Activism or Opportunism?

Identifying and avoiding performative activism in PR.

In an age where taking no stance is a stance in and of itself, how can companies show that they’re worth our time and money without alienating publics?

Short answer: they can’t.

An organisation can post a black tile on Instagram, but that has no meaning if employees come forward to speak about their experiences of racism in the workplace, or if their social media showed no hint of anti-racism before the death of George Floyd and the growth of the already prevalent Black Lives Matter movement.

Activism from brands can be met with a great deal of cynicism – are they ‘virtue signalling’ to seem engaged with and acceptable to their audience, motivated only by profit? Or are they truly trying to be responsible and beneficial? So how do we tell when a company isn’t driven by profit; what makes activism by brands truly legitimate?

Ben and Jerry’s are known for their input on global issues, and have been for decades. They have shown their support vocally for equal marriage, nature conservation, criminal justice reform, protecting refugees, and most recently, BLM. I’ve often picked the wildly priced Ben and Jerry’s over Tesco’s own brand, feeling like my Phish Food or Karamel Sutra was putting a little bit of good out into the world.

However, it’s not all sweet and creamy stuff from B&J, who support Israeli occupation of Palestine, having sold their ice cream in illegal settlements. Further to this, their parent company Unilever, who put profit before the environment, is known to test on animals, and made headlines in February 2019 for hiring private ‘S.W.A.T.’ companies to violently suppress workers who were striking over working conditions in Durban, South Africa.

Interestingly, overall public perception of Ben and Jerry’s has been largely positive. This brand being ‘in it for the long haul’ – making activism the forefront of their marketing campaigns over a prolonged period of time has made them favourable and stand-alone in the ice cream market. I’m sure very few of us have a clue what Häagen-Dazs, Magnum or Carte D’Or’s’ mission statements are, or where they stand on points of contention. That fancy ice-cream is just fancy ice-cream, it’s not kind fancy ice cream.

It’s because of this that despite contentious matters being just that, brands like Nike have shown that taking a strong stance can be beneficial for sales. Although some people flocked to Twitter to post themselves burning Nike gear – which they’d already paid for anyway – Nike sales surged 31% in the days following the Kaepernick ad (Edison Trends).

Closer to home, Timpsons showed effective action that takes corporate social responsibility directly to the community it serves. Also known for hiring ex-offenders and ensuring employees received 100% pay over the lockdown period, they gained praise on Twitter following a drive to clean interview clothing for the unemployed.

This action caught people’s attention because it’s genuine, visible action that had a direct effect on real people. Nothing is more frustrating from an organisation than false

It is only when we understand how brands are perceived in this regard that we can perform responsibly as public relations practitioners. When working on campaigns or content, it is important now more than ever to consider ethical implications and responsibilities from concept to completion.

Whether they like it or not, brands have an impact on the world around us, from the cultures experienced by their employees, to the content they share on social media. As we experience the Covid-19 pandemic,now more than ever people are shopping online with a bit more free time and a lot more boredom. This frees up consumers to research brands before buying from them.

Boohoo? No thanks, they treat their workers like hell. L’Oreal? Not for me, they fired Munroe Bergdorf after she spoke up about an activist being murdered by a white supremacist…then posted a black tile on their Instagram feed on Blackout Tuesday. Not a good look. Amazon? Don’t get me started.

Perhaps the most ridiculous blunder recently has been by the fashion brand Oh Polly. They set up an entirely separate Instagram account called ‘Oh Polly Inclusive’ where they used plus sized models and models of colour, while their main Instagram account kept their usual skinny white models. Missing the point of inclusivity to such a degree that they implement exclusivity is almost comical. Almost. It only takes a quick Google search to find the Oh Polly LinkedIn, revealing – to absolutely no one’s surprise – that their CEO, director, heads of PR, marketing, digital media and content, and HR staff are all white.

Insane oversights like this are far more likely to happen when the most influential people in organisations are homogenous. When a company speaks out about equality, rights, diversity or injustice, no matter how well-meaning, consumers are much more likely to become interested in the ethics of this company. What percentage of the ‘higher-ups’ are BAME, LGBT+, female, or disabled? How do they treat their employees? Do they source their goods sustainably? If these areas are lacking, is there a clear, measurable plan to change? If they apologise, do they do so sincerely?

Brands walk a balance beam, performing well when they are transparent and responsible, but risk falling when they put more emphasis on themselves than on the issue at hand. If your brand activism is insincere or opportunistic, people will be able to tell. In tackling this, we must ask ourselves: are we adding value to the conversation, are we amplifying what needs to be heard, or are we taking away from the issue?

Making a clear link between a brand and the ‘right’ side of an ethical issue wins over consumers who, would rather give their money to a brand that aligns with their beliefs. The modern consumer is saying: no more excuses, no more fakery, no more lies. Transparency and accountability only. And while not all consumers have this state of mind, those that do feel passionately enough and will shout loudly enough that damage to a brand’s reputation can spread far beyond those who are immediately interested.

This might lead us to ask: what’s the point? Why bother to try if there’s always something more or something different to be done?

It would be easy to see the tension, turmoil and tip-toeing around brand activism and think “no thanks, I’m out” and remain neutral. It seems impossible to get it right, but brands don’t exist in a happy vacuum , void of ‘real world’ issues. Every company has an effect on the world around us, and a responsibility to its employees, stakeholders and customers. Trends are showing that consumers care more year on year about the power and influence held by organisations, and have an expectation of what they should do with it.

While it is a difficult field to navigate, previous examples show that as long as brand activism is well-informed, authentic, meaningful and backed by action, it will avoid being dismissed as performative.

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

How a number of global brands and small business’ have used the pandemic to their advantage

How a number of global brands and small business’ have used the pandemic to their advantage

When COVID-19 transmission started to spread from country to country, from the big cities to the small country towns and from household to household, with it came a big question mark over the economy for the rest of 2020. The economy took an immediate hit in March, with thousands of people furloughed and let go from their jobs permanently. 

It’s complicated when looking at the effect localised and national lockdowns have had on small and large business’. Some have thrived while others have fallen, with many unsure about the future for their company and others about their employment. However, a small few have either been lucky such as toilet roll companies and the pharmaceutical industry, while others have used the pandemic to their advantage, whether it be making face masks from home or tradesmen substituting fitting windows with fitting perspex screens in retail stores. 

When the majority of normal life and day to day activities were moved to the home back in March, people found themselves living a new reality. Streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Spotify and Apple Music all seen an increase in memberships and downloads. Millions of students across the world were sent home from school, while others who were furloughed or even working from home had a lot more spare time. This also lead to an increase in home renovations and many attending to much needed DIY around their homes, that would have got the ‘I’ll do it when i have time’ remark. The majority of hardware stores stayed open throughout lockdowns and saw an increase in sales in things such as paint, wood, toolkits and fixtures and fittings. People now working from home wanted a pleasant experience, splashing out to make their new home office as comfortable as possible, noticing now more than ever what they did or didn’t like about their surroundings at home. 

Ikea’s ‘stay at home’ catalogue cover

Online shopping retailers such as ASOS seen a rise in sales since the start of the year, with their profits having quadrupled. Others such as Next seen their website crash multiple times, due to such a high volume of customers shopping at the same time. E-Commerce sales doubled for Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of items were being shipped daily all across the world, even leading to Amazon falling behind on their next day delivery promise for paying prime members. Despite Amazons success during the pandemic, seller experience worsened as they were still being charged the monthly fee to sell but not all items were being accepted into warehouses.  

Many global brands also used COVID-19 to their advantage in their marketing and advertising. Brands such as Uber, Dominoes, Guiness and Burger King all produced ‘COVID themed adds’ entered around quarantining and social distancing. Apple created a reassuring add, encouraging and reminding people they can still be creative through the pandemic. You can watch the moving add here, https://youtu.be/Kl1NW7h7lrY

When we look at the economic effect COVID-19 has had locally, it has been damaging to many peoples livelihoods. Pubs and Restaurants were closed for nearly 4 months many not able to accommodate take-away. Small independent retail shops were left with no source of income, with just a small grant from the Government. The UK launched a ‘Eat out to Help out’ scheme, in which customers got 50% off food Monday- Wednesday in participating restaurants. Many restaurants and cafes reported being busier than they had been in years, with tables booked up from opening to closing. The Government however then making a U-turn in Northern Ireland in October, deciding to move all food and drink back to take away only. There was a also a big push across local communities and online, showing the importance of shopping local. Many consumers opted for shopping at their local fruit shop or butchers instead of the large supermarkets. 

Quarantine also give people the time to put the extra bit of time and effort into that business idea that they have had or turn their hobby into one. Home- bakers started to sell and ship goodies nationwide and people started clearing out closets to sell clothes and bits and bobs on depop. Business ideas were perfected, and it also give people time to put effort and concentration to their online marketing and learn more about social media and how to use it to their advantage. 

As mentioned before, those able to use a sewing machine were able to make masks by the dozen and advertise, sell and ship all from their home. Local gin distillers, used the opportunity to produce hand sanitiser in the masses, to accommodate neighbouring business’.

Despite the economy taking an overall hit due to this pandemic, it is reassuring to know that there are local people out there who have used this time to better their ideas, their business’ and their lives, all while hopefully making that bit of extra cash! 

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

2020 – A Year for PR to Shine. Here’s my favourites

2020 – A Year for PR to Shine. Here’s my favourites

This year there has been so much loss, hardship, and struggle. We have witnessed the world go into lockdown, the loss of so many lives and the struggle of our healthcare systems around the world – it’s now normal to wear masks and stay two metres away from each other, to have no idea what the future holds. Nobody expected this, least, not businesses.

The uncertainty has been crippling, however, on so many occasions I couldn’t help but be inspired by how the world has reacted and reminded why I picked a career in the marketing/PR industry.  

Businesses all around the world have adapted to the most challenging circumstances with excellence. I truly believe that anyone who has experienced this pandemic will never think the same way again. In many ways, I feel privileged to have been exposed to such innovation, creativity and resilience this year, at a time in my life where I will soon be a young professional challenged to think of new ideas and ways of working. I also feel lucky to have spent six months of my placement year working from home during a pandemic, as it taught me more than 12 months in the office ever could have.  

Now, don’t get me wrong I didn’t love going into a lockdown shortly after my 21st birthday, missing a holiday with my friends or doing my final year of University online, with absolutely NO parties to see off my student days.

BUT

COVID-19 has taught me a lot, personally and professionally.

Here’s a roundup of my favourite examples of reactive and creative COVID-19 PR:

  1. Guinness

Simple yet effective. Guinness replaced the foam on top of the pint with a sofa, driving home the seriousness of the message whilst bringing a smile to people

2. KFC

KFC, the fast-food chain famous for its fried chicken and provocative marketing communications dropped the Finger Lickin’ Good from the well-known slogan to encourage people not to touch their face and align with the public health message. They also ran a competition, challenging its customers to make their own fried chicken and kept a scoreboard.

3. Netflix

Referred to as “Notflix” ads, Netflix encouraged people to stay home by using Out-of-home advertising to display spoilers of different shows featured on Netflix. Brilliant!

4. Nike

When I first saw this message it gave me goosebumps, Nike put a twist on its usual aspirational messaging to encourage people not to venture outside and suggesting those who stay at home are like sporting heroes. This is such a strong message as it reminds us we are playing for something bigger than just ourselves, we are all a team playing for eachother to keep people safe.

5.) Emily Crisps

Many brands who had already booked outdoor space during the lockdown took a creative approach. I loved this!

6.) Ikea

It might just be the easiest set of IKEA directions you will ever come across! Instructions to stay at home – all you need is a key, a lock and 100 rolls of toilet paper.

  • McDonalds and Volkswagen

Like many others, McDonalds and Volkswagen adopted their well known logos to encourage social distancing

  • Gymshark

With Gyms closed, Gymshark dropped the Gym from their name and replaced it with ‘Home’. This was an incredibly effective message from a brand who has a majority following of young people. Great move!

Crisis communication is challenging, and the rewards for getting it right are huge and the consequences of getting it wrong are just as big.  During COVID-19, good PR has been vital to brands, to continue communicating effectively, businesses must always remember:

  • Keep your message simple and human-centred
  • Take advantage of higher levels of engagement on Social Media
  • React Fast
  • Be genuine – how can you help?
  • Sometimes giving back can grow your business.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Words to live by? I think so.

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

COVID-19. Which brands got it right?

COVID-19. Which brands got it right?

Whilst we are all too aware of the havoc that COVID-19 has caused, it literally cancelled EVERYTHING, but we’re nearly 10 months in and we’ve just adjusted to our new normal, but are we all aware of the brands coming out on top on this pandemic, the brands that are emerging as leaders coming through with strong and effective marketing messages?  

PR and Communications through Coronavirus back in March was tough, the world had just basically stopped, for businesses? …this time Google didn’t have the answers! Did consumers want to hear their favourite brands talk about that dreaded C-word?

Interestingly enough, only 30% of consumers voted that they didn’t want to hear their favourite brands talk about Coronavirus, whilst 75% of consumers voted that brands should address COVID-19 and send out socially responsible messages.

While consumers still expected brands to advertise during this time, it was important for brands content to strike the right tone, to go hand in hand with the current mood and emotional needs of its consumer. Brands response to the almighty challenge posed by COVID-19 meant that many planned campaigns were replaced. Replaced with messages of solidarity, empathy and commitment to stick by their people, now was the time to put their core values into practice.

Guinness, being one of the first brands to address the Virus ran a St Patricks Day message pledging $500,000 to help those affected by the pandemic, which elicited a strong positive response from its consumers. The message Guinness wanted to get across in its video was that we’re all pretty tough when we stick together, and that everyone should raise a glass to that because ‘we’ll March again!’ … This powerful video really hit home, and stuck a cord with its viewers, with its uplifting themes of unity and resilience. Well done Guinness, an emerging leader in times of crisis.

Coca Cola emerged in the early days of COVID-19 crisis too, by urging the world to respect social distancing, with their clear message ‘Staying apart is the best way to stay united’ Drawing on the emotions of their audiences in an attempt to get them to act, this message from Coca Cola was displayed in Times Square in NYC. Coca Cola was savvy in their message of trying to urge publics to social distance by having their normally tightly connected logo spaced out, in an attempt to draw attention to the importance of social distancing. Did consumers react well to this attempt to educate from Coca Cola? Some were critical of Coca Cola’s efforts as they ran the AD before they announced any response efforts.

In times of crisis, is humour a good tool to use to get messages across to your audiences? … Nandos thought so, but it’s sure to grab more attention when it’s a dig at a competitor too! This tweet the company sent out on March 18th just after competitor KFC had to pause their advertising for ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ Having received 163 complaints because of hygiene standards, KFC announced they were pausing the use of the ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ slogan … after all is promoting your product as ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ in a global pandemic going to work when the world was frantically washing their hands in a bid to rid the ‘Rona’?

Nike, was another global brand striking the balance with its response to COVID-19 yet keeping in line with its brands purpose. A master in its trade of ‘Emotional Marketing’, Nike with its theme of eliciting emotion from its consumers with themes of determination, inspiration and performance created a campaign ‘Play for the World’. This carefully crafted campaign was to reinforce the message that we were all in this together, but we all ‘must do our bit, and play for the world’ as well as to unite us all in our ‘new normal’

The campaign latest ad ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ with images and video footage of their consumers working out in homes, with a few famous faces thrown in such as basketball star LeBron James, the message was to reinforce the sense that we are all in this together. The campaign message was particularly clever from Nike, as it still highlights their brands core purpose; to inspire consumers … even in the midst of a global pandemic!

Google was another global brand, who took immediate action whilst the rest of the world was trying to come to terms with what was going on in the world. The rapid action Google took was to ban all ad’s that mentioned Coronavirus, in a bid to curb profiteering of the back of COVID-19 also with spreading any false information. Instead, it focused heavily on providing its consumers with the most accurate and up to date information about anything COVID-19 related.

So whilst COVID-19 has thrown the world into disarray, several brands have successfully pivoted their PR and Comms strategies to avoid appearing insensitive to the current world we find ourselves in, but this is our ‘New Norm’ for now so we must keep going. As Guinness rightly states  … ‘We’ll March Again’

Alanna Slane is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations studentat Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn

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/