 year-old model and blogger accepted the offer from Q-med. In a YouTube video you can see how her lips are injected with Restylane and the treatment is sponsored by Q-med, although that is not disclosed.

– I was contacted by Fredrik Möllersten at Q-Med on Facebook. I had done such a treatment previously which I had written abot on my blog and he asked me if I wanted to test Restylane again, the blogger tells Upsala Nya Tidning.

– Free is good. My readers are interested in this stuff and if Q-Med offer me to test their products for free doesn’t matter, she continues.

On her blog she has at least two YouTube videos of her getting Restylane shots, but nowhere does it say that Q-med pays the bill.

But other women who got the offer were offended. Beatrice Birkeldh is a blogger and a reporter at Expressen. She told UNT:

– I immediately told them that I would never go along with such a suggestion. I think that this is a detestable way to market these products.

Q-med are now backing away from the marketing stunt, after the negative publicity in both mainstream media and local blogs.

– We cannot stand for these offers. The email to these bloggers was an unconsidered initative, says Tommy Gullbo, Marketing Director of Q-med who adds that it will not happen again.

Beatrice Birkeldh published the email from Q-med on her blog and what is says is that she get to use both Restylane and Macrolane during one year but that she is required to write about them “regularly during one year”.

“Hej Beatrice,
Hoppas att allt är bra med dig. Jag jobbar som Global Internet Chef på Q-Med AB som tillverkar, marknadsför och säljer Restylane och Macrolane. Vi ska ta ut 10 personer i Sverige som vi ska sponsra under ett år. Du kommer att få prova Restylane och Macrolane under ett år mot att du skriver om behandlingarna och produkterna regelbundet på din blogg under ett år. Är detta något som vore intressant för din del? För mer information och om du har frågor så kontakta gärna mig.”

This is exactly how not to conduct blogger relations. Obviously it is hard to resist for a young girl when you are offered products worth thousands of kronor without any other effort on your part than to write a few lines on your blog now and then. If the blogger does not reveal that she is being paid to blog about products (Q-med does not mention anything about disclosure in the email), not only does it undermine any credibility the blog might have had, it is also against the Swedish Marketing Practices Act which states that any marketing effort needs to be indentifiable as such.

And when you market beauty products for lip and breast enlargements, of course you need to be extra cautiuos in your market efforts. Reaching out to young women is very likely going to backfire because you will have an ethical debate on your hands, which is exactly what is happening now.

A single shot with Restylane costs between 2,000 and 3,000 SEK and often a patient needs to come back for a refill after 6 months. So the blogger outreach program was at least worth 90,000 SEK for the fifteen bloggers all together, probably more. Money not well invested.

Disclosure: I once owned stock in Q-med, but have not done so for several years.