Disclaimer by the author: Please note that this is not a personal attack on Zoe Sugg. Whatever Zoe Sugg does in her own time, be it performing satanic rituals or organising her Peter Pan collars in order of laciness, is irrelevant. However as soon as the Zoella mantle is adorned, that is the point when it becomes our business.
Zoe Sugg, more commonly known as Zoella, has been under fire this week for creating an advent calendar that, judging by its online reviews, is neither fit for purpose, nor worth the hefty £50 price tag.
Just in case you’re not in the know, Zoella is a fashion/beauty/lifestyle vlogger with 12 million followers and earns approximately £50,000 a month, bankrolling about £400,000 a year, according to InStyle.
Zoe Sugg has, over the years, curated a business empire around the Zoella persona; a pretty white girl sitting on a bed, talking about makeup, clothes and to be fair, her anxiety. She became a figurehead for young girls, a friend who shares her latest haul, chats about her day, and is generally a’ nice’ girl.
She did this by a) being in the right place at the right time, and b) being as nondescript as possible. Think about it; Zoella is the human embodiment of vanilla play-doh. She’s inoffensive and can slot into any mould that you want her to. That isn’t a criticism, she saw her shot and she took it, and fair play to the girl.
The Advent Calendar Controversy
Zoella released an advent calendar as part of her Christmas range at Boots, with the site referring to it as:
“This individually designed collection will brighten and accessorise your home and life. Discover 12 amazing and exclusive treats, from beautifully scented candles to stunning accessories, stationery, baking goodies and other special surprises.”
That is technically true, but we’ll break it down for you, just so there’s complete clarity.
- “Beautifully scented candles” — two small candles.
- “Stunning accessories” — a fluffy keyring and a purse/mini-bag thing.
- “Stationery” — a teeny tiny notebook and average sized pen (in seperate doors).
- “Baking goodies” — two itty bitty cookie cutters (in seperate doors) that bend if you look at them the wrong way.
- “Special surprises” — a Christmas bauble, air freshener, stickers, confetti and a the joy of being underwhelmed.
People are rightfully outraged at the £50 price tag (slashed to £25 after the public outcry – although this was likely a part for the go-to-market plan from the beginning) for something that is clearly not worth it. They feel like they have been fleeced.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the only way it could be a bigger ‘f*ck you’ to her fans, is if she had emblazoned the actual words ‘f*ck you’ on one of her bloody stickers.
The Cost of Creativity
On the Boots website Zoella had this to say:
“I am so pleased with this whole range. The design is a little different from anything I’ve released before, but I am so pleased with how beautiful it is! I’m also SO EXCITED about the Zoella Lifestyle Advent Calendar. I absolutely love advent calendars and the exciting element of counting down to Christmas and it’s been so much fun to create my own.”
Let’s give Zoella the benefit of the doubt and assume that she doesn’t have a team of creatives coming up with concepts, in order to create products for her brand. That it all comes out of her head, she manages her figures and all that jazz.
By her own admission in a vlog on MoreZoella, Sugg states that she has been working on the calendar for a year (it took you a year to come up with the scent ‘orange’?) and that she is involved in the creative process, but not the pricing. That she does not have the right to apply the price, and that is all down to the retailer.
Which. let’s be honest, doesn’t make sense. Either Zoella got paid a lump sum to create the product and signed a contract telling them to slap whatever price they want on it, or she agreed on a price and is receiving a share of the profits. One way or another, she’s profiting off of this calendar, knowing who her fans are and what she is peddling to them.
Whenever a product is being designed and created, how much the product costs to make is a key factor in deciding the retail price. At the end of the day, no retailer is going to make it if it’s going to lose them money. You don’t have to have a FBL business empire to know that one. But there’s mark up, and then there’s charging £50 for a twelve items you could pick up at the pound shop.
Influencers and Exploitation
You can be a YouTuber and create products without exploiting your followers. There is nothing wrong with making money; money is great, you can use it to pay for food, shelter and underwear. Choosing how you make money is what’s relevant. The Saccone-Jolys chose to create a children’s book, Tanya Burr has a make-up line (and a pretty sweet advent calendar, just saying), but Zoella chose to rip open a Christmas cracker, pop it in a bottle-green and gold cardboard box, and okay it for sale to her millions of impressionable fans.
Zoella is marketed as a best-friend/big sister – that is the basis of her appeal. She knows exactly who she’s selling to, trust me. All she has to do is peek at her own analytics and she knows who her audience is.
The worst part is, knowing her relationship with her followers, she has the gall to spew the narrative that if they “know her”, they know that she would never do X Y or Z to them. This forces her young impressionable fans, who so feel close to her, to see their disappointment as a judgement on their own love for her.
In her vlog she keeps stating that the only thing people are bothered about is the price. No, just no. You can’t sell half an advent calendar and expect people to be happy with two 60p candles, a bag nothing fits in and a packet of f*cking glitter.
The fact that Zoella very blatantly chooses to pass the blame here is a huge problem. She is accepting zero accountability for something that she created, and is playing the victim. Seriously girl – you run a business, you’re 27, and you seem to be managing to pay the council tax on your million quid house, so grow up and take some responsibility for your actions for once.