Greggs Advent Calendar – Genius PR stunt or Risky move?

Greggs Advent Calendar – Genius PR stunt or Risky move?

Greggs recently caused a media frenzy by replacing baby Jesus with a sausage roll in the nativity scene in images to promote their £24 Christmas advent calendar. Each door in the advent calendar reveals festive scenes with a Greggs twist and a voucher to use in store.

This prompted outraged reactions from Christians who did not see the humorous side. See my mum’s reaction below as an example.

 

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Was it smart to replace ‘saviour’ with ‘savoury’ in the nativity scene? You could say the campaign worked well as my mum had previously not heard of Greggs but it got their name out there through increased media coverage. This is an example of how bad publicity can raise awareness of previously unknown brands. However, she is apparently now ‘boycotting Greggs’.

The advertisement was a risky move by Greggs, especially when religion is involved they may end up alienating a lot of customers. Jesus was Jewish, so replacing him with a sausage roll in the manger is inappropriate as Jews do not eat pork, therefore in that sense it is understandable why some may find it offensive. Would other religions, such as Islam be mocked publicly in the same way? Unlikely.

Greggs quickly apologised for the image and said in a statement, “We’re really sorry to have caused any offence, this was never our intention.”

It is often said in PR that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Greggs possibly knew this, as it is likely advisers in the company realised the risk and potential backlash from using this image, especially when religion and Christmas is involved. Could this be the reason why Greggs issued a statement to the backlash so quickly – was it just a planned controversial PR stunt to gain maximum publicity for Greggs?

I personally found the image funny and quite smart, especially for sausage roll lovers! With many of the main media outlets covering the story, there was reports that Greggs had apparently sold out of sausage rolls following the week of publicity it received. (13 November 2017).

On Twitter #greggsnativity trended for two days after the advertisement was released, giving them maximum unpaid-for publicity. This proves that sometimes provoking a reaction can gain maximum publicity for a brand.

The advertisement also made those who saw the funny side, get involved and create hilarious user generated content in the form of memes on the sausage roll, which was again maximising publicity for the brand.

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Considering Greggs released 500 calendars, only available from 17 stores in the UK, means they were limited and in high demand thanks to the publicity received.

 

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Time will tell how the sales went, however considering the increased demand for Greggs sausage rolls on the week it was released from the heavy amount of media coverage they received, shows that bad publicity, isn’t always a bad thing!

Elizabeth Owens is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @eowens12_ or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethowens32/ 

Persuasion at the heart of Christmas

As it is Christmas, I have been brought back to this time last year.

Firstly, a bit of background to what I was actually doing this time last year would help.

Whilst studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing there is a year free to complete work placement. I chose this route within my four years at Ulster University. To cut a long story short, I completed a placement year with Randox Laboratories. This was one of the biggest learning curves I have probably ever experienced. Coupled with worries, stress and a feeling of thinking I wasn’t capable enough, it ended up I was.

(Worrying doesn’t get you anywhere, I promise)

By Christmas time, I eventually came out of my shell and began contributing a lot more than I had been before, merely due to my lack of confidence when starting. To be honest, if I were to give any advice, speak up – sitting worrying what your about to say being wrong is useless, it doesn’t matter. It is much more beneficial to be yourself and act confident, even if your not… (Rich coming from me)

Just before Christmas time in Randox is always very busy with the close of business looming. For most of us we just can’t wait to get everything finished up and enjoy festivities. However, around this time it is essential to make most of the festive fun and incorporate something a little more exciting into your work. Why not!

As many of you may know, Randox is a global market leader in the in vitro diagnostics industry. Within the organisation there are many divisions and I happened to be placed in the RX series. The RX series is a range of clinical chemistry analysers for high quality semi-automated and fully automated testing…what a mouthful I know!

Before starting with Randox I was very unfamiliar with this field but by the end I was dreaming about these analysers in my sleep.

If you would like to know more about Randox, click here.

With this in mind I wanted to try and give the RX series an emotional and persuasive appeal, after all it was Christmas.

Especially around this time of year the public are easily persuaded when purchasing gifts, whether we like it or not! May it be for family, friends or even yourself a little bit of persuasion makes it slightly more justifiable. In this case, I tried to persuade a lab into buying an analyser. I’m sure you are asking how might this work. (I was at this stage too)

 

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What is persuasion?

Some may argue that PR itself is based on persuasion.

Persuasion is associated with influencing behaviours, raising awareness and educating the public. (Messina, 2007)

Adapting this definition to the campaign I completed at Christmas last year, I tried to accomplish just that. See below.

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Day 4

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This campaign was aimed at lab staff being ‘persuaded’ to gift their laboratory this Christmas with an RX altona. To be fair, if I were a scientist, it would be pretty great!

A growing number of studies highlight the necessitous demand for visual imagery when persuading. This can therefore trigger emotion. Whilst basing this campaign on persuasion, incorporating a ‘humorous’ aspect was critical when ‘luring’ the customer in. Simply, analysers are not a fun, tangible piece of equipment (unless you are a scientist and reading this). Therefore practicing theoretical elements of public relations to any type of work can instantaneously result in a more effective outcome.

As Aristotle notes, there are three modes of persuasion; Ethos, Logos and Pathos were at the heart of this Christmas campaign.

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In summary, persuasion is a very effective way of communicating to the public. Especially at Christmas time, I don’t know about you, but I tend to blame all my buying habits on the use of great persuasion. (This doesn’t stop at Christmas unfortunately!)

Lets just hope some laboratories did too.

 

Katy McGuigan is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/katymcguigan1/ and on Twitter @KatyMcGuigan2.

M&S Christmas Advert – PR Genius or PR Blunder?

M&S Christmas Advert – PR Genius or PR Blunder?

Every year, we eagerly await the, much-anticipated, Christmas TV Adverts from our favourite retail giants.  This year was no different, Marks and Spencer were one of the first to release their ad, starring the loved and adored Paddington Bear.  To paint the overall picture for you, the advert shows how Paddington mistakes a burglar for Santa Claus – I know what your thinking, but he isn’t the brightest crayon in the packet!

The story then goes on to show how Paddington helps the ‘burglar, now Santa’, to deliver all the stolen presents.  At the end of the heart warming advert, Paddington, being the kind soul that he is, gives a marmalade sandwich (classic!) to ‘Santa’, who, according to M&S, responds with, “Thank you, little bear”.  The public, however, have claimed that he says something a tad different, something which involves a well known profanity.  Have a listen for yourself!

Not what you would expect in an M&S Christmas advert, now is it?  We’re not the only ones to pick up on this, as soon as the advert aired on television, the public went into a Twitter Frenzy!  Many commenting on how cute the advert was, until they heard the “F BOMB”.

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It even gained coverage on This Morning, as part of Rylan’s gossip segment, with Phil and Holly.  They couldn’t have laughed more if they tried!  It was a highlight of my Wednesday morning.

M&S have supported their “Paddington and the Christmas Visitor” campaign, by selling a cuddly £12 soft toy version of Paddington and a £42 duffel coat. In addition, and a first for M&S, the campaign will involve a charity element, through publishing approximately 200,000 copies of a, limited edition, children’s story book, that tells the tale of Christmas.  M&S have said that they will be donating all proceeds from the £3 book to the NSPCC, in order to help fund it’s Childline service over the festive season – if that’s not heartwarming, then I don’t know what is!

M&S are even hosting a children’s story book reading in selected stores and encouraging their staff to carry out random acts of kindness, such as free marmalade sandwiches in their Café – how cute!

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Although, even with these fab PR tactics, the big question on everyone’s lips is whether the, now famous phrase in the advertising was planned, or if it really was a blooper.

According to the makers of the ad, Grey London, there are no swear words used, the burglar is truly saying “Thank you little bear”.  The company’s Chief Executive, Leo Rayman stated, “Who would think we would allow a small, loveable little bear to be sworn at?  It is for celebrating family generosity and Christmas spirit.  It is supposed to be a moment of kindness.  Of course, we wouldn’t put a swear word in a Christmas TV ad.  It is funny how some people react to Christmas advertising.”

So, unfortunately, it seems we were all fooled this Christmas Season.  However, intended, or unintended, it has drawn A LOT of media attention.  So, it really was a win-win situation for Marks & Sparks, they were going to get PR coverage, no matter what and have, in my opinion, developed a fabulously clever and heartfelt Christmas campaign! 

Bravo Guys!

 

Kimberley O’Hare is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @Kimberley_Ohare and LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberley-o-hare-b3225a153/ 

Premature Jubilation – Does Christmas come too early?

