COVID19 and Public Relations: 4 Reasons Why PR is Vital for Business during a Pandemic

COVID19 and Public Relations: 4 Reasons Why PR is Vital for Business during a Pandemic

2020 will forever be remembered as the year of the pandemic. Effects from the year will undoubtedly have a lasting impact for years to come as every business has to adapt to the “new normal”. There is no business that has escaped unaffected. Therefore, businesses of every size globally have been forced to adapt, innovate and overcome the challenges this year has thrown at them. For many, this has been made possible thanks to the help of PR.

Here is just 4 reasons why PR is invaluable to businesses at the time of a crisis such as COVID19: 

  1. To Produce a Crisis Management Plan

Let’s face it, no one could have ever predicted a global pandemic and international lockdown. Coronavirus has brought new issues no one could have ever imagined having to face. However, a crisis management plan in place may have outlined the ways in which to overcome challenges in the event of the business having to temporarily close or reduce output for whatever reason. 

Now, more than ever, businesses need to put in place a plan or evaluate their current one to reduce crisis impact in future. With lives and livelihoods at stake, a crisis management plan simply cannot be overlooked. 

2. To Establish Trust and Integrity 

Inevitably, the global pandemic has created mass distrust. A good PR strategy can instil a  reputation of trustworthiness and credibility for a brand so that gradually consumers will trust the brand without question. 

One way of doing this is through a macro/micro-influencer. An influencer is a powerful tool to gain credibility. However important it is for the blogger to be admired and trusted, most of all the brand and influencer relationship must be genuine, otherwise it will have the opposite effect if consumers sense a false association or a feeling that the influencer doesn’t even use the businesses products/services. 

3. To Maintain a Positive Online Relationship

During the coronavirus pandemic it has been more important than ever before to maintain a relationship with consumers at home. Pre-pandemic business-consumer relationships have diminished especially for businesses that had no online presence or did not fully engage with consumers. 

As society becomes more physically isolated, engaging online with consumers will make them feel more unified in an online community. It provides a safe space where they can maintain a personal relationship to the brand in a time of so much tragedy and negativity. 

Many brands are using their online platform to spread messages of hope and the recurring theme of “stay safe” or “stay at home” which consumers engage well with when brands show they are connected and they care. 

4. To Promote Success

After time it can be extremely beneficial to promote how well you’ve responded to issues caused by COVID19. For example, according to Deloitte (2020), 39% of consumers say they will purchase more in the future from brands that responded well to the crisis.

Brands who highlight their success with steps they have taken on their part to control the virus or simply their role in “doing the right thing” are seen as more genuinely caring by consumers. For example, advertising store closures, social distancing measures, hand sanitising stations and new business practices not only provide information but show they are committed to the protection of the community.

Aveen Moore is a final year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter

The Brand Putting Sustainability First

The Brand Putting Sustainability First
The diverse models featured in a Tala campaign

The athleisure wear industry is estimated to be worth £2.5 billion in the UK alone; and is only expected to increase throughout the next five years. This rise could be attributed to the increase in social media influencers who make their living sharing exercise related content; and have generated buzz around exercise, especially for their younger audiences.  

In recent years, well-known high-street brands have reacted to this surge in interest for fitness by releasing their own range of sportswear. With most fast fashion brands, including Missguided and Pretty Little Thing, creating their own range of gym wear. But how could new brands establish themselves in an already saturated market?

Introducing Tala

Pictured is founder Grace Beverley

This challenge has been accepted by Grace Beverley, a 23-year-old social media influencer, turned entrepreneur, who has already sent shockwaves through the industry. Storming straight to the top of Forbes 30 under 30 list, Grace has founded two successful fitness businesses in just a few years; with Tala launching in May 2019 and selling more than 60,000 products within the first few months. But what sets her apart from her competitors?

Sustainability

One of the models featured on the website

Described as “the brand you knew you wanted but could never quite find”, Tala is a fitness brand, creating ethical products with sustainability at the core of the brand. While sustainability within brands is not necessarily a new concept, Tala has promised to deliver ethical products that “wont break the planet, or the bank”, something consumers can smile about. Companies striving for sustainability have notoriously sold clothes with a hefty price point upwards of £100, which is simply impossible for most customers, making it difficult for the everyday consumer to shop sustainably.

Tala has made sure to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of the business – from using recyclable materials to create the clothing, to selling Fibre Filer Bags, which cleverly catch the tiny microfibres released every time clothing is washed. The Fibre Filer Bag prevents the microfibres from contributing to pollution of our oceans as they can be disposed of from the Fibre Bags into the bin. The package is also made from 100% recycled material to ensure there is no waste ending up in landfill. Is there anything they haven’t thought of?

The models featured in one of the campaigns

Operating Ethically

While fast fashion allows its consumers to purchase clothing at discounted rates, it has become known that exploitation is a serious issue in this industry. Brands selling their clothing at lesser rates than their competitors, are often known to take advantage of their workers in the factories who may be working extended hours but seeing very little return in the rate they are paid. Tala has made sure to provide clothing at an affordable rate, but customers can rest easy knowing they are wearing clothing that has been ethnically created. Not only do they pride themselves on operating sustainably, but they also ensure the products are created with suppliers who align with their beliefs by ensuring their factories are operating ethnically.

The tag contains seeds, ready to be planted

If you’re looking for a brand who has put thought into every aspect of their business, look no further! The tag on each item of clothing is filled with seasonal seeds. This means you can cut off the tag and grow a different plant with every tag you get. All you need to do is put the tag in some soil, sprinkle it with a drop of water and watch your very own plant grow. Talk about going the extra mile!

Putting diversity first

The models show the diversity of the brand

Within recent years, consumers have not been reserved in calling brands out for not including diversity within their marketing campaigns, as well as holding fashion brands accountable for not featuring models of different sizes on their websites. While we can acknowledge that brands have been showing more diversity within their campaigns, there is still work to be done. In 2020, inclusive marketing is an obvious choice to reflect real people and remove the unrealistic ideals put forward by “perfect” models. This is not an issue for those browsing the Tala website, as women of all shapes and sizes are featured. The diversity is carried through throughout the brands marketing and is sure to attract the attention of a diverse range of women.

While this brand is certainly one of the first paving the way for inclusive, sustainable, and ethical approaches to creating and marketing clothing; hopefully, it won’t be the last!

Cheyenne Doyle is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Linkedin and Twitter

Netflix – The marketing platform that resurrected Formula 1

Netflix – The marketing platform that resurrected Formula 1

Picture the scene; just finished a long day of lectures and finally completed that assignment you’ve been working tirelessly on all week. You’ve got a cup of tea in hand and are ready to switch on the TV to watch the final episode of your favourite Netflix series that you’ve been totally consumed with for the past few weeks; life is bliss. Then it hits you; what am I going to watch when this series ends, I’m getting tired of watching the same sort of genres, it’s time to switch things up but I don’t know what other types of series would interest me. This is why I love Netflix, don’t get me wrong I love watching a series that I know I’ll be interested in, there’s nothing better than switching on an episode of Gavin and Stacey on a rainy day to lift the mood. However there’s something about becoming fascinated by a Netflix show you thought would never interest you that can’t be beaten.

It is widely known that Formula 1 is a predominately male sport, it involves expensive motorcars and high speed racing. Before its premiere to Netflix on 8th March 2019, if asked about Formula 1, the only piece of information I would have known is that Lewis Hamilton drives in a red suit. This is in fact incorrect as Lewis drives in a sparkling white one for Mercedes Benz, information I only found out from watching the Netflix series. I would never have stumbled across this Netflix series only that I began noticing how much my dad who was a big football and rugby fan, talked about it from the day he began watching it. I mean who could have pictured it; a young female driver of a 2008 Ford Fiesta, who doesn’t break the speed limit, stalls on average around 3 times a day, completely engrossed in a Netflix series all about high speed racing, cars reaching up to 200mph to determine over a number of races who is the F1 World Champion. But that’s the power of Netflix.

When searching up Formula 1 on google, the suggested drop down menu’s presented many negative connotations, one that struck me was: is Formula 1 a dying sport? Although it is unlikely that Formula 1 bosses have ever seen this question specifically, it is without doubt that they would have gathered information over the years about the public’s views on the sport and its popularity. After furthering my search, I came across many articles that suggested Formula 1’s success was behind them and that the sport had started to be considered ‘stupid’, other articles provided statistics showing the drop in its popularity over the years. Not only this but Formula 1 had received much backlash for its lack of diversity and how it was still very sexist in terms of being predominantly, if not an all male sport. Formula 1 had failed to move with the times and this had not went unmissed by the general public. It was clear to everyone that something needed to be done if Formula 1 wanted to continue its legacy.

Up until 2017 Formula 1 was limited to what they could broadcast across social media. This all changed when Liberty Media purchased the global motorsport business and gave drivers and their teams the freedom to post across mediums such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. To an extent this worked well, it gauged supporter’s attention and allowed for much needed interaction amongst supporters and drivers. However the real genius was in the creation of their Netflix documentary. Formula 1 could not have choose a better platform to market their competitive motorsport than the online streaming mastermind that is Netflix. Their careful decision making enabled them to reach an audience of 158.3 million Netflix subscribers all around the world. Drive to Survive performed particularly well in the United States where it had a higher demand than 96.1% of all Documentary titles as shown in the graph below.

Current Renault and previous Redbull driver, Daniel Ricciardo also noted the he has seen an increase in the amount of people recognising him in the United States and said that Drive to Survive put Formula 1 racing on the map. He said that before Drive to Survive “not really anyone would say hi to me – not in a bad way, but they wouldn’t recognise me from being an F1 driver. And now it’s all ‘we saw you on Netflix, it was great, Drive to Survive’.”

Data from Research Agency Digital-i found that in its first 28 days, the Netflix Documentary Drive to Survive had been streamed over 1 million times in households within the UK. This has been hugely successful for Liberty Media whose aim was to expand its audiences, particularly to younger demographics which has also proved successful as since 2017, 62% of Formula 1’s new followers have been under the age of 35. Netflix has proved to be one of the most pivotal factors in the boost in popularity of the Formula 1 motorsport.

Liberty Media also made strategic use of Digital Marketing to promote Formula 1 further. As I mentioned earlier through restrictions being lifted on the content that was allowed to be posted, social media has been hugely effective in keeping fans of the motorsport engaged and interested. Content posted on Instagram including Instagram lives being filmed as drivers prepare to race, Youtube videos being posted to their 4.58 million subscribers on a daily basis and Tik Tok videos showing highlights from the races using popular sounds on Tik Tok are a few of the effective marketing methods used by Formula 1 to promote their motorsport further. Even with the coronavirus pandemic, Formula 1 showed fans how they could adapt and continue to interact across the world through the creation of the Virtual Grand Prix Series which proved a standout. Its run was able to pull in 21.8 million views on digital platforms, as well as 695 million impressions across social.

It was no surprise that Formula 1 Netflix Documentary: Drive to Survive has been a hugely successful marketing strategy employed by Liberty Media. The Netflix Documentary highlighted a side to Motorsport racing that had never been seen before. The previous two seasons have shown a more human side to a largely mechanical sport. Viewers are exposed to the emotional side of the motorsport not just for the driver but for their families and all the team involved in the success of a driver. From turmoil to triumph, this Netflix Documentary uncovers a candid glimpse into the life of an F1 driver and shows much more than just the on-track action that fans are used to seeing. I’m already excited about season 3 even though a release date is yet to be confirmed, but as I said before, that’s the power of Netflix!

Aoife Teague is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter

TikTok is thriving, but have you got what it takes to go viral?

TikTok is thriving, but have you got what it takes to go viral?

It is no secret that the social media platform has taken us all by storm over the past year, but what sets TikTok apart from all the others and where does your brand fit on the platform (if at all)?


Let’s go back to the start. Vine has been and gone, the mums/Karens have taken over Facebook, Instagram is full of advertising and irrelevant content. It’s 2019. (Brighter days might I add). You see your 13yr old cousin performing some strange form of dance whilst recording themselves on the latest iPhone they got from Santa, while lip-syncing at the same time. You ask them what they’re doing. “Making a TikTok” they respond. This is a foreign phrase to you at this stage, but you’re intrigued. You type ‘Tick Tock’ into your search bar on twitter, your go-to platform these days when you unlock your phone, to find not much more than a Rolex advert and a few dodgy memes. You go about your day all the same, unphased.


Later upon opening Facebook, you come across a sponsored article posted by LADbible- ‘How TikTok Is Making Teens Thousands Of Pounds For 15 Seconds Of Lip-Syncing’. You think to yourself, ‘was my phone listening to my discussion earlier?’ You click to open the article wondering is your cousin making thousands of pounds from what she was doing earlier. You come to learn that TikTok is an app which allows for 15sec videos of dance, lip-syncing, comedy, creativity, tricks and the list goes on. You decide to download it (but vow you will NEVER post) and suddenly you find yourself down a rabbit hole of hilarious, engaging entertainment 4hours later sat in the same position as when you downloaded the app.


And we’re back in 2020. Although TikTok was founded in 2016, 2019 was when it started to really gauge traction and recognition, priming it for the success it possesses today. Since then, the app has evolved massively by listening to its consumer and improving features such as- allowing for better quality in-app editing tools, longer recording times and overall has become more accommodating and complex. It might be difficult to get a grasp of the app from a brand perspective, but if TikTok is something you’re thinking of getting on to then you must read the room first. Will TikTok reach your target audience? Do you have the budget for their pricey paid content options? Are you going to learn the latest trending dances and include product placement in your clip? There are so many things to think of before jumping on the band wagon. Hopefully I can give you advice here, as someone who’s video went viral with over 20million views while working for a popular beauty brand (shameless plug I know, but I like to think I know what I’m talking about).

You may be reluctant to join, yet there is indeed room for everyone on the app, as long as you remain true to brand tone of voice. For example, if you are a high fashion brand, it may be too cheesy and irrelevant for you to jump on the latest trends to get noticed. Instead, you could gift clothing to some of the leading ‘creators’ on the app that fit with your brand, or hone in on the creativity aspect of the app and show how some of your pieces in their journey from a design idea to a finished good. The key is to remember that you need to have your own voice/USP and to refrain from copying what the other brands are doing. I have highlighted two successful examples of viral content from completely different brands below.

  • Chipotle: With 1.3million followers, the American food chain have gone viral gaining millions of views on a single post, numerous times. Their USP is very much so humour, as it only takes a quick scroll through their videos to have you giggling. They create and partake in trends that are relevant and re-post humorous videos created by other users. They’ve ran their own #GuacDanceChallenge and more recently they launched a collaboration with an American TikTok house (house full of TikTok creators) to promote their new group ordering feature on their app. They ran a competition with the hashtag ‘#ChipotleSponsorUs’ in which users would create a video explaining why they should win a free takeout using the group feature, with 5 winners. The challenge received an overall reach of 38million, which is great for an organic, unpaid challenge on the app.

  • The Washington Post: Similar to Chipotle, TWP use humour to engage their audience. A further USP for the American Newspaper is that their staff feature in almost all of their videos, to the point they are recognisable and almost ‘influencers’ in their own right. This is a really good example of showing a more personable side to a brand that consumers wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Their content may not be heavily branded, but they have definitely succeeded in reach with over 750k followers. This is also proof that TikTok is a way to engage with consumers that may be outside your target market, as Gen Z may not physically go out to buy a paper, yet they will engage with the brand on social media.

From the examples mentioned and a quick nosey at other brands on TikTok, it is clear to see there is space for every type of brand on TikTok. The app in itself is very light hearted and this is the approach that all viral brands have in common. It’s important to think outside the box and take a risk with your content. It may flop, but it’s often the underdog videos that end up viral. My three main takeaways I will leave you with if you’re thinking about getting started on the app would be; don’t take it too seriously, get creative with your content, and stay true to your tone of voice. Go get ’em!

Grace Blaney is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.

Guinness, King of Marketing

Guinness, King of Marketing

Creating marketing activity that has global synergies

In January 2020, I was fortunate enough to take a trip down to Dublin’s fair city. I visited some tourist attractions including Trinity College and St Stephens Green, but for me the highlight was the infamous Guinness Storehouse.

Since its opening in the year 2000, the Guinness Storehouse has had over 20 million visitors walk through its doors. Now that’s a lot of fuss over one beer. What an experience it was. I was educated in the origins of the beer, its history and the lengthy process of creation. One thing that stuck out to me on that visit was the marketing. As PR student, I was fascinated at the impressive collection and history of advertisements that one brand had to offer.  A whole floor. Solely dedicated to the history of their advertisements. The space was filled with interactive materials of both their printed and video advertisements. Including campaigns and merchandise. It was highly enjoyable and definitely a must see.

Getting to experience the vast and historic display of advertisements really got me thinking of the organisation’s success. Guinness has a huge global footprint. It is brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in over 150. How did a beer become so globalised to the extent that it is arguably an Irish icon? The very key to its success is that Guinness are creating marketing activity that has global synergies.

Guinness advertisements have been shown on television, radio, posters, billboards, newspapers and various social media platforms. Over the years, they have had many different advertising campaigns that include different themes, genres, mascots and several taglines. Guinness has several taglines to its credit which have helped to increase its brand visibility like ‘Guinness is good for you’ and ‘Made of More’ to name a few. Their advertisement material completely different from year to year. A noticeable difference in their more recent campaigns from the last 10 years, is the change from persuasive, to emotive language.  In the past, advertisements would have focused on persuasion and information about the beer. However, they modern ads are based on pure emotion and focus on selling feeling. For example, Guinness are the official sponsor of the six nations rugby. One of there ads focus on Shane Williams, who plays rugby professionally for Wales. He was told all his life that he would never play rugby due to his height as he was only 5 foot 7 inches. The advert focuses on the strength of his determination and character and that is why he is such a successful rugby player, and despite the odds, he plays professionally for Wales. Other adverts from the ruby campaign include Gareth Thomas, captain of the Welsh rugby team, and his strong of his struggles with mental health. He was afraid to come out as gay to his teammates and the rest of the world. But despite his fears he was met with an extremely positive response from his team. The campaign promotes the morals of being “Never alone” and “Always a part of a team”. These adverts create an emotive response for the audience. The stories are relatable and inspiring to large audiences of all age groups. The stories are heart warming and create a beautiful picture of the morals that Guinness brand has and the ability it has to bring people together.

Guinness take a diverse approach. Their marketing strategies work hard to create and provide a great customer experience across cultures. Guinness often make their beer a symbol of unity. Something that can bring everyone together despite their differences. As they are a global brand, they successfully recognise and show empathy towards a diverse customer base. There advertisements have varied themes and another modern campaign called “The Sapeurs” shows just that.

A group of humble and refined gentlemen, called the Sapeurs, use their flair, creativity and sense of style to express their own unique identity and code of honour. The advert focuses on the sense of community created by the beverage as it brings people together. The ad displays a weird and wonderful range of people and personalities, but they are all gathered together to enjoy one and others company with a Guinness. This campaign takes place in Africa but was aired globally. A further demonstration of their marketing diversity, fitting for their global audience.

Guinness focus on bring people together however during this global pandemic that is not an appropriate message to spread. Guinness still continue to promote positive messages such as their infamous illusion posters, this time the pint of Guinness creating a sofa to encourage the public to practise social distancing. Guinness also donated Guinness Easter Eggs on World Health Day to the doctors and nurses in Dublin who are treating patients with Coronavirus. This kind gesture was a creative way of demonstrating appreciation and gratitude for the essential workers on the front line, while receiving positive publicity for the Guinness brand.

Even at a time when customers can’t access their products in bars, Guinness still finds a way to stay relevant and in the minds of the public. Now that’s what I call effective marketing.

Ciara Hughes is a final year student at Ulster University studying BSc Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on: Twitter, LinkedIn, and on her website: ciarahughespr.wordpress.com

Burger King: Fast Food Royalty

Burger King: Fast Food Royalty

What can I say? Burger King is flying the flag of brilliance for all fast food chains out there.  

Two months ago, they won the hearts of millions when they urged people to buy from other fast food branches;

“We never thought we’d be asking you to do this, but restaurants employing thousands of staff really need your support at the moment.” – name-checking; KFC, Subway, Domino’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, Five Guys, Gregg’s, Taco Bell, Papa John’s Pizza and Leon in the post.

This wasn’t about marketing or advertising, but something much greater. We are living in such stressful and chaotic times. It’s uplifting to see companies that genuinely care. Not only about their own customers and employees. But about their “competitors” as well.

For some, this campaign didn’t pull on their heartstrings. Some called it cynic and a ploy instead to buy Burger Kings famous ‘Whooper’. The post did end with a plug for its own product – “Getting a Whopper is always best, but ordering a Big Mac is also not such a bad thing” – so a touch of healthy (or even unhealthy) scepticism may be in order.

If all else fails, try again?!

Burger King came back with something BIGGER. Something BETTER. Something much GREATER.

WHOPPER & FRIENDS

Burger King is supporting local restaurants who can’t market their brand and came up with a stunning campaign, “Whooper & Friends”.

They shared this image to their UK account and encouraged small businesses to use their Instagram for advertisement. 

And may I add, FOR FREE!!

The hospitality industry has consistently rallied together over the last few months and it’s great to see this continue.

There has been a fundamental shift; consumers are no longer only looking at brands as embodiments of certain values that appeal to them but more so as a cause that they can get behind. A clear sense of responsibility & purpose is now vital! No longer is it acceptable for a brand to be a ‘bit-part player’, to just add a ‘badge of support’ or run one-off PR initiatives.

As we have seen this year with various movements, silence & not being part of the conversation is not tolerated. Now more than ever it has become a necessity to openly state what you are about, what you believe in & what you are doing about it!

Talk is cheap!… Consumers want to see you walk that talk. Burger King seems to have figured this out with this (and other recent campaigns).

Most importantly people are loving it! “Worthy of respect”, “EPIC – what a statement”, “Thoughtful & Smart”, “Amazing Gesture”, “Others should follow”, “This hits so much better than the ‘Buy McDonald’s Ad!

This I believe will be the future of marketing in 2021 & beyond!

REBRANDING

Not only have they been pulling amazing campaigns out of the bag but they have also recently publicised their latest rebranding, “The announcement signals a commitment to digital-first expression and recent improvements to taste and food quality, through the removal of colours, flavours and preservatives from artificial sources from menu items, as well as an ambitious pledge to environmental sustainability.”

The fast-food chain’s first redesign in over 20 years brings back a 60s logo and introduces a brand new font, Flame inspired by the shape of its burgers, with a rich new colour palette, to create a more digital-friendly identity.

Burger King was inspired by their old logo from 1969-1988 and wanted the same feel for their rebrand; which was authentic, confident and simple. They wanted it to be long- lasting, timeless.

The font was inspired by the shapes of the restaurant’s food, “rounded, bold, yummy”. With these shapes, they needed new brand colours; they wanted their font to make people take a bite out of it. I think they have successfully achieved that! Fiery Red, Flaming Orange and BBQ Brown as their primary palette, with Mayo Egg White, Melty Yellow and Crunch Green as their secondary palette. A top-class font, matched with top-class colours. It’s a win, win for Burger King.

With the ever-changing digital world we live in, Burger King felt their visual identity wasn’t reflecting them as brand a anymore. This brought them to re-designing their packaging, merchandise, menus, uniforms, signage, décor and digital assets.

Burger King has had an incredible few months, I question will any other fast-food brands be able to compete with their genius campaigns and branding in 2021?

This is exactly what an industry leader brands like, acts like, and advertises like.

Hats off to Burger King.

Courtney McGoldrick is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn, Instagram & Twitter.

Brands Building a Sustainable Future

Brands Building a Sustainable Future

‘REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE.’ It’s a phrase that’s been instilled heavily into our lives especially over the past 10 years. The evidence is there to prove how much use of single usage products is impacting on society and the environment around us. From slogans such as ‘Save the Turtles’ and ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ to ‘Save the Earth’, our social responsibility is becoming more prevalent than ever. This social responsibility has become a Corporate Social Responsibility for business. Therefore, we have seen noticeable changes in packaging and quality provided by some of our larger brands- in some cases this was due to corporate decision making and in others this was due to influence from customer pressure.

Primark are one of the latest companies to add to their corporate social responsibility through their ‘Primark Cares Initiative’ which already has single-use plastics, sustainable cotton and recycled materials as commitments. They have a new large paper bag designed with a candy-stripe seasonal print which can be reused as gift-wrap to enhance their commitment to the environment.

Primark aren’t the first company to do this. FatFace had this initiative back in Winter 2019, obviously with a different print. They advertised this on their Instagram with a tutorial video on how customers may use the bag to wrap a gift, whilst also acknowledging that a tag can be cut out from the bag too. Whilst some may undermine this, the sustainability factor of a paper bag as gift wrap or even to back schoolbooks is incredibly beneficial. Not only does it save on paper wastage, but it also saves people money on purchasing wrapping paper! 

