YouTube star Zoe Sugg, also known as ‘Zoella’, has recently received widespread criticism in the press and on social media for releasing a £50 advent calendar that has only 12 doors and features an assortment of cheap gifts. Parents of Zoella’s younger fans are particularly enraged by this overpriced offering as part of the 27-year old’s new Lifestyle range, which receives a star rating of only 1.6 on the retailer’s website. Reviews describe the product as “low quality” and “definitely not worth the money”, with the majority expressing the disappointment of parents and their young children.
Boots have since lowered the price to £25, and Sugg has released a defensive apology video, arguing that she had nothing to do with the pricing of the products, and was only involved with creating and designing the range. This is not the first time Zoella has received criticism for her products. Her novel Girl Online was the fastest selling debut novel of all time after its release in 2014, but she was criticised for not writing the book herself, and for failing to credit her ghost writer.
Including over 12 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, Sugg’s loyal fan base is mainly comprised of teenage girls, who are often targeted by celebrities who profit from merchandise and events such as meet and greets or book signings.
Another celebrity recently criticised for exploiting the loyalty of their fans is Taylor Swift, whose supporters now have the opportunity to gain early access to tickets for her Reputation tour through Ticketmaster’s ‘Verified Fan’ process.The system asks fans to carry out daily tasks to prove that they are loyal, including purchasing Swift’s album or merchandise, as well as completing social media ‘boosts’. Not only does this increase fan’s chances of being able to purchase tickets for the widely anticipated tour, it allows Swift to make more sales, and boosts her ratings in the charts.
Teenagers have a unique ability to love things enthusiastically and unironically. This should be celebrated, and it should certainly not be being used to manipulate them into throwing money at their favourite celebrities. Concert tickets are already inaccessibly priced, and asking fans to prove their love for an artist by spending money they don’t have is nothing short of cruel. This is part of a celebrity culture that promotes the exploitation of younger fans to gain profits from merchandise and events, and seems to be indicative of a larger trend, particularly in the world of YouTube.
Some of the most popular British YouTube stars were heavily involved in the production of HelloWorld earlier this year, an event which was advertised as “an epic, four-hour, immersive live show like nothing on Earth”. With VIP tickets costing around £99, many have deemed the event as a scam, with disappointed children and parents complaining that they were unable to meet their favourite creators as promised.
The availability of products released by popular celebrities and YouTubers is attractive to fans, particularly those from a younger demographic, as it is a way of connecting with their idols, as well as showing their support.
This plays on the genuine emotions of teenagers who may find solace in the videos or music of creators, profiting from their unconditional adoration. By creating poor quality and overpriced products, celebrities are exploiting the trusting nature of young fans, and using it to fund their own extravagant lifestyles.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr