How Brands Are Supporting Us During the Coronavirus Outbreak

As we’ve all seen in the last few weeks Covid-19 has caused disruption to our livelihoods, communities and businesses all around the world. However, I’ve noticed, particularly from social media that many brands and corporations are using their creativity and their social power to spread important Coronavirus health messages such as social distancing. 

Below are just a few of the brands and corporations who are doing their part to try and tackle the pandemic and keep our communities save.  

  1. Unilever promises €100 million to tackle the virus

 

Unilever – a consumer goods manufacturer of brands such as Dove, Lifebuoy and Sure, as well as being the world’s largest soap company have recognised their moral responsibility to help people around the world who are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Unilever have recently announced that are working to make soap more readily available across the globe as demand surges. They revealed their commitment to adapting their current manufacturing lines to produce sanitisers for hospitals, schools and other institutional settings while also providing many communities with free soap, sanitiser and food valuing a total of €100 million!

We all understand the importance of washing our hands and medical authorities have made it pretty clear that washing our hands will help prevent the spread of infection, and because there’s no vaccine yet, soap remains our most trusted line of defence. As a result, Unilever have decided to teach people the most effective way to wash their hands in a hope to protect lives, families and communities.



 

 

 

The corporation are also making early payments to their most vulnerable small and medium sized suppliers, to help with any financial challenges they face at this time. Employees will also be protected from any drops in pay because of market disruption or because they simply can’t perform their job for a 3-month period.

2. Guinness reveals fund of €1.5 million to help bar staff and the elderly

With pubs closed across the island of Ireland and people consequently left out of work, Guinness has decided to provide a whooping €1.2 million to bar staff to give a helping hand to those who usually pour ‘the black stuff.’

The remaining €300,000 will be used to support elderly citizens during the current health crisis. This will be accomplished by partnering up with Alone, a charity which helps the elderly deal with loneliness, ill health and poverty to name just a few. In a time of such uncertainty, Guinness has really recognised that vulnerable communities require heightened support, and therefore they’ve shown that they’re committed to playing their part.

Also, on the run up to St. Patrick’s Day Guinness acknowledged that this year it would be a little different (which is was). No parades, no bars and no pubs. However, Guinness managed to lift our spirits and highlight what was required from all of us at such an unsettling and disheartening time.

We know that St. Patrick’s Day feels different this year. But we’ve been around for 260 years and learned over time that we’re pretty tough when we stick together. However you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, stay safe and be good to one another,” Guinness said.

3. Supermarkets provide special shopping hours for the elderly and NHS Workers plus additional measures to encourage social distancing

 

 

 

 

 

As consumers continued to ignore every supermarket’s plea to stop panic-buying many stores quickly stepped up to help make sure everyone got an equal share of the necessities. UK supermarkets (all of the above) decided to dedicate specific opening hours to vulnerable consumers like the elderly, NHS staff and social care workers all of which found themselves walking into supermarkets full of empty shelves. These hours involve opening early or dedicating the first hour of trading to those specific people. Many supermarkets have removed multi-buy promotions as well as introducing shopping limits of 3 items on every product line! I know what you’re thinking. Does this include toilet roll? And the answer is YES!

 

 

 

 

 

Sainsbury’s have announced that consumers over the age of 70 and those with a disability will be prioritised regarding their online delivery slots. While 120 Marks & Spencer franchises are committed to no delivery fees.

All of the above are great measures but you might be wondering what these retail giants are doing around social distancing? Well, Sainsburys and Aldi are encouraging people to avoid using cash and to make use of contactless card payments and Apple Pay as well as asking everyone to remain at least 2 meters apart. Tesco have made use of floor markings within their store and in car parks to ensure we can stay separate from each other. They have also installed protected screens at checkouts to help protect customers and staff.

Our UK supermarkets are doing all they can in order to keep us, and our families safe ensuring we all have the essentials we need. For food and other household items to remain in good supply we must respect these measures and help supermarkets to deal with such a crisis. Afterall they are doing all of this for us!

4. ASOS encouraging us to stay at home & Reebok keeping us stay healthy while we’re here

ASOS has encouraged us to stay at home by providing a list of activities we can do to keep ourselves entertained. ASOS have really paid attention to their target audience by focusing on activities that are all likely to appeal to millennials which they’ve done this using some gentle humour. 

Getting our 60 minutes of exercise each day is hard enough never mind when we’re faced with a pandemic like Covid-19. Fear not, because Reebok has got us covered when we’re trying to stay physically and mentally healthy. Working out may be difficult when we’re stuck inside however, Reebok has decided to create customised workouts we can easily do at home with the equipment we have. This has taken personalisation is the next level if you ask me. Check out their tweet below.

 

 

 

5. Some iconic logos staying relevant and encouraging social distancing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These logos are some of the world’s most powerful and influential brands, all of which have redesigned their logos to better communicate the current message of social distancing. All of the logo readjustments are positive images highlighting how everyone around the world must play their part to help fight against the pandemic. All of these images are communicating the same message, but it feels a little more light-hearted and authentic in comparison to the traditional media. I feel this is a great way to create a global sense of unity and to reinforce that a global effort is needed to practice all the relevant measures to combat Covid-19.

All of the brands mentioned above are examples of positive brand communication and each have shown us how they are using their power to help us during a global crisis. The next few days, weeks and months are going to be difficult, but everyone has to be willing to do their bit and each of these brands show how they’re doing theirs. They are making good of a bad situation and I believe that these are the ones that will benefit the most once this pandemic comes to an end.

Alice Byrne is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Linkedin: Alice Byrne and Twitter: @alice_byrne

#CancelCulture: Should brands be able to bounce back from a PR scandal?

Cancel culture is a term that was virtually unheard of just years ago but now is a prominent feature of the digital age. So what exactly is cancel culture? It can be described as an environment that facilitates a form of public shaming, usually occurring on the Internet, where a person or an organisation is denounced for perceived misconduct. Every week, seemingly a new person or organisation is ‘cancelled’, from celebrities whose transgressions have come to light (think Kevin Spacey) to brands who have alienated or offended their customers (remember that controversial Pepsi ad?).

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The rise of social media has changed how brands interact with their publics forever, consumers can now share their positive and negative experiences in real-time at the click of a button. It is now common practice for companies to engage with influencer marketing in order to build up an increased presence online or to increase sales. Conversely, it can be difficult territory to navigate as a negative review or comment from one of these influencers can cause shockwaves for a brand. The crisis communications and reputation management aspects of public relations are therefore of increasing importance and brands need to have a firm strategy in place to rebuild trust with their customers. When a crisis hits and a brand is unwilling to acknowledge or apologise for their fault, it raises the question if brands can or should be able to resurge after a PR disaster.