Of course, paper isn’t the only single-use product businesses are reducing. Last year, McDonald’s changed their classic plastic straws to paper ones, all due to a customer petition for them to change. The argument that plastic straws don’t degrade, only break up into smaller pieces which can be swallowed by turtles, large birds and fish made public support and sign it. The popularity of the petition weighed heavily in the corporate social responsibility conscience for McDonald’s leading to them making the executive decision to follow through and change to paper straws. This effectively in turn influenced other large brands such as Starbucks and KFC changing to paper straws to match the sustainability trend.

Our high streets and fast food chains aren’t the only places who are making changes to help create a more sustainable future. Recently, ASDA have opened a ‘new sustainability store’ as a trial at their Middleton store in Leeds, which is hoped to play a major part of their plastic reduction strategy in which customers will pay less for greener choices. In order to do this the supermarket chain have partnered with major UK household brands including Kellogg’s, Radox and Persil to name a few. Again, this is a major initiative from a large business to endeavour to help the public to reduce, reuse and recycle easily.

To compliment this further ASDA have also launched a national price promise called ‘Greener at Asda Price’ which vows that loose and unwrapped products (e.g. fruit and vegetables) will cost less than their wrapped equivalents. This is not only beneficial for the environment, but it will save customers money when shopping at ASDA.

Whilst all the measures taken by the previously mentioned businesses above are a step in the right direction to achieve a greener planet, there are many businesses in society who have made little to no changes. Unfortunately, some are still stuck in their old ways and reluctant to change. Therefore, we need to make more sustainability driven decisions to improve things for our generation and for the generations to follow.

As a society we need to make changes to how we purchase, what we purchase and where we purchase from. These decisions may not seem like they are making big changes now, however over time they will have drastic effects. The responsibility ultimately comes to us to make ethically informed decisions to reduce our carbon footprint and save the planet we live in! So, remember the mantra ‘Reduce. Reuse. Recycle’.

Holly Lucy Mc Allister is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter and LinkedIn

The Beauty of Social Media Activism

The Beauty of Social Media Activism

On the surface the beauty industry appears to simply arm customers with products to enhance their confidence, alter their appearance or provide a sense of glamour. But it has long been so much more than that. Dating back to the Suffragette movement, the use of red lipstick was a powerful political statement, arming women with the bold and powerful armour needed to stand up independently and fight in the face of inequality. Today, the beauty industry remains saturated in activism. Something which is extremely important in an era dominated by a turbulent political landscape. The consumer journey is now so much more than simply purchasing products; customers want to support businesses that are driven by a strong political message which aligns with their own.

“Aligning ourselves with beauty brands that are using their platforms to empower, embattle and break down boundaries, puts the power back in our hands,” says Cult Beauty founder, Alexia Inge

In May of this year, the world was spun into global unrest regarding the futile murder of George Floyd. Many large beauty companies were quick to utilise the reach their social media platforms have in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement; and in speaking out against these injustices. While these words of support are important for educating their consumers on such issues, it’s also important for these brands to act. American beauty giants, ColourPop, extended their condemnation of such inequalities by pledging to donate to organisations working to support black communities. To coincide with this, they stated that they were also committed to create change by promoting representation and inclusivity.

Beauty brand, Deciem, also showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The beauty community’s relationship with inclusivity has not been observable throughout the decades. In 2018, Tarte received backlash as they debuted a new foundation with a range of only 15 shades, with only 2 of these accommodating darker complexions. These static beauty standards had once again neglected a huge proportion of its consumers by excluding those unable to find their match. It is surprising to learn that just a few months later, the Fenty Beauty brand burst onto the scene having an explosive impact later named #TheFentyEffect. The brand was launched with 40 foundation shades – a far cry from what Tarte had released just months earlier. It would be selling the Fenty brand short to label this effect as anything short of innovative, as this range of shades has now become the norm and consumers are refusing to accept anything short of this!

David Kirkpatrick, writing for MarketingDive, found that while social media has provided companies with many benefits, from growing consumer bases to engaging in fast communication with customers, the negative effects can prove detrimental to companies. He found that 81% of U.S. consumers believe social media has rapidly increased brand accountability. Q3 Sprout Social Index administered a study, which uncovered that consumers are prepared to call our brands on social media, with millennials being the most likely to do this. It is interesting to note, 56% of these millennials had admitted to having complained about or had called out brands on social media. This research indicates the emphasis brands must now put on reputation management to ensure they do not encounter the same hurdles Tarte did.

More recently, beauty brands have been exercising this political activism in emphasising the importance to their consumers in voting in the upcoming US election through various social media driven campaigns. While many companies have been forthcoming expressing their political opinions; history was made when a new brand appeared on the scene as “Biden Beauty”. Yes, you heard right, Biden Beauty is in fact a real beauty brand! The company is selling a blue, beauty makeup sponge and encouraging their consumers to use this to create a makeup look to wear to the polling station. All profits from the company are being contributed to the Biden Victory Fund in hopes that this will secure a win for the Democratic party.

Beauty brand, Alleyoop, was also in favour of encouraging their customers to vote. The brand has pledged to give away a free item with a value of up to $20 to everyone who makes the trip to the polling station. The first 50,000 people who vote will be able to avail of this. This product giveaway could potentially cost the company $1 million. Brand owner, Kashani, described how they must do something crazy to change the voting statistics. Well, it’s definitely crazy!

Sharon Chuter, founder of inclusive makeup brand, Uoma Beauty, stated that “Gen Z is putting their money where their values are…”. She believes consumers are more willing to shop with companies who use their platforms to spread awareness of political issues; and who share the same values as their consumer base. However, it is important for brands to navigate this uneasy landscape with care as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of performative activism. In which companies are aligning themselves with political activism simply to appeal to consumers and drive sales; but the heart of the company is not in creating change. Chuter again shared her opinion on this issue, depicting her worry that brands will now see activism as a marketing tool, which will quickly become more dangerous than helpful.

On the surface, the beauty industry appears to simply arm customers with products to enhance their confidence, alter their appearance or provide a sense of glamour. But it is and always has been, so much more than that.

Cheyenne Doyle is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Linkedin – Cheyenne Doyle and Instagram – Ch.eyenne

Was the BPerfect Megastore opening a PR disaster?

Was the BPerfect Megastore opening a PR disaster?

The Belfast born brand BPerfect Cosmetics owned by Brendan McDowell launched their first “Megastore” in CastleCourt Belfast on October 1st. This event was heavily promoted on social media across each of BPerfects online social media platforms, with former EastEnders star Jac Jossa attending to launch her first ever tan, tanning mit and facial tanner called the “Jac Jossa Collection”. Many famous beauty influencers such as “MMMitchell”, “Stacey Marie MUA” attended the store launch acting as the staff for the 4-hour opening. Combined each influencer equalled over 7 million followers.  The advertising and marketing carried out prior to the launch date was well executed with the BPerfect team launching their very own “BPerfect Megastore” Instagram page in which they provided every exciting detail about the store launch along with promoting the event on their existing Instagram, Facebook and website platforms . To compliment BPerfects Megastores launch, Jac Jossa and other successful beauty influencers all promoted the store opening night on their very own personal Instagram page, to ultimately bring more people to the not to be missed event.

The BPerfect team knew the megastore would attract many fans as they are a well-established brand, celebrities were attending and of course it was the launch day of the Jac Jossa collection. CastleCourt offered free parking to everyone, and all the BPerfect team arrived in a party bus to create an air of excitement and you guessed it, it certainly attracted a massive crowd. During these unprecedented times, Brendan McDowell and his team knew they had to be responsible and obey the COVID guidelines ensuring the opening was carried out safely and did not breach public safety guidelines.

As a further measure, McDowell posted on his personal Instagram, the megastores Instagram and on the BPerfects Instagram explaining that he had consulted with both the Public Health Agency and CastleCourt to put safety measures in place such as following the one way system while entering the store, wearing a mask in-store, or they would provide one for you, providing hand sanitising stations and a security team to ensure social distancing.

With all safety measures in place, what could go wrong?

On the night of the store opening, as anticipated hundreds of fans gathered from all over Belfast. Queues of people lined up for the must have beauty products and to meet the celebrity influencers, Jac Jossa, and of course get the all-important selfie of themselves instore.

However, the next morning BPerfect were slammed as a “disgrace” by other beauty bloggers. IRadio presenter Louise Clarke tweeted “How is this acceptable? As if it was ever going to be a controlled environment. Shame on the influencers who attended and promoted the event and massive shame on BPerfect for holding it. What’s with certain ‘influencers’ thinking they’re above Covid guidelines?” Ultimately, something that was meant to be a great achievement in the history of the brand backfired and ended up being slammed in the media as a “Total Disgrace” and “A joke”.

How could BPerfect come back from something so brand damaging?

Once Brendan and the BPerfect team heard about the backlash they received, a spokesperson for the brand issued this statement to the media “Before, during and after the opening of our new BPerfect Megastore, we made numerous public pleas to anyone shopping with us on our opening night to ensure they adhered to all social distancing guidelines at all times. This included asking everyone to be personally responsible for social distancing in the outdoor queue, wearing a mask when indoors, sanitising their hands and following all instructions from security.” Brendan posted on his Instagram stating that he was extremely sorry for any offense caused and him and his team really tried to make the store launch as safe as possible for everyone involved. A spokesperson for CastleCourt shopping centre said: “We thoroughly examined BPerfects event management plans and were satisfied with the measures outlined and the focused approach taken to address public health guidelines and to promote safety advice at all times”.

The BPerfect brand had to apologise to their fans. You could argue that it is not their fault as fans chose to attend the event having received the appropriate advice and knowing the safety measures in place. On the other hand, you could argue that their timing was off. Should a successful brand like BPerfect with hundreds of thousands of followers launch their first store knowing it will attract a large crowd in the middle of a pandemic?

The BPerfect launch is the perfect example of how something so exciting and ground-breaking for a brand can very quickly be torn to shreds by the media in the space of 24 hours.  I feel this was a PR nightmare because it happened during a global pandemic when the emphasis is on personal safety and social distancing. The brand cannot undo the damage but can demonstrate how they have learnt from it. I personally feel that despite the publicity drive for this launch and  given the unprecedented times we are living in, they  could not possibly predict the outcome, that hundreds would attend or even be interested in all things beauty related when social events  everywhere have been cancelled. While I’m confident the brand will recover, there is no doubt that their next move will have to be an outstanding PR success.

Tara Hamill is a final year student at Ulster University studying Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on Linkedin: @TaraHamill and Instagram: @TaraHamill.

How To Market the C-Word

If there’s anything I love more than a salted chilli chicken snack box, it’s a good old piece of reactive marketing.

Brands use reactive marketing as a way of engaging their audience with spur of the moment content and advertisements responding to real-time events, news, topics, TV shows, hashtags and threads. It’s a way to appear relevant, relatable and humorous. Although generally successful in getting people talking and your brand noticed, it’s a tricky business in terms of having a limited time to create the content before its irrelevant, and the risk of offending the generation of snowflakes, whom I refuse to identify with. The fallout from a bad piece of reactive marketing can cause a lot of damage to a brand’s reputation and often they would have been better of just remaining silent… but that’s no craic. We all love a bit of controversy.

It’s no shock that the only real-time event that most brands are responding to right now is COVID-19. As the pandemic, unfortunately, continues to spread brands are thinking of creative ways to encourage us to partake in social distancing, stay indoors and wash our hands, MORE OFTEN! Please don’t tell me you ever ever ever need to be reminded to wash your hands, you detty pig. Here are a few of my faves.

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Netflix #YouShouldveStayedAtHome

A reactive marketing masterpiece if you ask me. I found this piece as I was scrolling through twitter a few weeks ago and it was a breath of fresh air amongst upsetting coronavirus updates, pessimistic tweets *unfollow* and reminders that there are still people who think it’s okay to bounce around households and see their friends. Did ye not hear what Boris said.

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The campaign had the aim to encourage people to stay at home by creating Billboards and Adshels with spoilers from Netflix shows including Money Heist, Love is Blind and Stranger Things with the tag line “You Should’ve Stayed at Home.” I was disappointed to see that it wasn’t actually real and was actually an idea by a duo from an advertising school in Miami who created the concept as a marketing suggestion for Netflix. I did see some comments where people were infuriated at the thought of seeing a spoiler for their favourite Netflix show when they were on their way to essential work or to get essential supplies. Which is a fair point. But how amazing if those who are not following guidelines, acting like they are above the law and are single handily decreasing the chances of us seeing our loved ones, or having pints with our mates anytime soon had their favourite binge of the moment ruined. Karma. SPOILER ALERT: if you have a life and didn’t binge Love is Blind in 3 days please look away now.

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Guinness #StayAtHome

Copywriter Luke O’Reillys created this piece of advertising as part of a One Minute brief challenge and Guinness loved it. They’ve fully credited the creator Luke and have used it as their way of encouraging people to stay at home during this time. I love the simplicity of it. Guinness also created a pretty emotional video in light of St. Patrick’s celebrations being cancelled across the world. Anyone else still pure devastated about this btw?

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The Guinness team collected clips of Guinness and St. Patricks day celebrations over the years and told us all that although we can’t celebrate together this year, we must stick together during this pretty tough time and, “Don’t worry, we’ll march again.” How emotional. I don’t even drink Guinness but I want a Guinness.

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Coke and McDonald’s response to the pandemic was spacing out their lettering to encourage social distances, whilst Burger King rejigged their tagline “home of the whopper.” to “Stay home.”

Contrary to popular belief there are other things we can talk about aside the Coronavirus. Can someone remind my Mum of this, please? So here are just a few honourable mentions I want to include from some of my favourite reactive marketing of all time.

#Sainsbey

When Beyonce dropped her latest Ivy Park collection we couldn’t help but die at the fact we could all go to a fancy dress party as a Sainsbury employee if we bought this particular piece. The memes came in almost instantly and soon went viral with the hashtag #SainsBey. Later that day Sainsbury were absolute legends in the field of reactive marketing and came out with this. Bravo Sainsbury.

It’s……….Innocent Smoothies

Coolen Rooney’s outstanding piece of cryptic literature in 2019 is the best thing I’ve read since the Great Gatsby. The suspense throughout had my heart in my mouth. I still can’t believe It’s……….Rebekah Vardy’s account. The dispute took the Twittersphere by storm and if any brand had any wits about them they would have taken every opportunity to use it for some quality reactive marketing. And Innocent Smoothie was soon to score with their newest “bolt from blue” drink saying it was “THE ONLY THING JUICIER THAN COLEEN V REBEKAH.” Must be pretty damn juicy.

“I’ve had te go te Burger King.”

Remember in 2018 when KFC ran out of Chicken and it was the WORST THING THAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN and people were literally claiming it to be a national emergency. We really didn’t know what 2020 had in store, did we? Anyway, I have the utmost respect for KFC staying cool, calm and collected and rejigging their branding to read FCK. Reassuring to know even Colonel Sanders fcks up sometimes.

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So they’re just a few of my favourite reactive marketing campaigns over the past year or so. Over the past month, I have loved seeing the biggest brands ditch their product placements and USP ploys and simply encourage us to stick together and beat this virus.

Stay safe & healthy everyone and whilst the NHS work endlessly to protect us (ye legends) please protect them by staying at home.

Catherine Maguire is a final year year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire