This Christmas, I really don’t want Snow(flakes)

Disclaimer: The author of this post is expressing their opinion, try not to be offended!

We are well and truly living in Generation Snowflake. The term has undergone a curious journey to become the most combustible insults in this decade. It emerged a few years ago on American campuses as a means of criticising the hypersensitivity of a younger generation. You can almost guarantee that in any one sitting on Twitter, you will come across a tweet about someone being offended by a company or by a product for some social justice reason.

Recently there have been numerous instances were there has been outrage at things that are seen to be normal in our society. While the list is exhaustive, for the purpose of this post I will focus on Kleenex’s TissueGate, “The Problem with Apu” and recent outrage at classic Christmas songs.

TissueGate

In October 2018 Kleenex had released a box of tissues and had branded them “Mansize” to indicate their extra size. Twitter user @LisaMHancox pointed this out in a tweet to the company saying, “Hi @Kleenex_UK. My 4yo son asked me what was written here. Then he asked, why are they called man-size? Can girls, boys and & mummies use them? I said: I don’t know & yes of course. He suggests you should call them “very large tissues”. It is 2018.”

Kleenex tweet

The tweet gained traction and after a while Kleenex responded by taking the product off the shelves, but the issue remained, are we to change every nuance in our language to conform to modern gender norms? Is this sustainable? Does it really make a difference to anyone’s life if we change to name of a manhole to a mixedhole?

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When I first seen the tweet I thought to myself there was no way her son said that, and would she really go as far as to use the fake emotive appeal of her son’s voice to make a point. When I went into the replies I expected her to have unanimous support but was shocked to see that she had a mixed response of ridicule and support. Arguments against her being very PC were made and people had begun to question if her son had really said that and before you know it, it had become a trend on twitter for people to tweet as if they were their sons, daughters or even animals for comic relief. It was the first real instance I had seen the majority of people responding negatively to a post criticising the standards of something from today, and I was surprised to see the swing in opinion.

Chrissy tweet

My problem with “The Problem with Apu”

In 2017, Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu released a documentary called “The Problem with Apu”. The documentary discusses the character of Apu Nahasapenapetilan from long running animated series The Simpsons. From his perspective he talks about the caricature of Apu as the only South Asian TV character gaining national coverage on American television as he was growing up, and that show employed racial stereotypes in having him work at a convenience store with his trademark saying being “Thank you, come again”.

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The release of the documentary led to unconfirmed report from a former executive producer of the show claiming that the character would be cut as a result of the documentary. Again, this lead to a firestorm of opinions on Twitter, with many saying that Kondabolu was raising points that people were too afraid to bring up during The Simpsons heyday in the 90s. People argued back saying that The Simpsons stereotyped Apu in a positive manner; as a family man dedicated to his religion and as someone who was seen to have a tireless work ethic. My problem with this documentary is the fact that no body ever brings up the fact that nearly every character on The Simpsons is a stereotype; Homer is an alcoholic middle aged white man who beats his son, Willie is a haggard Scotsman who makes little sense, Luigi is the owner of a pizzeria, but there is very rarely light shown on the racism if the person’s skin is white.

Censorship of Christmas Classics

While it goes down as the undisputed champion of Christmas Songs in my eyes, “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues in 1987, comes under scrutiny more and more each as year as we delve deeper into this decade. The raspy Christmas song is memorably sung by Kirsty McCall and Pogues singer Shane MacGowan, in which they depict a couple of lovers who seem to have fallen in and out of love with each other.

A particularly nasty verse in which MacGowan’s character calls McCall an “old slut on junk” to which she famously retorts with “you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot” is sang with particular glee, which pays more testament to the fact that Irish people have a self-depreciating love of insults as opposed to a love of homophobia.

The Tab in Dublin and RTE DJ Eoghan McDermott recently called for censorship due to the word “faggot” that is used, a pejorative word for homosexuals. Arguments have been made that in the context of the song the slur means a lazy person, with MacGowan himself saying that the character singing the words is a nasty person trying to question the man’s love for her.

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A cheap, lousy faggot.

Being a straight, white, Irish person, I have never experienced any discrimination, and probably won’t, other than being stereotyped for loving the drink, which, to be fair, is an accurate stereotype, but this means I will never understand the pain of hateful words being directed at my identity. I understand that there is no place for stereotypes or racial or homophobic slurs in today’s society, but I feel strongly that things that were made during a certain time when attitudes were different, should not be boycotted today knowing how people thought and acted when they were made. Sure, if a song is released today containing slurs against people of an identity, boycott it, but don’t ruin Christmas by demanding that classic songs be taken off the air.

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The next person who tries to get “A Fairtytale of New York” off the air.

Christopher Hynds is a final year BSc in Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @chrissyoheidin ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-hynds-a60531162/

From being the best club in the world, to the best marketed club in the world

My name is Christopher Hynds, I’m 22 years old, I am a final year Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster Uni, currently working part time as a Marketing and Communications assistant at Clanmil Housing Association. Oh, and I also happen to support Manchester United Football Club.

If you’re wondering why anybody would ever want to introduce themselves by bringing up such a divisive topic like supporting Man Utd, don’t worry, it’s generally not how I would introduce myself to a total stranger. Also, if you have seen the mention of the word football and Man Utd and continued this far, fair play, but this post isn’t entirely about a football team.

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When tasked with producing a blog for the first time in my life (not counting the many times we have been encouraged to post in this over the past years), my mind, like it does in most moments when I really need it to come up with an idea, came to a complete and utter blank. Panicking, I quickly started jotting down the various things that make me who I am; what I do, my interests, hobbies, my work life and my school life. Very quickly I noticed some recurring themes. Football. Man United. Going out. My job as a Marketing and Communications assistant. My studies as Communications and PR student. Football. Man United.

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All of a sudden, things started swirling in my head and I had one of those things that you get sometimes, an idea I think it’s called? Why not combine some of these. Marketing and Man Utd, genius. The biggest club in the world, through the lens of something I have studied and also happen to do for some beer money, Marketing.

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If you get squeamish at the mention of the word football from this point I apologise because from this point onward I will be alluding to some on and off field activity by Man Utd, but mostly I want to look at how Manchester United have marketed themselves since they were bought over by Billionaire Malcolm Glazer on the advent of £100,000,000 pound footballers, and how as a business, it has alienated it’s consumers, or, it’s fans so to speak.

Short bit of history of the club that is necessary for context (sorry). Manchester United Football Club for years have been one of the biggest football clubs in the world. Their Head Coach or Manager or Glorious Leader if you are a United fan, for 27 years from 1987 to 2013 was a man called Sir Alex Ferguson who, as you could imagine, managed the players and the team. He was assisted for years by a man called David Gill, in the capacity of Director of Football. This is a ambiguous term in football but it is generally someone who, working with the manager and a budget given to him by the board, decides what players to buy or sell for the club. The board ran the club and took control of all commercial issues.

United gained a lot of their supporters during Ferguson’s time in charge as they won 38 trophies in his 27 years as manager of the team, breaking records and setting precedents. With good football and success came fans, with more fans came more money and with more money around the club came more interested suitors. United were bought out in between 2003 and 2005 by the Glazer Family, billionaires from the USA, all the while being advised by an accountant named Ed Woodward who would later become Director of Commercial and Media Operations at the club, bringing the clubs commercial revenue from £48.7m in 2005 to £272.6 in 2017.

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The product of a football club is ultimately the team that is playing football for the club, and these players market the team excellently (sometimes) by playing well. The consumers of the club are the fans. When the product (the team) is good and the team are winning, then the consumer (the fan) is also happy, and that’s what I believe football should be about. But Manchester United’s only product isn’t just the team that plays for them every week, how could you make any money off 22 players who earn £100k a week? Man United’ “second” product is their vast merchandise range. It has vast commercial interests and sponsorship deals, it has its own TV channel, and a website to market these tie ins and products.

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They have gained a reputation for being the most supported club in the world, boldly claiming in 2012 to have 659 million fans worldwide. Broken down, it was estimated that 90 million of those fans came from Europe, 71 million of those came from the Americas, 173 million from the Middle East and Africa, and 325 million coming from Asia Pacific. With all those fans, comes all the sales of merchandise, and as you can imagine, when a brand new replica jersey new costs £70 to buy when it is released and you have a target audience of 659 million people, then you are going to want to market your brand well.

Fans were happy with good football on the pitch and good players, but when Ferguson and Gill left the club in 2013, the board was left with a massive task of replacing a legendary manager and a very savvy Director of Football in David Gill.

They gave the Director of Football job to the smart accountant who had overseen making the club all its money with its commercial interests, Ed Woodward. Ed may be the smartest guy in world when it comes to making money, but he hasn’t got a clue about football. And he has been trusted since 2013 to make all decisions regarding football played at the club. The guy clearly knows how to make a deal with a commercial entities though, as evidenced by these very cringeworthy corporate tie in advertisements. i will never be able to look at Wayne Rooney the same way.

The accountant in Ed Woodward makes Man United a lot of money, but this has sacrifices the quality of how they play. He has gone through three managers in 5 years, with very little success on the pitch. He signed one of the biggest managers in the world, Jose Mourinho, and has failed to work well with him, signing players that will make the club money, as opposed to players who the very expensive manager wants. He has made no effort to cooperate with new managers and give them the players they want. He signs nice players like Paul Pogba who has a generation of young fans dabbing and millions of fans on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, because he knows it is going to sell well for the club in terms of its commercial value, but he doesn’t put any consideration into the quality of the product.

A player called Alexis Sanchez is the epitome of this. The team did not need him, he was ageing, but he was a very luxurious player with a massive reputation whose wages were more than any other player in the club, although he had a very good reputation, the manager did not want him. The transfer was made regardless, there was a social media reveal with Alexis Sanchez playing a piano to the song “Glory, Glory, Man United” and Alexis Sanchez went on to break records for jersey sales, I’m sure Ed was buzzing. But the manager wasn’t, the fans aren’t. Alexis Sanchez scored 24 goals in 38 games the year before he joined United. He has scored 3 in 18 since joining, and United have slumped to eight place this season. Glory, Glory, Man United, indeed.

What you see on Instagram:

Vs What you see in Reality: Image result for alexis sanchez bench

The club has been excessively marketing itself brilliantly, and as you can see by the revenue increase every year, this has been working, with the club making massive profits. But with the ambition to succeed and make its consumers happy gone and replaced with the desire to milk the proverbial cow, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of true fans. It’s like Apple and how they excessively market their product so well and with so much money and quality in their adverts that they have everyone thinking that the product is so great, when in reality they are alienating their customers by releasing new phones each year and making the software slower on older models. You can make your product look well but what is the use when it’s consumers are sitting with a useless product that looks shiny. Rant Blog over.

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Christopher Hynds is a final year BSc in Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @chrissyoheidin ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-hynds-a60531162/