Missguided: Stretching the Media’s Beauty Standards

Missguided: Stretching the Media’s Beauty Standards

WARNING: If you are in any way offended by ladies’ bottoms, then this probably isn’t the post for you and I suggest you look away now!

 

It was earlier this year as I was sitting on the train doing my usual social media scroll to pass the time when I first came across an image on my Twitter feed that made me do a double take.  The picture was a screenshot from the women’s fashion website Missguided, particularly of one of their lingerie models.  The image was entirely normal…except for the stretch marks which were clearly visible on the model’s derriere.

Now, I’m not exaggerating when I say the picture made me do a double take.  I was amazed!  I immediately tapped my way onto Missguided’s official Instagram account to see if they had acknowledged it, and they had – there was a similar image on there too with the quite unremarkable caption “Just landed: Velvet lingerie! Green or pink? Comment below!” I double checked the link to their website to ensure this wasn’t all some elaborate prank, and indeed, the picture was equally untouched on there.  So I proceeded to screenshot it, sending it to my friends, my sister, anyone who I thought might be equally as astounded as me to see a well known fashion website using images of a model with her stretch marks still intact!  How astounding!  Groundbreaking! Simply MINDBOGGLING!!

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On reflection I realise…isn’t it a little bit sad that I found it so unbelievable to see an image of what is, in reality, just a real girl appear on my social media feed?  I wasn’t the only one.  While Missguided began to receive massive praise across Twitter and Instagram, they also found themselves on the receiving end of some bad PR, too.  Some people began to accuse them of photoshopping the stretch marks onto the model.

Yes, really.  Some consumers found it so implausible that a fashion website would use un-retouched images that they would sooner believe the stretch marks were faked.

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Missguided responded to the conspiracies by releasing a statement from the model herself, first year nursing student Amanda, who clarified that the stretch marks were the real deal, that she was proud to show them off and happy that Missguided hadn’t covered them up.  This still wasn’t quite enough explanation for some people, with many comments still accusing the company of lying, arguing the model was ‘too slim’ to have stretch marks.

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Did you know? Slim 21 year old girls biologically cannot experience stretch marks! Wow, isn’t science amazing?! *Violently eye rolling*

Once again….yes, really.

If anything, I believe this negative PR and the scathing comments that the image received highlight exactly why this campaign by Missguided is so needed in society today.  Firstly, there’s undoubtedly a serious problem with our culture when the public would sooner believe that a picture showing a models’ imperfections is a fraud, schemed up by money hungry photoshop wielding con artists, than a genuine attempt by a brand to be body positive.  Secondly, more education is evidently needed on what real people look like when some individuals truly think that it’s possible to be ‘too slim’ to have stretch marks (news flash: stretch marks can affect slim, curvy, tall, small, female AND male human beings!).  Thirdly, the realisation of how brainwashed we are by the media really hit home for me when I contemplated how hugely shocked I was to see a twenty-something year old girl who has stretch marks on social media…when I AM in fact a  twenty-something year old girl who has stretch marks.  Why was I so stunned to see someone who looks like me advertising clothes that I would like to buy on a website aimed at people my age?  Strangest of all, our media and advertising is without a doubt flooded with images of scantily clad girls, so why is it so rare to see a stretch mark when an estimated 80% of women have them? It’s clear that something needs to change to bridge the divide between what we see in the media and what real people look like.

And Missguided are attempting to be that change.  Following the use of these unretouched images on their website, they recently launched their #MakeYourMark campaign, as part of their larger #KeeponBeingYou movement.  With nine diverse and different body positive ladies at the forefront of the campaign, Missguided’s message is to ‘love yourself, embrace your flaws, and to not strive for what the world perceives as perfection – because f*ck perfection, it doesn’t exist.’  Couldn’t have put it better myself, to be quite honest.

 

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The nine stars of the Missguided #MakeYourMark campaign

As part of the campaign, Missguided have pledged to never retouch their models’ ‘perfect imperfections’, which is music to my ears.  As someone who has spent large amounts of my time (as well as large sums of my student loan) browsing on Missguided and many of their closest competitor websites, I find it extremely refreshing to see normal, dare I say, average girls promoting the clothes as opposed to the usual airbrushed models.  We’re used to seeing these sorts of people, whether they’re celebrities or social media influencers, the sort of people who seem to have the faces, features and figures of someone who won every possible prize available in the genetic lottery.  And in our modern day culture of self promotion where airbrushing tools and filters are constantly at the tips of our fingers and every image, every video, every caption is edited and fine tuned to within an inch of it’s life, it can often feel like we somehow could never measure up to these people whose lives seem perfect in every way.  I know for one I can sometimes end up feeling disillusioned, intimidated and put off by flawless clothing models, thinking to myself…well, I could order that dress, but it’ll never look a bit like that on me!  So it’s actually really nice to have a brand say ‘you know what? You don’t have to look a certain way to wear our clothes’, which Missguided neatly sum up in their slogan – “Just keep on being you babe, it’s a really great look.”