When influencer marketing goes wrong: DOTE and their representation crisis

One brand that tried to utilise the power of influencer marketing had a huge PR scandal during the Summer. DOTE is a shopping app that primarily focuses on the Generation Z audience. To target this section of the demographic, DOTE created a community of influencers from Youtube and Instagram that were referred to as ‘dote girls’. These dote girls were sent on sponsored brand trips to promote their clothing and the lifestyle that DOTE was trying to sell. Two of these trips, one to Fiji and the other to Coachella, had huge fall-out and resulted in a PR disaster. It emerged that during these trips that the influencers of colour were treated differently from the other dote girls. Specifically, on the Coachella trip, DOTE segregated the group and placed the white Youtubers in the more luxurious section of the house whereas the people of colour had to sleep on couches at the opposite end of the accommodation. They were also not photographed as much as the other girls and didn’t feature as heavily on DOTE’s social media pages.

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What ensued from this was dozens of videos where the girls outlined their negative experience which resulted in thousands upon thousands of comments condemning the brand for their possible racism. How did DOTE rectify the situation and try to rebuild their credibility as a brand? They began to delete photographs on their social media that featured predominately white people and began to feature more people of colour in their posts with the statement ‘this is what dote looks like.’ Many people picked up on this and it further alienated their audiences with YouTubers like Tiffany Ferg commenting on how fabricated the brand now appeared. DOTE  released a statement apologising for their mistake and continue to be more representative of all girls, however, they have lost invaluable partnerships and will be hard-pressed to find an influencer who would now promote them on their channel. Could DOTE as a brand have done anything differently?

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Steps to take in a social media crisis

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Social media is now arguably the most important factor in crisis communications. In this smart-phone era, it is highly likely that a PR disaster will appear as a result of a blunder on social media or at the very least will be discussed in-depth online.  As the above infographic outlines, it is vital for brands to continually monitor the tone of discussion online. Only in this way can they be prepared when a social media storm hits. It is also important for companies not to be overly defensive and instead take criticism on board so that consumers can genuinely feel that their feedback may be able to make a difference.

As the DOTE scandal illustrates, one badly handled PR crisis can tarnish a brand’s reputation exponentially. What once was a thriving social-media focused company with a plethora of followers has greatly plummeted, this may be as a result of ignoring comments focusing on their representation issues in the past.  However, DOTE’s efforts to improve their representation along with their apology, although appearing fake right now,  may genuinely produce positive results as they move forward from this crisis.

Sarah Sweeney is a final year student BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-sweeney-ab6635143/  and Instagram @sarahsween3y

Colour Inclusivity in the beauty industry

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Make-up has been around for 7,000 years, stretching back to ancient Egypt when Cleopatra allegedly used crushed carmine beetles and ants to create the perfect rouge lipstick. For decades the beauty industry has been constantly evolving through producing new products for every inch of your face, discovering new formulas and the creation of new brands. It’s an ever-growing industry that is continuously growing more and more popular than it already was. Within the past 5 years the make-up industry has noticeably boomed and it’s became an even more popular trend that even your boyfriend can’t ignore. With thanks to the digital age I personally believe this increased popularity has been supported by the rapid growth of influencers and make-up artists posting videos on Instagram and YouTube. Influencers are consistently driving sales for brands through sharing reviews on their platforms to loyal followers, who then scramble to purchase all these products and further drive the consumer market in the beauty industry.

The beauty industry is rapidly growing with new brands, resulting in increased competition for the established ones such as, MAC, Nars, Benefit etc. therefore, the need for constantly releasing new innovative products has become more prevalent. It’s not uncommon to see the same make-up brand release a new eyeshadow palette every 5/6 months *cough* Morphe, Huda Beauty, Anastasia BH *cough* however, you can’t blame them as competition is so tough and consumers are always wanting more, especially better quality and a bigger range. In 2019 make-up couldn’t get any bigger, it’s a saturated industry with an endless list of brands to choose from. Majority of them have been around long enough to understand what works and what doesn’t, they’ve tried and tested every formula, they know what packaging works and they have a loyal group of influencers to turn to for positive reviews. Taking all this in mind, I’ve realised there’s one thing brands still aren’t getting right and that’s a colour inclusive foundation range.

To start I know you’re wondering how this even affects me for this to be a topic of discussion. We are sitting in Ireland where the opportunity for a sun tan comes around once every year (If we’re lucky) and my usual foundation purchases don’t extend beyond ‘Porcelain’ or ‘Ivory’, unless I’ve slathered myself in a bottle of dark tan lotion. However, in a time when representation for people of colour and other social issues are still a popular topic of debate, it’s always good to raise awareness and speak out when massive corporate businesses aren’t providing for an entire population; even when it’s something as a minor as make-up. After all, the power of a few voices on social media can make a difference – which I’ll cover later on.

 

The downfall of Tarte Shape Tape

If you’re a make-up lover I’m sure you’ve heard of Tarte’s popular Shape Tape Contour concealer, if you haven’t, well then… HOW?! Throughout 2018 this product was constantly on the lips of every social influencer or beauty guru. It was a much-coveted product with endless positive reviews and Tarte really seemed to have struck lucky with this one. However, this is the starting point for what got people talking about the non-inclusive culture in the beauty industry. Of course, this has been an issue when buying foundation for people of colour for years however, the Tarte controversy blew up for the fact it was 2018 and for a global and experienced brand to miss the mark that badly, showed it was time to talk.

In February 2018, following their Shape Tape concealer success, Tarte released their Shape Tape foundation *cue the eyebrow raises*. To the shock of the beauty community, Tarte announced they were releasing 2 formulas, one for people with dry skin and another for people with oily skin however, the big shock came with the fact there was only a 15 colour shade range and low and behold, only 3 shades for darker skin complexions.

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Tarte’s reveal for their hydrating and matte Shape Tape foundation ranges. Quite white if you ask me?

 

The uproar began and rightfully so, how could a multi-million dollar company founded in 2000 release a foundation in 2018 with a 15 colour shade range. Only 3 shades catered to people of colour (PoC). There was no way this could be excusable, especially when long-standing high-end brands like MAC, Nars and Bobbi Brown have provided extensive shade ranges for years – showing it’s not impossible to produce. blog post 1

Tarte were able to produce two formulas for their foundation but, they couldn’t produce more shades – how does this make sense? As you can see by the swatches, the representation for people of colour was abysmal. It clearly shows lack of care, awareness and attention to their consumer market. Why have they assumed these 3 shades are suitable for all PoC? It truly screams that Tarte had an evident bias towards one target market.

 

 

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Influencer Lustrelux expressing disappointment in Tarte for this missed opportunity for what could’ve been the biggest beauty launch in 2018.

 

Following the backlash on social media from consumers and influencers, Tarte were forced to release a statement. There’s no denying Tarte most likely did feel awful for their failed campaign and release, but we’ll always question whether they genuinely felt sorry for the right reasons. I say this because of their apology –

 

‘We all just got caught up in #shapetapenation and seeing your tweets asking for it… We wanted to get the product out as fast as possible, and we made the decision to move forward before all the shades were ready to go.’

 

My first thoughts that came to mind when I read their apology was, how could a brand evidently state that they favoured the release of their lighter and pale shades to cater to their Caucasian consumers before their PoC consumers? Why must Caucasian consumers receive priority treatment for the sake of satisfying a hype? Was a rushed release for quick profit worth alienating half your consumers? As I said before, we’ll never know whether they were sorry only because of the scrutiny they faced for their mistake. In my eyes this is a mistake that was hard to miss and surely one member of their boardroom alerted their team to this blatant snub.

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Following on from their statement, Tarte pulled their foundation from the market and planned for a re-launch with the complete 50 colour shade range. Unfortunately, the anticipation was never going to reach the initial reaction and people won’t forget. Too little, too late, I guess?

 

Fenty Beauty the example we all need

 The beauty industry was shook when Rihanna announced she was launching her own cosmetics brand in 2017. Little did we know she was about to create the most inclusive and iconic brand in the beauty world. Rihanna was quick to set the standard for what should be expected and provided by beauty creators in this day and age. Her first product was her Fenty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear foundation boasting a 40 colour shade range. Her brand ignited the much needed and long overdue conversation about how important colour inclusivity is and how empowering a brand can be for people of colour.

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My question to raise amongst this amazing feat is, why must it take a proud black woman to begin a conversation on colour inclusivity in the industry and why is she the first to make such a massive impact and set the standard? Yes, brands like MAC have created a wide range before however, in the past few years, new brands are constantly emerging and new products have been made. Consumers want to be able to shop around; not secluded to one brand. Therefore, make-up brands shouldn’t have to wait until a competitor has released an inclusive product to decide to follow suit.

Rihanna continues to do what Tarte initially tried to, as she recently released her Fenty Pro Filt’r Hydrating Foundation in 50 shades. Now offering her product to two different skin types to a multitude of skin tones.fenty beauty hydrating foundation

 

“I wanted to take Pro Filt’r beyond skin tone to serve all skin types. Nothing is more important to me than making sure that everyone feels included.” – Rihanna

 

 

 

It’s great to see the topic of colour inclusivity becoming such a popular topic of discussion in the beauty industry. It’s reassuring to see brands marketing their products with models of all skin tones and pushing for a balanced representation. On top of colour inclusivity, it’s clear that brands are pushing towards a more united front for body positivity and gender inclusivity as well.

A few examples of brands that are joining this movement are…

 

  1. KKW Fragrance

CEO Kim Kardashian has began marketing her products with photographs of women of all different sizes and colours to promote body positivity and the message that no body is the ‘perfect’ shape or size.

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  1. Revlon x Ashley Graham

Plus-size model Ashley Graham landed a make-up collaboration with Revlon where she actively promotes body positivity. We’re so used to seeing more petite models appear in beauty campaigns that we became conditioned to thinking this was the ‘norm’. Revlon have broken this ideal through an empowering and positive role model.

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  1. CoverGirl

CoverGirl made social media influencer James Charles their brand ambassador, promoting gender inclusivity in the beauty industry. This came at a time where men were breaking into the industry and showing, cosmetics has no boundaries.

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I look forward to the upcoming year to see how the beauty industry reacts to these ever-changing movements and the continuous breaking of ‘social norms’. The colour and gender inclusivity movement along with body positivity seems to be in full flow in 2019 however, there’s always room for improvement. The make-up world has a lot of work to do but, as long as strong and powerful women like Rihanna is around, I think we’re in safe hands.

 

Marie-Claire Leung is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – Marie-Claire Leung

Keeping on top of your digital strategy

I’ll start off easy. For many of you who don’t study anything business or marketing related, you may look at the words ‘Digital Strategy’ and freak out. More haunting words that sound like you’re travelling down the wrong path, but once you come to grips with it you can turn your business into an overnight success. Okay, maybe not overnight, but you get what I mean!

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Having a clear understanding of what Digital Strategy is, allows you to start working on building your reputation and stacking up the dollars on a digital scale. ‘Digital strategy’ can be summarised in seven words – “achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies” (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2012). Analysing a straightforward definition like that makes it feel like we’re reading ‘Digital Strategy for Dummies’ and that it could all be so simple, but we still need to consider our hyper-competitive marketplaces to allow us to take control.

So how powerful is a Digital Strategy?

In a recent study ‘Managing Digital Marketing’ by Smart Insights it concluded 46% of brands don’t have a defined digital strategy. Shocking. We’re now in 2018 and almost half of business leaders don’t realise this is how you let your business grow? You need to start making a plan! And fast.

Thankfully we have progressed since the release of the first website and the digital world continues to get more interesting. Your business can now take to the stage in more than just the newspaper, it can feature on social media sites I’m certain you’re familiar with (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), e-mail marketing, classified ads and the easiest way of-mobile marketing. All inside that device you throw into your back pocket-well that’s if you’ve progressed from the Nokia 3310, also known as ‘The Indestructible’.

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Depending on the aspect you want your business to take and the marketing strategy you have in place, ensuring you’re going to reach the target audience you want, your knowledge of the route you want to lead needs to be concise and creative in order for it to work. Websites that are easy to use are key, keeping up with market trends, your performance as a business-how quickly you respond and the manner that you respond in, also promotional messages. Simple actions will have loyal customers rolling in, forming that purchase and re-purchase behaviour. For example-Domino’s daily texts and e-mails with discount codes and saying that they missed me encourages me to scoff those carbs down with no regret. They don’t shy away from the innovative marketing tactics and neither should you. (Which reminds me my Sizzler should be here by now, brb.)

Snapchat recently have integrated a ‘Website link’ feature which allows brands to attach their website in their snaps and direct consumers straight to their website address and browse it without having to close the app. An innovative way to up sell products, especially for smaller businesses who have just started up, increasing their digital presence and opportunity. Hurts my bank balance though.

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Do I need one?

Y-E-S! Having no direction within a business can be an absolute nightmare. And a strategic plan that is not too complicated will allow for the digital objectives that you want to pursue to be achieved. This will allow for a stronger connection with existing customers whilst developing new relationships as a result of adopting use of those digital tools. The start of your plan should be based on a detailed situational analysis. Summarising this as the process by which the company develops a clear understanding of each individual market and then evaluates its significance for the company and for other markets in which the business operates.

Google Analytics is an easily accessible tool can help to monitor these aspects, giving a stronger indication of how your success can measured. They proliferate your awareness of your target audience, improve engagement and interpret the data you need to continue to create this effective digital strategy.

Following PR Smith’s model; SOSTAC allows for a balanced strategic plan and can be used no matter if your business is big or small. Once you have analysed the situation, your objectives come into practice and you want to start engaging with your customers and ensuring their needs are satisfied. The strategy now in this modern technological world would involve getting your advertisements out on social media sites, making yourselves known, zoning in on the areas you want to target and who. With your focused and efficient tactics, the model will allow you to monitor and control, so if problems arise, they can be easily construed and stopped in their tracks before anything too crazy happens.

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What makes it so effective?

Brand identity. Is your presence known? If it’s not then you won’t be remembered in a hurry! You want to make yourself aware on and off the internet bringing brand promise, this needs to be consistent. Kapferer created a brand identity prism that is a good framework for helping you source the answers to questions like; ‘What makes a brand distinguished?’, ‘What is brand equity?’ Kapferer’s (1997) argument that this new model adheres to, is that brand identity is a richer concept to understand and build brands, than just focusing on positioning. Allowing you to determine possible limits for brand development and variation. Then, you’re on the path to success.

See, it’s simpler than you think. Although I do advise that you always plan for the worst as you cannot control every situation or employee that crosses your path. Feedback from customers can be a heart-breaking or a ‘made my day’ experience, reels in opportunities to boost your business, being inspired to improve. As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon says; “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Reputation makes customers.

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Fionnuala Hegarty is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @fionnualaheg,  LinkedIn –Fionnuala Hegarty, and Instagram – fionnualahegarty

Influencers Worthy of a Follow

It’s no secret that social media and PR has become inundated with influencer marketing. With YouTubers and bloggers making more money than most upcoming musicians, artists and actors, this is a sector not to be ignored. In a recent study Influencer Marketing Hub found that the market size of ‘influencer marketing’ in 2018 was said to be worth $4.6 billion and set to rise to $6.5 billion in 2019. Figures more than doubled from 2017, suggesting that this market is likely to keep growing and growing.

In a world full of “famous” people who were made rich through selling charcoal teeth whitening strips or selling their soul on Love Island it’s hard to tell who’s actually genuine and worthy of that follow. Believe me, I watch Love Island as much as the next person but do I think they are the most authentic salespeople? No, probably not. Maybe we should look at some of those influential content creators who’ve spent years of their life building their brand on YouTube, blogging or creating products and deserve a little bit more of our respect?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Influencer Insights 2017-19 Studies

 

While it’s very easy to critique these so-called ‘influencers’, they are beginning to have a direct impact on our lives and if you work in this industry you’re more than likely going to be dealing with them at some point in your career. In 2017, Influencer Insights conducted a survey that found 47% of people turned to social media to research a brand. This is a huge element to consider when deciding what influencers to work with.

In Influencer Insights’ first study in 2017 they likened influencer marketing to word-of-mouth marketing with an updated twist. This is a very interesting outlook which forces us to ask if the novelty of influencers is their ability to relate to their consumer? And will we see this change as the years go on and honest opinions perhaps become less authentic? Only time will tell.

Influencer Insights

So, we should follow those people who drive important conversations, influencers and brands that are transparent with their sponsorships, people who create original content and ultimately those who are morally ethical with their posts (maybe not those promoting detox ‘skinny teas’). As when an influencer aligns their marketing methods with their own key values the brands they’re working with are introduced to a huge, yet targeted, segment of the market. Not only should we, as PR practitioners, choose carefully the people we work with, those people should too choose their brands appropriately and selectively.

Below is a list I’ve compiled of people that have stood out in a saturated but ever-growing industry, as well as their current Insta stats;

@Uhnonee- 131K followers

Oenone is a British personal trainer, influencer, activist, podcaster and blogger. With ‘The Tiny Tank’ as her original Insta handle, she is a ‘tiny’ girl with lots to say. She openly admits being brainwashed by social media in her earlier days and continuously calls out myths being marketed online. Upon listening to her podcast ‘Adulting’ I have learned so much about feminism, socialism and it’s really opened my eyes to the privileges I have in society. Oenone is unique, well-spoken and comes across really genuine, making her channels a must-listen. Glancing quickly at her Instagram page you would think she’s just a normal fitness influencer but if you click onto the posts and read the captions she actually juxtaposes standard bikini posts with lengthy, motivational and often significant captions. She opens conversations and initiates discussions, something hugely important in today’s society.

@SammiMaria- 571K followers

Sustainable fashion is a huge, important topic at the moment and many influencers are starting to raise awareness where they can. Check out Sammi’s video explaining how she is trying to cut down her fashion footprint and also naming brands that do their best to reduce their environmental impact.

I started following Sammi (formerly ‘The Beauty Crush’) about 7 years ago now. Influencers weren’t a ‘thing’ when I first started watching YouTube and from following Sammi’s channel alone I have seen just how much this market has grown. Unlike Tanya Burr, Zoella and Fleur deForce I never really grew out of Sammi’s content. She has been transitional over the years and despite her own worries of not being ‘up-to-date’ with the algorithms, I really think she has done well. Speaking out about her own battles with anxiety, domestic abuse and bulimia she has shared a lot with her millions of followers. Her energy is radiating, she seems truly authentic and her child Indie is one of the cutest on YouTube (If you needed any more reasons to follow!)

@HealthyLittleLifter- 71K followers

For the fitness fanatics out there Aisling is a must-follow.

For some people following tons of fitness influencers may not be beneficial to their mental health, and we should be wary of that. But for people who are looking for that motivation to improve their diet and adopt a healthier lifestyle- follow Dr Aisling Gough. She’s from Belfast and is also a registered doctor with a wide range of knowledge to support her ideas, so I think we can trust her opinion. She posts infograms with truly useful tips, shows you how you can track a Boojum on a ‘diet’ and continuously links new medical studies to better inform her audience. Despite competing in WBFF she hasn’t let this alter her food mentality. This is certainly refreshing and Aisling is a great role model for people who have an interest in health and fitness.

@NellyLondon- 46K followers

Nelly is by no means a ‘larger model’ but she has curves and comes across more ‘real’ than many people on Insta. She was part of Missguided’s #MakeYourMark campaign and regularly speaks out about body confidence, her struggles with eating disorders and her radiating confidence is motivational.

@DrJoshuaWolrich- 137K followers

Joshua recently changed his Insta handle from @Unfattening to his real name. Contrary to the ‘Unfattening’ brand he actually posted nothing about weight loss. He used this trap to get people to his page, conversely trying to encourage an anti-weight loss mindset and bettering people’s attitudes towards foods.

Already a registered NHS doctor and a following that’s growing massively, Joshua is one to watch out for. After being introduced to him on Oenone’s podcast I started following and found his content really refreshing. I’ve already learned so much from his posts and he makes you think about why you call certain foods ‘bad’ or ‘good’. Not only does he correct popular misbeliefs, he also makes you aware of the fake news that circulates the internet in terms of fat loss. In terms of health these myths can be extremely detrimental to young people’s mental health and sometimes even dangerous. This is why accounts like Joshua’s are so important in 2019.

@JBone89- 141K followers

Jordan (or Jordan’s Beautiful Life for blog followers) is a blogger, YouTuber and author who suffered a car accident in 2005, leaving her paralysed from the waist down. She writes about the usual beauty, lifestyle and fashion topics while proving that influencers don’t always have to fit a certain mould. She’s inspiring to read and follow, check out Jordan’s Instagram page here.

@JameelaJamil- 1M followers

I’m sure you’ve already seen the radio presenter and actress’ #IWeigh campaign which already has over 342,000 followers on Instagram in itself. The campaign aims to encourage people to not base their self-worth on the number on a scale, instead weighing up other attributes of your life. Jameela is using her celebrity status coupled with her own overcoming of an eating disorder to call out celebrities and brands which aren’t doing enough. She’s even recently started a change.org campaign to ban celebrities promoting detox teas which you can view here. Definitely worthy of a follow.

@GraceFitUK- 1M followers

If you haven’t heard of Grace you must have been hiding under a rock for the past year as her brand has completely blown up with an Instagram that has just crept over 1 million followers. She’s a seemingly ‘normal’ girl from London who goes to university at Oxford, maintains friendships and has created a hugely successful but also sustainable fitness brand. At only 21 Grace really is one to watch.

From a career perspective Grace produces some really informative content. In a recent YouTube video talking about the ‘influencer’ job role I learned so much information about the career and how brands can work with these people. Not only did she speak about her own methods of gaining sponsorships and commission, she also videoed an hour-long discussion with other female fitness and beauty influencers speaking openly about how much they get paid, how brands can reach out to them and interesting secrets about the industry. From both a consumer and marketing perspective I found these videos really informative, open, honest and definitely worthy of a watch.

So, to conclude, as the number of influencers out there continues to rise make sure that if anyone you follow on Instagram is making you feel a certain way about yourself, is producing incorrect information or even making you feel like you need to buy something… delete them. It’s not worth it. There is a world of content out there on the internet and we should be using this upsurge in social media use to our advantage- challenging our minds, speaking out about things that need to be spoken about and ensuring we lead a path for generations below us. In an industry overcome with successful females we should be supporting those influencers who are making a difference instead of criticising the career as a whole. We can use this career shift to our advantage. As marketers, advertisers and PR professionals we are in charge of who our brands work with so let’s make sure each influencer we work with is a truly worthy role model.

 Source: Influencer Marketing Hub, influencermarketinghub.com

 

Lauren Wilson is a third-year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently undertaking a year’s placement at Belfast City Council. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurennxwilsonn/

The evolution of Barbie: The brains behind the Blonde

The evolution of Barbie: The brains behind the Blonde

Like many young girls, growing up I was a typical ‘Barbie Girl’ (it’s almost impossible not to sing the famous line by Aqua in my head when writing that!). I loved everything pink and I proudly owned an army of Barbies, as well as all necessary accompanying accessories such as: the Barbie Dream House, the Barbie horse and carriage, the Barbie Beach Hut – the list is endless.

To my surprise, I discovered that this year on 9th March, Barbie will be turning 60 years old, with a not a wrinkle in sight. She really does live up to the saying: “Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!”. 

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Ruth and Elliot Handler co-founded Mattel Creations in 1945 and 14 years later in 1959, Ruth Handler created the Barbie doll. However, it’s no surprise that more than one billion Barbie dolls have been sold since she made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York on 9th March 1959. The Economic Times commented that despite fierce competition in the toy industry, 58 million Barbie’s are sold each year in more than 150 countries. In a growing generation of children’s obsession with iPads and tablets, Barbie has cemented herself as a staple toy for children and come a long way since her first model, pictured above.

Despite her years of success, Barbie has found herself under scrutiny for negatively influencing girls and portraying negative body expectations. Since her creation, it has been debated that Barbie is an unrealistic image of what the ‘average’ girl should look like, as well as failing to represent differences in race and colour. There is no need to question whether Barbie’s body shape is unrealistic. Researchers have reminded us that her proportions would occur in less than 1 in 100,000 adult women and that her waist is 20cm smaller than a reference group of anorexic patients. Most shocking of all, research also argues that if Barbie’s measurements resembled an actual woman, she would not be able to menstruate or even hold up her head.

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Mattel claims that the proportions were created for ease of dressing and undressing the doll, not replicating an adult figure. However, there is no such rationale for the very thin representation of Barbie in her TV show, movies, books, and range of online games. In all forms, Barbie represents a completely unattainable figure for adult women; leading parent’s to debate Barbie’s credibility as a role model. Negative connotations of ‘blonde’, ‘bimbo’ and ‘air-head’ also are associated with Barbie. Teen Talk Barbie in 1992 said phrases such as “Math class is tough”, with many arguing that Barbie discouraging young girls from academic ventures.

Now ask yourself this: how can Barbie represent and be relatable to the twenty-first century girl? Since 2000, Mattel have worked to keep the Barbie brand as relevant as ever to represent woman and remain on-trend. Although the typical ‘Barbie’ style consisted of blonde hair, blue eyed dolls, the first black Barbie called Christie was created in 1969, with Mattel showing exclusivity and diversity. The Barbie franchise today represents more than 40 different nationalities.

One campaign in particular that stood out for me in the evolution of Barbie occurred back in 2010 with American PR agency Ketchum West and Mattel. Mattel, along with Ketchum West, harnessed Barbie’s brand power by having the public choose her 126th career, with her past occupations including president and princess. However, over a million people voted for Computer Engineer Barbie in a campaign mixing the public’s love for Barbie with the movement to empower girls. In an inspired touch, the Society of Women Engineers and National Academy of Engineering helped create the doll’s look.

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Michelle Chidoni, VP of global brand communications at Mattel, said the company knew giving consumers a voice and delivering a doll they requested would drive earned media and create a conversation around the lack of women in STEM. “The conversation was extremely positive and underscored the brand’s purpose,” she noted. “When a girl plays with Barbie she imagines everything she can become.”

This campaign broke down the negative stereotypes associated with Barbie, emphasising that Barbie was more than just a fashion doll, but more so a positive role model for young girls. Blonde or brunette, slender or curvy, black or white, princess or president, Barbie is a forever favourite for young girls, and this campaign has helped influence future PR campaigns for Barbie. This includes the most recent campaign, Dream Gap, in 2018 which taught young girls to believe in themselves, and not to buy into sexist gender stereotypes. It also helped to influence the unique range of dolls made for Barbie during International Woman’s Day in 2018, with the release of  15 new dolls which are “role model” dolls crafted in the likeness of real iconic women across the globe, for example Nicola Adams OBE Box Champion from the UK.

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With careers spanning from president to astronaut, Barbie can also add ‘Social Influencer’ to her long list of attributes. In the new era of social media, Barbie has remained on trend by having her voice established across a number of social platforms, allowing her to connect with her new digital fan base. The @BarbieStyle Instagram account has 1.5 million followers and looks more like an Instagram account for a celebrity than a doll. Through the success of this account, back in 2016 Barbie was photographed at an event for Dyson’s new supersonic hairdryer, and posted the picture to Instagram. This was the first sponsored post for Barbie, but with over 51,000 likes, it won’t be her last. This emphasises the dynamic nature of the Barbie brand, which refuses to be limited to the category of simply a toy.

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Barbie also stays connected with fans through her own YouTube channel, with an impressive 5.5. million followers. Her channel includes a ‘vlog’ style series, which is designed to mimic some of our favourite YouTube stars, yet tailored to provide Ted Talk style videos to young girls regarding a number of issues such as: ‘Feeling blue? You’re not alone’ to the importance of having your voice heard.

Barbie has exceeded her previous stereotype, and has paved the way for a generation of new Barbie lovers; it really is no surprise that she’s remained a universal brand for the past six decades. With talks of a live-action Barbie film starring Margot Robbie, there really is no stopping the Barbie brand.

All that’s left to say is: Come on Barbie let’s go party – here’s to the next 60 years!

 

Abigail Foran is a final year BSc in Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @abigailforan ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-foran-755800118/

 

Whats the Quack with Hastings Ducks?

If you have previously stayed in any of the chain of luxury hotels owned by Hastings Hotels Ltd, then you will undoubtedly be familiar with the little smiling rubber duck that waits patiently to greet you on your arrival to your room.

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The duck phenomena first originated in a warehouse of an organization called Bluestep Solutions. This marketing and design agency located in the english countryside of North Hampshire were the founders of this marketing goldmine.  This is where their creative team hit the drawing board to manufacture a renowned mascot for the company and the world-famous Hastings duck was born and waddled its way into the spotlight!

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Julie Hastings the Marketing Director of Hastings Hotels Ltd and daughter of CEO Sir William Hastings said: “We introduced the ducks to our hotels almost 20 years ago and they soon became a part of the family. The ducks have always been in huge demand and guests from around the world spit feathers with excitement every time we launch a new one.” Hastings Hotels continue to maximise this marketing campaign by releasing seasonal and limited edition ducks for guests and duck enthusiasts! Examples including Paddy the duck for St. Patricks day, Christmas ducks and they have even introduced a homage for local sporting star Rory McIlroy – ‘Rory Quackilroy.’

These collector items were successful in distinguishing the hotel aside from competitors specifically regarding the Irish Open Event in 2016 – this duck was very successful due to its high demand and the quirky play on words is what intrigued many guests, especially overseas guests, that found this to be a huge hit and another duck to add to the collection!

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Julie Hastings Tweet: Happy st Patrick’s day from the lucky Hastings Irish duck! (Image of Famous Irish Actor James Nesbitt) 

People love to take the ducks home with them even when they check-out and they are becoming a consistent feature in numerous home bathrooms of regular guests, who have previously posted images of their duck collections on Trip Advisor whilst recommending the hotel for its excellent services, and novelty ducks of course!

With 3 years experience behind me working as a receptionist in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa as well as the world-famous Europa Hotel, I personally believe the rubber ducks are more than a simple complimentary gesture or memorable souvenir for each individual guest; but more so an innovative Public Relations strategy implemented by the company to set them aside from their opponents giving them a competitive edge; as well as establishing a unique selling point which in turn improves brand awareness. The ducks are a globally recognized symbol and a marketing tool used to promote advocacy within the organization.

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It is evident that the Hastings duck serves the company as their fictional mascot that personifies and represents the brand, as they resonate significantly with the hotel guests from all over the world. Even celebrities go quackers over the ducks and throughout the years they have even met hundreds and hundreds of celebrities including: Roger Moore, Lionel Ritchie, Carl Frampton, Conor McGregor, Van Morrison and many more. They have also attended lots of showbiz events; taking the ducks on tour they have even been spotted in global events such as the Fifa World Cup, Wimbledon, and Glastonbury.

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(Image of Carl Frampton and Barry McGuigan with our Famous Friend)

Mother of Quackers –  Hastings Hotels were very excited to unveil the freshly hatched Duck of Thrones that coincided with their launch of the 2018 Game of Thrones Tour series that took place at The Ballygally Castle Hotel which set along the Antrim Coast. This is another strategy the organization employs to showcase their relationship and acknowledgement of local events. The Game of Thrones duck in particular became a huge collectors item for the world-wide fan base of the show, it is no surprise that this limited edition duck became a near necessity for the dedicated supporters of the show.

Hastings Hotels have now galvanised and cemented their spot in the hotel market in being the leading hotel for overseas guests, as a result of our recognizable rubber friends!

Meet the Duck of Thrones - available to our Game of Thrones tour guests at Ballygally Castle

The ducks not only serve as a collectors item but can be viewed as an efficient  marketing tool which can be exploited in numerous of ways. I personally believe Hastings Hotels could go one step further and generate more brand exposure as well as profit maximization by selling the ducks in the hotel gifts shops, and not to mention the added perks of utilizing the ducks in future ad campaigns and social media competitions.  The duck mascot could be implemented in social media networks, and the online presence used as an effective tool for online engagement with consumers, which is a much softer means of selling the product as opposed to blatant self promotional methods with the added effect of creating a rapport with regular and future guests. Generally speaking, the Hastings duck in turn can be an innovative driving force in the Public Relations department of the organization.

 

Celine Russell is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn –  https://www.linkedin.com/in/celine-russell-849ba4171/ ; Twitter –  https://twitter.com/celine_russ; Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/celine.russell.7

 

Controversial Advertising: Stupid or Strategic?

Have you ever seen an ad and thought “who thought that was a good idea?!” And no, I don’t mean those corny ads like something you’d see on The Apprentice. I mean those ones that make you think “who approved that?” or “umm why?”

I’ve always thought the whole “all press is good press” notion was a bit, well, stupid really. I mean, I never really saw how negative publicity and consumer backlash could be a good thing for a business?

 

 

Well, today I saw this NHS ad campaign for breastfeeding on my LinkedIn feed. The only reason that I saw this ad was because a connection of mine shared it and expressed their outrage at the nature of the ad. Then I realised that I probably never would have seen the ad if it wasn’t for them sharing it. I mean, I don’t exactly strive to keep up to date on the goings on of the parenting and baby world (well not yet anyway).

This got me thinking though, what if Eminem was right? *gasps in background* What if we do need a little controversy? These ‘controversial’ ads do get people talking and raise awareness about the brand/product after all. So what if all press really is good press?

 

  • To clarify, I’m not saying “let’s go out and offend everyone in the name of free publicity” (or, “let’s listen to Eminem” – I’m definitely not saying that). I’m simply saying that maybe there is method in the madness. And I’m not talking about ads that violate the principles of the ASA and have to be taken down either.

 

Marketing and advertising teams depend on people talking about products, companies, shows- whatever they’re trying to promote; and what better way to get people talking than to start a good old fashioned debate?

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Take the latest Cancer Research campaign – informing consumers of the link between obesity and cancer. Many people complained, stating that it ‘fat shamed’ individuals and lowered their self-esteem.

This sparked an online debate, with people vouching for both sides, which led to the ad being shared and talked about all over social media.

Think of how many people have now seen the ad. So, think of how people are now aware that obesity contributes to the development of cancer. Do you think an ad showing a microscope and cell would have had the same effect?

Whether or not they agree with the ad is irrelevant; these people still shared the ad with hundreds of people. What is relevant, however, is that the aim of the ad was to educate and inform consumers. Which it has.

Those who were so opposed to the ad, were the ones who actually promoted the campaign. Doing Cancer Research a favour. I mean, if you hate the ad so much, why are you giving the company free advertising space on your social media platforms?

Cancer Research essentially got free advertising and discussion about not only their organisation, but the message they were trying to spread.

 

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In a similar way, Netflix’s show Insatiable got slated online with a large amount of viewers complaining about it. I had never heard of the show, but decided to watch it to ‘see what the fuss was about’; I ended up watching the whole series. If the show hadn’t been featured on the likes of Buzzfeed and social media, I probably would never even have heard of it, let alone watched it.

What people don’t seem to realise is that “hate watching” is still watching. Do you think a series which follows the social norms and is 100% politically correct would have been renewed for a second series? Doubt it.

 

Let’s be real, we’re all (I hope it’s not just me) guilty of being attracted to a wee bit of scandal and  the chance to give our opinions *has flashbacks to whether the dress was white and gold or blue and black* and companies know this – they have to get us talking after all.

(it was white and gold btw- just saying)

 

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Advertisers love pushing boundaries. They have to think outside that clichéd box and come up with new and imaginative ideas for campaigns. If they didn’t push the boundaries, people wouldn’t react; and the whole point of advertising is to get a reaction from consumers. Yes, ideally you want consumers to actually like you, but, it’s a gamble that I guess can pay off. I somehow doubt that Cancer Research will have a tough time weighing up the cons of a few angry people vs the pros of raising awareness and saving lives.

The thing to note is the status of the company being controversial – the NHS can afford to be because, whether or not people agree with the ad, they’re most likely still going to avail of the NHS’s services. I doubt people would rather fork out a few grand for private healthcare than get it for free from a health provider that ran a questionable breastfeeding campaign.

Similarly, do you think consumers are going to ‘boycott’ a cancer research charity because they don’t like their ad? Don’t think so. So, whilst being controversial can be a good thing, it’s important for advertisers to think of the potential consequences of annoying consumers.

Advertisers also need to be aware of the fine line separating ‘controversial’ and just downright offensive. The last thing you want is for the ASA to be on your back, or having to withdraw a campaign you spent a hell of a lot of money on.

 

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Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

So, next time you see an ad and think “what the hell were they thinking?!” Maybe now you know.

Or, maybe they’re not the strategic marketing geniuses we thought they were and it really is just be a poorly thought out ad. Who knows?

 

Niamh Murray is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: @_neeev, Facebook: Niamh Ni Mhuirí and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-murray-4a013a150/

Dunkin’ Drops Donuts

Who says Dunkin’ Donuts anyway?

My name is Gianna, and I am fully aware that we do not have Dunkin’ Donuts in Northern Ireland. But I’m pretty sure that 99% of us know what it is, and I think that’s enough to write about this piece of news.

The fast-food chain announced the news on September 25, 2018, that it would be dropping the ‘Donuts’ from the name for customers to be aware that they sell more than just donuts.

It’s not a surprise that they are dropping the ‘Donuts’. Their slogan is “America runs on Dunkin’” and their logo is a coffee cup. Both aspects of the brand image lack emphasis on the sugary treat; rather it directs the audience’s attention to coffee, which coincidentally is what the company will now focus on in the New Year. A former CFO of Dunkin’ Donuts even stated in 2013 that the company is, in fact, a “beverage company.”

Fear not to those of you who have tried Dunkin’ Donuts, the company will continue to sell those original glazed donuts and other flavours you may have tried when you went to America for your holiday. They merely want to focus on beverages such as iced coffees, cold-brews and teas; a cheaper alternative to the iced salted caramel latte macchiato with two shots of espresso and no foam at Starbucks.

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Though change is coming to the company, the font and brand image will remain the same. With its infamous clashing of colours of orange and pink. This new logo will be rolled out in all the company’s advertising, packaging, social media and website once the New Year begins.

People’s responses are not always the most positive. Everything and everyone has a doubter. Meryl Streep has at least 5 people despising her work, the Pixar movie Up is perhaps not the most loved movie of all time and the new Dunkin’ name will have people associating it with basketball, as a Twitter user suggests. This new name change could spark inspiration to other American fast food chains to change their brand to make it more catchy. The Chinese takeaway Panda Express could change to just Panda and maybe the Instagram-worthy fast-food burgers In-N-Out may drastically change to In/Out.

The social media team at Dunkin’ Donuts have been continually rolling out the new name via Instagram posts. Even though the company does not officially change its name until January 1 2019, bittersweet goodbyes have been already said by the company. Their Instagram bio cleverly states “We’re on a first-name basis with America” and a sentimental post stating “Dunkin’ means donuts. Always has, always will.” Tissue anyone?

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This name changing trend is not unusual when you want to promote more than what the name states. Recently, Weight Watchers also changed its name to “WW” because in our body-positive, love yourself and be comfortable in your own skin era, the company did not want to be associated with the notion of dieting, therefore the emphasis of watching your weight has now been dropped. The marketing stunt of IHOP changing to IHOB was smart, but that is for another story.

Change can be useful for a company and it can also be terrible. But we won’t find out if the outcome of this name change is good or bad until the New Year. I don’t mind the name change, considering that I lived in America for a year. I did notice that not a lot of people said: “Do you want to get Dunkin’ Donuts?”. So when I heard the news about Dunkin’ dropping the Donuts, I thought to myself, Who says Dunkin’ Donuts anyway?”

Now, onto more pressing news; petition to get Dunkin’ Donuts in Northern Ireland?

Gianna Pornasdoro is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gianna-pornasdoro/ 

The PR Diaries: Part I

Fast Fashion & the ‘Material World.’

 

I cannot believe that it has been eight months since my last blog post, time really does fly!  As I embark upon my final year of studying Communication and PR an aspect of life has my creative mind ticking. Not much has changed over the last eight months, in fact I am pretty sure that I still adore Cacti as I outlined in my last blog and I am 100% certain that my love for food, coffee shops and fashion has not changed either (throwing that out there).  I will also just add that my love for Instagram and taking aesthetic photographs still consumes me- shocker.  What has changed the most over the past few months is my outlook in life.  My outlook on how we are guilty of trying to constantly pursue the latest trends, desperately wanting to live a life full of hope and false fantasies.  Now, you may be giving me major eye rolls right now and as cliché as it sounds I genuinely believe that most things happen for good reason. We do openly follow our passions and there is nothing wrong with that. We are all a little guilty of wanting more than what we already have and if you are reading this thinking, hold up.  I do enjoy following trends, then you are not alone.  However, what happens when we place all our focus on only the most attractive and aesthetic aspects? Are you that material girl, living in a material world?

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Fashioning the self

A recent trip to London Fashion Week inspired me to think about the pressures to conform to the latest trends- let’s not forget that both leopard and snake print are dominating the population of Belfast.  So much so we could to create a second Zoo (90% of my wardrobe).  We are each guilty of religiously following others who inspire us or those who we believe to be ‘role models.’  I believe that there is a negative stigma around the material items in life and rightly so.  When we think of material items our minds wonder to Gucci, Prada and investing in luxury fashion brands.  We may even think of our favourite online influencers and how they fashion the latest trends- not to mention the ‘social influencers take on cycling shorts’ wave which left us feeling a little Tour de France/ Bradley Wiggins (Sorry, I had to).

 

Behind the seams of reality

Our Instagram platforms have become a playground for flashing material items.  It almost feels like an online shop, yet we are sucked in by aesthetic travel photographs that surround these gorgeous clothing posts.  For me, this all feels a little wrong.  I am growing tired of the volume of ‘fast fashion’ brands that are so cleverly luring us in.  Only to try on the dress to discover that it works better as a boob tube/ crop top and the material is as thin and see through as clingfilm.  On another side note, I can openly admit that I am a keen consumer of fast fashion. As much as I try to avoid it the student life really does force us to swap luxury for affordable, with little thought about the materials used- here lies the problem.

In this digital era, I believe that there is a greater pressure to showcase our lives on Instagram.  We almost use it as a mirror, reflecting an articulated image of how we wish to be viewed by our followers.  This is not healthy.  When I buy a new item of clothing I appreciate how it looks and feels, not only on the hanger but how it fits my body.  This is the beauty of fashion as it enables us to appreciate colours, prints and textures as a form of visual communication.  Taking Fashion Week as an example, I was in awe of the array of designers showcasing garments that communicated their brand story- this is the value that is important.  Designers invest time and creative effort in developing a brand, which is why following ‘fast fashion’ can defeat the purpose of buying clothing to keep in the long run.  If your closet is anything like mine, I can put my hands up and admit that I am awful for hoarding clothes.   Regardless of how many times I have tried to flog my clothes on Depop- it is a vicious cycle!

 

‘Keep the snakes away, unless they’re Gucci

The truth is that nothing should be ‘fast’ about fashion.  Investing in luxury does not consist of spending all of your pay on expensive designer gear either, nor does it mean flashing these items online.  From a student’s viewpoint, I do not believe that it is realistic for us to splash out on luxury brands, or to try to prove to others that we can afford this kind of ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ lifestyle- we are only kidding ourselves really.  The purpose of this blog post is to prove that life is far too short to worship designer brands and materialistic items (Ok, life is also too short not buy shoes, keep it on the down low).  Think about the long run.  These items will never truly matter to us, they may only influence how we feel at the time of purchase- that feeling is short-lived.  Think about the real bodies in our lives, the ones who invest in us and bring us joy.  People that are relentlessly by your side and will be a lot longer that a bottle of Gucci Perfume.

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Gucci Gang

 

It has become extremely difficult in society to identify the true value in people, especially with online platforms concealing our true selves.  In reality we are crying out for authenticity. All too often we are told to ‘get out there, follow your dreams and afford that fancy car alongside that high-powered job.’  Is it any wonder why students and young adults in their 20s feel obliged to conform to such ideas? The pressure is all too much to afford life’s ‘little luxuries.’  To live in a society that tells us how to ‘work fast and live fast’ is becoming a challenge and I can admit to feeling overwhelmed by how I should live my life. The bottom line is to work hard enough that success becomes your noise but equally to have the time of your life.  How does that saying go? Work hard, play harder.

 

Does my environmental impact look big in this?

Delving deeper into this topic I discovered that ‘fast fashion’ has received a lot of negative media coverage recently.  Our love for fashion is taking its toll on the environment as in the UK alone we are consuming 26.7kg of new clothing per head each year.  It is not only fast fashion brands that are to blame as it is also expected that 3,781 litres of water is used in a full lifetime of a single pair of Levi’s 501 jeans.  This is just a  snapshot of how our fashion consumption is spiralling out of control.  I guess we could say that having something at our disposal only devalues that item, it is all too easy to make an online purchase without adding any genuine value- a theory that applies to a lot of aspects of life.  When something is readily available, we take it for granted.  Investing in statement items that are durable, high quality and affordable is the best method.

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As I draw my fashion ramblings to a close, I want to stress how easy it is for us to feel pressured by clothing brands.  Being lured in by marketing and influencers online has a  negative effect on our mental health.  This concludes why materialistic items will never maintain true value.  Yes, clothes are beautiful, they are powerful but they will always be around for us to purchase.  Ask yourself this, if everything you possessed was striped back, what would we be left with? We may be cold and a little naked, but we would be guaranteed to be surrounded by those we love.  So, sorry Madonna, living in the material world is not all that it would appear to be!

 

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Kathryn Bigger is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – the_fashion_fairypr / Twitter – @KatieB_05 / LinkedIn- Kathryn Bigger.