Raise your hand if you recently lost a wedding to somebody you never heard about and when you Googled them only found a website filled with stolen images? Raise you hand if you sat across a hostile potential client who had nothing nice to say about the wedding industry, listening to a long list of bad experiences and accusations against wedding suppliers. Raise you had if your were asked during the consultations if the images on your website are your own? Raise your hand if you are at the wits end and frankly tired of being treated like a charlatan?
Today my post is directed to all wedding planners, stylists, florists and creatives who are passionate about our wedding industry. I am talking to all creatives with solid reputations and sheer passion to serve our clients. I want to open a conversation over the issue we all face – copy cats and con artists polluting our industry and doing damage through their wrongdoing. Damage we need to address and fix before things get even more ridicules.
I started my wedding planning career in 2007, in the pre-wedding blogs, pre-Pintrest and pre-Instagram era. I remember stabling upon Preston Bailey’s book at Exclusive Books and being blown away by the possibility of what can be created. Ten years ago, we had to use our imagination, learn and grow as we went along and discover new possibilities whenever possible. Building a portfolio was a matter of pride. And then internet exploded with wedding blogs and Pinterest blew everyone away and changed the game. Images from around the world were out here for everyone to see and get inspired.
And then something else happened… Some individuals decided that it was OK to download an image from a blog post, Pinterest or Instagram and pass it off as their own work. Often they are newbies without a portfolio wanting to attract clients. What is worst is when established companies do the same.
Personally, I have no respect for a planner/stylist/florist using Karen Tran images on their website either ambiguously or blatantly. Industry folk will spot a misplaced images immediately, but an average consumer might not know any better.
Recently one our creative partners found out that their work was used by another company. Imagine finding an Instagram profile containing ALL your creative designs. The page owner misrepresented herself and even wrote up fun and creative stories about how she came up with these designs herself. The page claimed to be based in England and delivering stationery worldwide – utter lie. The bogus page was set to block anyone with an account linked to the original designer company (who knew this was even possible?). For over the year images were being uploaded, shared and used for own profit. How devious? How despicable?!
We know it happens and we shrug our shoulders. In the past, I confronted copycats who used images of Splendid Weddings and passed them off as their own. But how do we deal with companies showcasing the work of others under their “Portfolio” “Our Work” galleries on their websites? Worst still, how do we deal with these talentless individuals with no respect for our industry or our art? They book jobs, most likely let clients down because they simply cannot execute on the same level as a professional and experienced supplier and as a result leave trail of angry, disappointed clients walking around ranting about our industry.
I met these unhappy brides, their friends and their mothers, spitting fire about wedding planners who took them for a ride and florists who let them down. Lately, this is happening more and more. I sat in consultations where the bride-to-be accompanied by her recently married friend slating wedding industry for its deviousness, lack of service delivery and money grabbing practices. This year, I could not even stand up for my own kind because I know what I am hearing is probably true. So I have to work harder, convincing potential clients why hiring my company is a worth it, how we are different but clients no longer trust us [us the wedding industry].
Perhaps it is our own doing? We’ve allowed for this to happen, we did not protect our industry and we allowed copy cats and con artists to run amok. And now we are faced with a predicament, do we fight these fraudsters or do we wait until they crash and burn? What do we do? I would love to hear your thoughts.