So while I’ve always been a Missguided customer, this campaign has definitely managed to make a loyal supporter out of me.  I know where I’ll be spending my student loan!

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Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq

The Ghost of Snapchat Past?

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Kylie Jenner – is there anything she can’t do?  She boasts the title of being the boss of a multi-milion dollar cosmetics company, a yummy twenty-something mummy, and even an expert in predicting stock market trends.  Amazing!

If you’re a little lost here, let me fill you in.  After Kylie sent out a tweet explaining that she was feeling a little less than impressed with recent changes to the Snapchat app, their stocks plummeted $1.3 billion in value.

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By the tone of the tweet, I feel like Kylie probably wasn’t even thinking very much about it at the time of writing.  It was probably just a normal Wednesday for her, chilling out in her mansion, sipping an iced tea, smashing billions in value off the stock market with a single comment.  Average midweek stuff.

While some have marvelled in horror at these events and pondered what kind of world we live in when the Kardashians have sole control over who lives or dies on Wall Street, others have pointed to Snapchat having experienced a general downward trend over the past year – with Kylie’s comment simply kicking them while they’re down.

Last March, Snapchat went public, and despite warning investors that the app may never turn a profit, share prices spiked immediately after hitting the market.  However, the year since has been turbulent.  The company saw a disappointing 17% drop in their shares in mid 2017, with not a Kardashian in sight – the culprit behind this dip was social media giant, Facebook – owners of Instagram.

Snapstagram?

I can actually remember my first reaction when Instagram began rolling out their suspiciously Snapchat-like updates.

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Funnily enough, Instagram’s market value went completely unaffected by my tweet.

But despite Instagram blatantly plagiarising the most popular aspects of a rival app and integrating them into it’s own features, Instagram Stories flourished.  They introduced new and different features that Snapchat lacked, such as different fonts, filters and gifs, and of course, the endlessly popular boomerang feature, which allows us to watch other people clink glasses not just once, but several times in a loop!

Their tactics worked, though, and Instagram Stories alone now boasts more users than Snapchat.  And in keeping with the latest trends, Kylie Jenner gave fans the first peak at her new baby Stormi earlier this year, not via Snapchat, but on Instagram, in a post that became the app’s new most liked picture ever.  It seems that everything Kylie touches turns to gold, and so this gesture probably indicates that we should all invest all of our money in Instagram as quickly as we possibly can.

Redesign – or Re-disaster?

Never mind the threat from Instagram, though – Snapchat may have actually shot themselves in the foot with new updates that nobody asked for.  The company began rolling out a redesign of the app in late 2017, and their shares actually picked up by 25% in response as investors anticipated the effects of these new changes with optimism.  That fell a bit flat however when the changes rolled out…and just about everybody Hated them.  With a capital H.

As the full extent of the redesign was rolled out to user’s phones, the reaction was not good.  In fact, it was sort of dire.  Kylie was not the only one not feeling the apps new layout, with users complaining that the app was now ugly, confusing and difficult to use.  Some users despised the changes so much that a change.org petition aimed at Snapchat asking them to revert the app back to it’s old look gained over a million signatures.

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Personally, while I wouldn’t say I despise the changes, having to scroll for what feels like years to find someone I messaged yesterday while the names of random people I barely know and would never wish to speak to personally in a million years appear at the top of my feed is just a tiny bit annoying.  Or, you know, massively infuriating, depending on what mood I’m in.

Snapchat commented on the whole debacle by arguing that the update aimed to make the app ‘more personal’ and that users simply needed to get used to it, while promising more changes soon to be rolled out which would make the app experience more ‘customisable’.  While I’m not a tech expert by any means, am I crazy for thinking that if your customers don’t like changes, it’s unlikely you’re going to fix their negative attitudes with more changes?  Or maybe I’m just crazy, who knows…

So is this the death of Snapchat?

As a company that isn’t currently all that profitable, Snapchat’s future lies in the value of its shares.  They need investors to believe that Snapchat is growing and that it’s here for the long run, and not just a social media fad that will disappear into irrelevance as easily as one of its 24 hour stories.  This kind of volatility in its market value could spell disaster for a company that’s still only really in its early years.