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It happened some time ago, and it was less of a shock to me than it should have been. It was a mild evening on Wednesday 25th October and I saw the first house of the year to be decorated for Christmas. I was just getting used to the horror of people adorning their homes with Halloween decorations, especially ones that spring into life themselves if someone within a mile’s radius walks past.

I cast my mind back to my own childhood – no matter how incessantly my brothers and I begged; our tree was always put up the Sunday before Christmas and not a day earlier. We knew that once the tree went up we could get properly excited for the festive period, as it was just around the corner. I’m not sure we could have handled the excitement for a solid two months!

Nowadays the build-up begins subtly, when menu choices for the greatly anticipated/dreaded work Christmas dinners have to be finalised sometime in mid-August. Not to mention the array of wardrobe choices everyone goes through beforehand… thank goodness ASOS have a free returns policy!

Then the panic about presents starts to creep in. Disney on Ice tickets and the latest fad toy aren’t available for long and they certainly don’t come cheap. It seems some parents would rather increase their credit card limit (and heartrate) than see their little ones go without one of the ninety requests on their Santa List.

The Telegraph has pointed out that the average household spend at Christmas exceeds £800! The only other day that would cost more than that is a wedding day, but the difference being you don’t plan on having a wedding once a year… presumably.

Packages start arriving by the truck load from early November. The familiar look of worry that flashes across the face of the receiver as they open the packaging. What if the unthinkable has happened? They have got the wrong delivery! Even more nerve-wracking is when the delivery possibly won’t arrive on time, because everyone knows that a present that arrives after Christmas is just as bad as not getting a present at all.

It impacts our working lives too. I work as a beauty therapist and December appointments were booked up before I started back into final year. We are even open seven days a week for the month of December (including Christmas Eve) to ensure no one misses out on looking their best for Christmas. Personally, I am of the opinion that it’s our Christmas too and clients should get organised or get lost, but the owner has a slightly different view.

Companies like ‘Park Christmas Savings’ advertise 12 months a year so it isn’t difficult to see why some folks get ‘wrapped up’ thinking about the festive period long before December. Just the other day I overheard one of their adverts recommending a saving programme to ensure ‘the perfect Christmas in 2018.’

We haven’t even had 2017’s Christmas and they are already talking about next year’s! It may be business but it is exhausting.

Then to really round off the festive period, we have Boxing Day sales, just in case we didn’t get enough the day before, we can run out immediately to treat ourselves some more. Or maybe we simply shouldn’t have to wait to return the presents that someone has painstakingly chosen for us.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a scrooge by any means; I enjoy singing along to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ after a few mulled wines and lighting a spiced orange candle as much as the next person. But when did the festivities become so prolonged and etched with pressure and panic?

It’s not realistic to say that Christmas in 2017 should be completely un-commercialised. But it would do no harm to remember that, if we are lucky, it is first and foremost a time to spend with people we love. Even if the day wouldn’t be complete without an argument or two.

But anyway, let me finish by wishing you all a Merry Christmas and in case I don’t see you… Happy 2019!

 

Jenny Craig is a 4th Year BSc in Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-craig-7a85b1113

She’s Making a List, and Checking it Twice: Meghan Markle to Spend Christmas With Royal Family

Breaking a longstanding tradition that came to underscore the strict nature of the royal family, Meghan Markle, the soon-to-be newest addition to the royal family, is having Christmas her way this year. As the fiancée to Prince Harry, Markle wouldn’t normally be extended an invitation to Christmas with the family. Reserved for married individuals only, the royal Christmas is only open to insiders – and of course, Santa.

However, Markle will become the first royal fiancé to celebrate the holiday with them, regardless of what Queen Elizabeth II has to say about it. Buckingham Palace better buckle up for the exuberant and American ride that is coming with charming American actress, Meghan Markle.

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Markle will join the Queen and her family for the congregation morning service at St. Mary Magdalene Church at the private Sandringham estate in Norfolk. Although no one is quite sure how accepting of this decision the Queen is at this time, Prince Harry doesn’t seem to care. The press considers it a signal as to how successfully Markle has been welcomed into the royal family already. As many are saying: it’s a Christmas miracle!

After being a popular bachelor for the majority of his 20s, Prince Harry has finally found love in the enchanting Meghan Markle. The two announced their engagement on November 207, 2017, later appearing in a BBC interview. Markle confirmed she has already met the Queen as well as the other members of the royal family, citing their grace and acceptance to the interviewer. Markle went onto say, “It’s incredible to be able to meet her through his lens, not just with his honor and respect for her as the monarch, but the love that he has for her as his grandmother.”

Markle has been a hot topic in the media lately as she is most notably American. As a mixed-race American divorcée, Markle manages to check-off all of the shocking boxes when it comes to predictability with the royal family. Markle will be the first divorced American to marry into the royal family, and will join Harry’s loved ones from Christmas Eve until UK’s Boxing Day.

Hopefully, Markle won’t be getting any coal in her stocking as the royal family is famously noted for their historic marriage traditions. Despite their reputation, however, their acceptance for Markle to join them at Christmas time does indeed confirm how happy they are to welcome her into the official family this spring.

 

After Christmas, sources have reported that Prince Harry is joining Markle to California, where he will spend the holiday with Markle’s mother and relatives.

The palace will not confirm any other details, including where Markle will stay at this time. It has been suggested that Prince Wililam, 35, and Kate Middleton, 35, will host them at Anmer Hall, which is on the estate and just 2-miles from the main house. Upon arrival, Markle is expected to bring along non-expensive, humble gifts on Christmas Eve, when presents are laid out on long tables.

More excitingly, she will get to watch her fiancée and William play football in the annual charity match, which puts workers at the estate in Norfolk against villagers from nearby Castle Rising. The day after Christmas will see Markle taking part in pheasants shoots, classic traditions that have been with the royal family since the beginning of time.

New Royal Era

Markle’s prominence and control over her engagement to Prince Harry is undoubtedly ushering in a new era of royalty in England, transferring power to the women of the group. Smashing down historic barriers, Markle is setting a precedent that will change the family forever, and they seem to be accepting of it. As a heavily Christian nation that adores the Christmas holiday, it’s a big deal for the royal family to welcome in a non-married member. Plus, Markle gets to see the extravagant gifts and meals that are afforded to the members of the adored British elite.

Markle has stated that although the Queen absolutely adores Prince Harry, she has faith in the acceptance of the royal family, soon to be her real family moving forward.

What do you think of this breaking of tradition for Meghan Markle?

 

Nicole Devlin is a final year Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-devlin-29342364/

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas in New York City!

Christmas in New York City!

 

It’s not every year that you get to visit the most magical place in the world at Christmas with your family. In a year as tough as this one, with assignments and exams piling up, it was definitely a well-needed trip to escape the world of final year (even if only for a few days).

One thing I learned from my trip is that you can never be fully prepared for New York. Having been there before during Summer, I thought I was prepared for the ‘city that never sleeps’ but one thing that is for sure, New York in Summer and New York at Christmas are like two different places. I would highly recommend researching and having your days planned out, this way you don’t waste time. Here are a few other tips I learned…

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First of all, it is COLD! I opted out of the nice outfits and instead wrapped myself up like a fish supper, with barely an inch of skin exposed to the crisp December air. As well as this, forget about packing those fancy boots, and throw in the Skechers laying at the back of the wardrobe. In New York, no one cares about your footwear and after walking approximately 77,824 steps (well, according to the health app on my iPhone) I’m definitely glad I had my trainers.

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Before embarking on a trip to the Big Apple, one thing I did was thoroughly research the streets and avenues, attempting to understand my way around Google Maps before I hit the real thing. This might sound strange, perhaps it was, but lets just say I’m very glad I did this as on the first night, my brother (who has NO sense of direction and would get lost if you spun him in a 360 degree turn) ended up wandering off on his own, only to end up on 20th street…our hotel was on 40th. Quite convenient that his name is also Kevin!

Another thing that I did before the trip was researched many different types of restaurants, making sure we stayed well clear from the Caviar, lobster and $300 bottles of wine type places. New York at Christmas is crazy, with people flocking from all over the world, so having your reservations made and tables booked makes life a lot easier. I would highly recommend downloading the app ‘Open Table’, it helps you search a specific area and restaurant and tells you which reservations they have free, allowing you to book your spot there and then, super handy!

As well as this, occasionally it is worth it to avoid the tourist activities (I’m quite the hypocrite as my video below has TOURIST written all over it) however visiting smaller villages, classic boutiques and drinking at dead-end bars with the locals, sometimes turns out to be one of your favourite days.

Lastly, remember that you really would need a few weeks in New York to do EVERYTHING, a few days simply doesn’t cut it, but try and squeeze in as much as you can! And, don’t just do things for the ‘Instagram pics’. I learned this the hard way after standing in a line to have cocktails in the Plaza Hotel for over 45 minutes to find out that Taylor Swift was inside, probably with her 13th boyfriend this year, and they weren’t letting anybody in. Thanks Taylor!

MUST DO:
Central Park – This really is a must, especially if it is snowing. It is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Saks on 5th Avenue Christmas Lights – I think the light display happens every 10 minutes, so if your passing and it hasn’t started yet, it is definitely worth the wait.
Katz Deli – A real traditional American diner with SERIOUS sandwiches, it would knock O’Brien’s and The Sandwich Co. way out of the park.
Rockefeller Tree and Top of the Rock – The Rockefeller Tree is the most magical thing to see while in New York at Christmas.

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Broadway show – Shows such as the Lion King and School of Rock play all year round, but it definitely is worth it to splash out and see the Rockettes or Elf!

IF YOU HAVE TIME:
Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to Soho
Have a drink in the Plaza (as long as T.Swift isn’t there!)
Visit a Rooftop Bar, this one is amazing.

Have a look at my video below for some other top activities to do in New York at Christmas!

 

 

Loren Ward is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @lorenward and LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/loren-ward-b93049a8

What makes a Great Christmas Advert?

What makes a Great Christmas Advert?

For most, the first sign of Christmas is when the clock strikes midnight on Halloween night and all advertisers know this means the deluge of Christmas adverts will begin, and with that the competition of who has the best advert of the Christmas season? Over the years there have been many ones that have resonated and stayed with you long after the Christmas decorations are taken down. All of the best have different qualities that make you pick it as your favourite.

 

Some play on the heart for example the famous John Lewis, ‘Man on the Moon’ where many tears were shed over the poor lonely man who lived on the moon and the little girl on earth who desperately wanted to say hello. This advert which was a partnership with AGE UK was used to highlight the loneliness of elderly at Christmas, as well as year round, and tugged at the heartstrings of the general public who helped to generate £1 billion of sales for John Lewis in the Christmas period of 2015. John Lewis have long held the title of being the best at Christmas advertisements, usually accompanied with a song that reaches high in the top 40 of the U.K charts, for example the now infamous Ellie Goulding version of ‘Your Song’ which was then rumoured to be the first dance song of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge at their 2011 wedding. However, many others have attempted to take this coveted crown from the department store.

In 2014 the undisputed champion of the Christmas adverts appeared to be Supermarket Sainsbury’s who used history to make the perfect advert. Their depiction of Christmas Day 1914 along the trenches when German and British Troops ceased fighting and played a football match was praised across the U.K as one of the greatest Christmas adverts and a moving tribute on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War 1. The pairing of what happened along with the moving use of ‘Silent Night’ both in English and German saw The Independent brand the marketing strategy ‘Epic’. The advertisement went viral, within 24 hours had had 1.8 million views on YouTube. It was believed to be a risky advert as if the tone want right it would have caused outrage by the British public. The tag line of #ChristmasisMadeforSharing resonated and with the advert being partnered with the Royal British Legion the advert is highly recognised as one the most brilliant television adverts of the 21st Century. Some did object to the advert calling it disrespectful but this was far outweighed by the outpouring of love for the advert.

 

 

Then there are the classics such as the Coca-Cola advert of the lit up truck driving through cities and towns with the ‘Holiday’s are Coming’ playing the background which for many really signifies the beginning of the festive period.

So what make a great Christmas advert? Is it one that makes you cry happy or sad tears, one with a well constructed message behind it or one that just starts to bring the seasonal joy to people? Everyone has there own special advert they will always back up when the best Christmas advert comes around every year, and it nearly always changes when the next batch of advertising excellence shows the following year.

Rosa O’Farrell is a final year in BSc Public Relations. She can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosa-o-farrell-2a796a23/ or on Twitter @rosaofarrell

‘Tis the season for making panic-fuelled purchases

If you’ve ever had a job in retail, especially over the Christmas period, then you’ll completely understand everything I’m about to say.

However, even if you haven’t, I’m sure you can imagine what exactly goes on for retail workers around this time of year, especially in what is, undoubtedly, one of the nation’s biggest supermarkets, Tesco.

This will be my second Christmas working in the grocery store chain, and even after three Christmas seasons working in an incredibly busy hotel that hosted some of the biggest Christmas parties, I’ve never experienced anything like a Christmas in Tesco.

In my opinion, Tesco customers are notorious for their panic-fuelled shopping, and this shopping behaviour usually begins before the Halloween celebrations end. From the middle of October until the 7th November, Tesco were offering a 2 for £7 deal on family sized tubs of classic Christmas chocolates, Celebrations, Heroes, Quality Street and Roses, and during this period, I’m sure I seen more than several shoppers purchasing an extensive amount of these chocolates, and I mean more than 10 tubs per person. I know this is a good deal when the individual tubs are £5 each, but at this point, 7 weeks before the big day, I can’t help but think where each customer will store all this chocolate?

Another example, around the same time as the chocolate deal, Tesco had their 1 Litre bottles of sprits on offer for £16, and one Sunday, I served someone who bought 9 bottles of each spirit imaginable, “oh these are all for Christmas.” She’s really going to kick herself when they go on offer for a lower price closer to the day.

The Guardian reported that Britain’s shoppers are expected to spend £4.2 billion on food and drink in the week leading up to Christmas, and honestly this doesn’t surprise me. In fact, I will be surprised if I serve anyone on the lead up to the big day, who’s shop totals up to less than £250. Especially as the celebrations draw closer, it’s inevitable that many shoppers will purchase things out of panic, just so they have things on the table and under the tree, and definitely as they feel they’re running out of time.

I don’t know whether people forget that the store only closes on Christmas Day, or whether a lot of people just like to stock up so they don’t need to leave the house over the Christmas period, but I can almost guarantee a huge amount of customers will be back in the store on Boxing Day, as if they didn’t buy 6 loaves of bread and £200 worth of alcohol 2 days before.

The truth of it all is, the majority of the British public hate to think about what would happen if they’d forgotten something they needed for the big day, when they wouldn’t have anywhere to go to get it, and because of this, most of them tend to panic and over-buy, just so they’re prepared for anything. In my experience, anyway.

If I had it my way, if customers are going to engage in panic buying behaviour, then all shops should be closed on Boxing Day too, where’s the need to drag poor retail workers out of their bed on Boxing Day, when everyone’s bought enough food and drink to last them three months?

Maybe one day, we’ll live in a world where retail workers don’t dread the Christmas season, and supermarket shoppers don’t act like the world is ending because the shop is closed for one day.

One can only hope.

Hollie Thomson is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Facebook: Hollie Thomson and on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/holliethomson/ 

Top Tips on How to Have a Very Merry Christmas

Top Tips on How to Have a Very Merry Christmas

Let’s all just admit it, the festive season is undoubtedly the best time of the year! From mouth-watering hot toddies to crazy work parties, it sure is the most perfect time to really let your hair down! With Christmas only coming once a year, it is important to make the most of every minute and what better way than with these fabulous top tips? Have a look!

Go on a fun Winter City Break

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A great way to kickstart the Christmas season is of course jetting off and enjoying a wonderful winter city break. Europe is renowned for its fun festive cities with bright lights, state of the art outdoor ice shrinks and cosy pubs offering every cocktail you could possibly think of. There are of course plenty of popular cities to choose from including Krakow, Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague to name but just a few! Or perhaps, you may decide to keep it rather local by visiting Irelands very own capital city which is Dublin where you are sure to enjoy a tasty mulled wine or two in no other than the amazing Temple Bar! Wherever you decide to go, it is sure to be a magical and fairylike experience before heading home for Christmas day!

Christmas Movie Night with your Besties

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There are guaranteed to be plenty mad nights out where you and your friends will be celebrating the festive season a little too much, but be sure to also enjoy a fun night in consisting of a Christmas movie marathon! Yes, this means everything from Elf to Home Alone, Love Actually to Christmas with the Kranks! No movie night is complete without chilled bubbly, hot chocolate, pretzels and popcorn so be sure to stock up! It is a great way to enjoy a stress-free night with your nearest and dearest as well as a long overdue catch up!

Visit the Christmas Continental Markets

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It goes without saying that visiting the Christmas markets is on basically everyone’s to do list! Whether it may be with your friends, other half or family, it can be a fun and spiritual experience brisking through the various stalls offering everything from scented candles to handcrafted decorations. Or perhaps, if you happen to have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of candy and pastry stalls that will really hit the spot including Nutella smothered crepes, cinnamon covered waffles, sugar coated churros and more! Or maybe, if you’re feeling a little spontaneous and hoping to try something a little bit different this festive season, the Christmas markets won’t disappoint whether you are looking to try out a kangaroo burger or a flammkuchen (flat German pizza). Now the best part, the beer tent! The beer tent is the most perfect place to enjoy a strawberry beer or four whilst also belting your heart out to old but gold tunes, what’s not to love?

Host a Wine and Cheese Tasting Night

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If you’re trying to keep the Christmas celebrations super candid, hosting a wine and cheese tasting night is always a good idea! Here you will need a selection of both red and white wine as well as a fine platter of cheese and crackers! You may decide to go the extra mile and play some Christmas games to make the celebrations all the more enjoyable including charades or ‘Name that Christmas Carol!’ The tasting night will be a second to none experience for all who take part!

Make the Most of Family

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Lastly, but most importantly, enjoy valuable time with family! This does not mean buying expensive extravagant presents but instead helping with the Christmas decorations, assisting to make the Christmas dinner, getting drunk on baileys and watching the Eastenders Christmas Special together! It’s not what’s under the tree that matters, but who’s gathered around it!

Wherever you go or whatever you decide to do this Christmas, be sure to enjoy every single minute of the season that keeps on giving! It is the one time you can fully let loose and make a complete shambles of yourself before the struggles of working life again! After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year!

Shannon Grogan is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn on https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-grogan-09712510b/ 

Marie Curie – sharing memories this Christmas!

So, that time of the year again – its Christmas season!

And what’s more typical for Christmas than a huge tree covered in lights?

I agree, nothing! Who doesn’t love a huge, green, tinsel-covered monster in the corner of the room?

…but, what Marie Curie have done blows all of us average-Joes out of the park.

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As the hustle and bustle of Christmas begins, it’s easy to forget about what’s important. It’s not about the presents, or the fancy clothes or the big turkey dinner (although they are all additional positives!).

It’s about spending time and making memories with family and friends while we get the chance!

Every day we see more and more negative posts on social media whether it be politics and the latest news story, a not-so-uncommon celebrity scandal or Phil from down the road ranting about the local pub prices.  *YAWN*

However, this Christmas, the terminal illness charity Marie Curie, have created the world’s first ‘memory-powered’ Christmas tree.

Placed in front of the iconic London Eye on the Southbank, this visual spectacle started on the 4th of the month and runs right up until December 17th.

Each of the individual fairy lights on the tree will be powered by people sharing their memories on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #LightUpXmas.

In other words, the more people that post using the hashtag, the brighter the lights will shine.

Simple but GENIUS!

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The tree brings the charity to life as it serves as an important reminder of the work Marie Curie do providing care and support to people living with a terminal illness, some of whom will be trying to enjoy what might be their last Christmas with their family.

This piece of art symbolises the light that Marie Curie brings to every individual they help. It highlights how they allow families to spend Christmas together, making special memories with their loved ones.

A Marie Curie representative stated,

‘We’ve launched the memory-powered Christmas tree, to show the importance of creating positive memories, and show support for people living with terminal illnesses.’

You can share your special memories on Twitter or Instagram using #LightUpXmas – it could be any happy memory – your first memory, a Christmas memory or a memory of a loved one you’ve lost.

Marie Curie work tirelessly throughout the year helping thousands of families across the UK dealing with terminal illness.

It’s one of those things that you don’t really think about until you’re in the situation, right? Hopefully, this wonderfully thought out idea will bring the charity the recognition and awareness which they deserve.

Below is examples of posts which thousands have already shared – just AMAZING.

 

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Come on, if this doesn’t melt your heart and get you in the Christmas spirit I don’t know what will and if you haven’t already, get sharing – Let’s light up London this Christmas!

A heart-warming, eye-watering and just downright beautiful PR stunt by the charity. 10 out of 10 for inventiveness and execution in my opinion.

BRAVO, Marie Curie!

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-kearns-90819710b