Overall, I think there are a few lessons to be learned from the Snapchat redesign disaster, one of which being that the customer is always right.  A little more pilot testing and research into what the audience wants could have saved Snapchat a whole lot of stress and headaches over the past few months.  However, it’s yet to be seen whether or not this whole series of unfortunate events will see a decline in Snapchat’s actual user base, as it still attracts 187 million users a day – it hasn’t quite died and joined MySpace and Bebo in social media heaven just yet.

And personally, until the day I lose all of my 200+day long streaks, Snapchat will still be my go to.

 

Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq

 

Putting the Heart into Placement

Putting the Heart into Placement

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

 

It feels like only yesterday that I was a bright eyed, bushy tailed second year student panicking over finding a placement, when suddenly the year has been and gone in a flash.  Looking back on my experience of searching for a placement, I found the whole thing extremely stressful and anxiety inducing, because I had quite frankly no idea what I wanted to do.  Zero, zilch, nada.   Did I want to go into PR or advertising? Or would marketing suit me? Would I enjoy working at that company? Would I be better suited for that role?  Oh crap, I’ve missed the deadline….what if that was the perfect placement for me?!?!

The biggest choice in my mind at the time was whether I wanted to go into advertising, marketing or PR.  The question of what sector I wanted to work in barely even crossed my mind, until I applied and later secured my placement in the charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke. After the most amazing year working as Communications and Marketing Assistant at NICHS, I left with a newfound love for the Third Sector and with high hopes to continue my career in the area when I graduate.

So why should you consider doing a placement in the charity sector?

 

1. Giving Back

The marketing, advertising and PR industries are often viewed very negatively by the outside world.  Many see them as the art of simply flogging goods and manipulating consumers with nothing other than sales and profit as the end goal. Being a CAM student, I obviously don’t share this view, but I still found it extremely rewarding to feel like I was achieving a ‘greater good’ in my work. I wasn’t just promoting our brand and pushing for profits.  Our marketing and advertising helps increase brand awareness so more people in need can find out about our services, our health information such as heart attack symptoms can reach more people, potentially saving lives, and rather than chasing profits, we encourage fundraising for our cause so we can help more and more people in need. There was no better feeling than hearing feedback from someone on how a Facebook post, billboard or a simple poster or leaflet had alerted them to our services, support groups or fundraising events, helping them change their lives for the better.

2. Never a Dull Moment

Working in NICHS, no two days were ever the same. From road trips to visit service users and listen to their real life stories, to helping film, edit (and briefly taking up a starring role in) our Give Stress a Rest stress management videos, to chasing runners around Stormont in a red dress with a DSLR in the wintery depths of February…every day was full of drama, excitement and lots of laughs.

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The NICHS Red Dress Run at Stormont!  (I couldn’t feel my toes all day)

3. Creativity Needed!

In a charity, there’s a certain level of duty to the public who work so hard to raise funds for us.  These hard earned funds must be used as effectively as possible, and in order to keep being able to help those in need, constantly inspiring more and more people and organisations to fundraise is essential.  Convincing people to part with their time and money in aid of your cause isn’t always easy, but that’s where the fun starts.  The marketing and fundraising department have to get seriously creative!  The fundraising team and my manager, Gillian, at NICHS never ceased to amaze me with their brilliant ideas to get our messages out and to get people involved, and it was so much fun working with them all to help bring the ideas to life, while seeing some of my own be put into action too.

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It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it

4. Amazing People

From my very first day in NICHS HQ, I was practically shouting from the rooftops to anyone who would listen about how lovely and nice everybody in the office is, and I honestly worry that I might never work with a better bunch of people again!  The second-floor gang, comprised of the Comms department and the ‘Health Promotion Angels’, was like a little family and there was never, ever a dull moment.  As well as my colleagues and co-workers, meeting service users and real life survivors was so inspiring.  From visiting survivors and hearing their stories to going along to the young stroke group on Fridays to play Wii sports, it was always so fantastic to see people refuse to let anything that had happened to them hold them back, and how NICHS had helped them get there.

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Balmoral Show? Completed it mate.

So in your search for placement, definitely don’t disregard the charity sector – I had the most amazing year on placement, and so my final piece of advice to any second years is simply to enjoy every minute.  I would do mine all over again in a heartbeat!

Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq

Kylie Jenner – PR Nightmare or Publicity Princess?

Kylie Jenner – PR Nightmare or Publicity Princess?

Whether you love her or love to hate her, it’s impossible to ignore Kylie Jenner’s success. At just twenty years old, she became the youngest celebrity to feature on the Forbes 100 list earlier this year, with a staggering net worth of $41 million (£31 million.)  To put that in context, I’m a year and 8 months older than Kylie and would probably place my own net worth at around minus £20,000, thanks to the Student Loans Company.  That’s a little bit of a bitter pill to swallow!

But how did Kylie manage to go from being the baby of the Kardashian-Jenner Klan, to perhaps the most successful of all the sisters – including Kim?  It would be easy to dismiss Kylie’s rise to the top as being the result of a perfect PR storm.  We often imagine famous celebrities and their multi million pound endorsements being carefully manufactured behind closed doors by scheming PR managers with dollar signs in their eyes.

But when you really think about it, Kylie’s career would send any sane PR practitioner running screaming in terror.  Forget the modern definitions of public relations that talk about ‘managing reputation’ and ‘creating mutually beneficial relationships’ – Kylie’s empire is built on publicity rather than PR, and her success is definitive proof that it’s still a relevant method today.

As the first of Grunig and Hunt’s Four Models of PR, publicity or ‘Press Agentry’ involves purely one-way communication from Press Agents to the public. The aim is to create publicity by any means, including by telling half truths or downright lies.  One of the classic quotes which just about sums up press agentry is, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” which is probably the Kardashian family motto.

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“That’s why her lips are so big – they’re full of bad publicity”

Let’s go back to the rumours that started it all.  In 2014, when a few Insta selfies of Kylie’s lips looking plumper than usual began to make tabloid headlines, the question on everyone’s (normal sized) lips was: has she had fillers?  Kylie denied any surgical enhancement, instead attributing her newly plump pout to using particular shades of MAC lipliners and lipsticks. Many of these shades sold out internationally almost immediately.  I would know, because I was one of the many trying to buy them.

Even after Kylie eventually came to admit to having lip injections, it didn’t stop fans rushing out to buy whatever lip colour she recommended. It also led to lip augmentation topping the list of most popular non-surgical cosmetic treatments in the UK in 2016.  Any product that Kylie Jenner’s lips touched seemed to turn to gold, and perhaps this is where she had her lightbulb moment – what if you could package up Kylie Jenner’s lips and sell them?

And so Kylie Cosmetics was born.  The first batches of Kylie lip kits sold out in minutes, despite conspiracies surfacing online that her $29 lip kits contained a virtually identical formula to US makeup brand Colourpop’s $6 liquid lipsticks.  Videos and pictures comparing eerily similar shades began sprouting up across the internet in a Kylie vs Colourpop showdown.  You may think a PR nightmare like this would be enough to destroy the Kylie Cosmetics brand before it had even begun. But you would be wrong – in the 18 months since, it’s raked in roughly $420 million.

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Just as before with her lip fillers, Kylie eventually addressed the accusations, promising her fans that while they shared the same manufacturers, her products used an “exclusive” formula that she “created herself”.  Yeah, sure, I buy that completely…just like I bought her Holiday Collection and Vacation Collection Lipkits later that year.  (Another classic quote of the press agentry era is, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  I am that sucker.)

So we’ve established that Kylie is clearly gifted at working bad publicity to her own advantage, but earlier this year when possibly the biggest rumour of her career hit the headlines, she showcased just how gifted.  In case you’ve been living underneath a soundproof rock without Wi-Fi for the last few months, in September 2017 TMZ reported that Kylie Jenner is allegedly pregnant with rapper Travis Scott’s baby.  When I first read this news on my Facebook timeline, I gasped so loudly that my sister ran into my room to check if I was okay.

At the time of writing this, almost two months on, Kylie has neither confirmed nor denied that she is with child – but she continues to benefit from daily tabloid coverage as journalists analyse her every prenatal (or not) move.  Meanwhile, posts to her social media accounts appear as normal, promoting her Kylie Cosmetics Autumn collection and new Velvet Lipkit Shades.  Despite hiding possibly one of the biggest events of her life from even her most loyal of fans, her products continue to be snapped up by her followers without hesitation.

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Preggerz? Kylie and BFF Jordyn Woods test out the new Kylie Cosmetics Autumn Collection in a recent Youtube video

Kylie’s career breaks every rule in the PR handbook, with reputation and Two Way Symmetric Models of the communication going out the window long ago.  So how does she continue to be such a success?  As an unashamed Kylie fan, I think that keeping somewhat of a smokescreen between her and her fans is what keeps the Kylie brand thriving.  While many brands and celebrities become increasingly tangible and relatable as they open up every aspect of their lives to us through social media, Kylie Jenner remains an untouchable force in an A List celebrity world far, far away from our own, and by buying a little piece of her exclusive, sold out cosmetic line that she “created the formula for herself”, maybe we feel like we can buy into just a little bit of her untouchable world. Either way, I think Kylie will continue to build her booming career on half truths, downright lies and bad publicity.

And when she releases a Limited Edition Kylie Cosmetics Baby Shower Collection, I’ll still be snapping up all the shades.

 

Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq