The Belfast born brand BPerfect Cosmetics owned by Brendan McDowell launched their first “Megastore” in CastleCourt Belfast on October 1st. This event was heavily promoted on social media across each of BPerfects online social media platforms, with former EastEnders star Jac Jossa attending to launch her first ever tan, tanning mit and facial tanner called the “Jac Jossa Collection”. Many famous beauty influencers such as “MMMitchell”, “Stacey Marie MUA” attended the store launch acting as the staff for the 4-hour opening. Combined each influencer equalled over 7 million followers. The advertising and marketing carried out prior to the launch date was well executed with the BPerfect team launching their very own “BPerfect Megastore” Instagram page in which they provided every exciting detail about the store launch along with promoting the event on their existing Instagram, Facebook and website platforms . To compliment BPerfects Megastores launch, Jac Jossa and other successful beauty influencers all promoted the store opening night on their very own personal Instagram page, to ultimately bring more people to the not to be missed event.
The BPerfect team knew the megastore would attract many fans as they are a well-established brand, celebrities were attending and of course it was the launch day of the Jac Jossa collection. CastleCourt offered free parking to everyone, and all the BPerfect team arrived in a party bus to create an air of excitement and you guessed it, it certainly attracted a massive crowd. During these unprecedented times, Brendan McDowell and his team knew they had to be responsible and obey the COVID guidelines ensuring the opening was carried out safely and did not breach public safety guidelines.
As a further measure, McDowell posted on his personal Instagram, the megastores Instagram and on the BPerfects Instagram explaining that he had consulted with both the Public Health Agency and CastleCourt to put safety measures in place such as following the one way system while entering the store, wearing a mask in-store, or they would provide one for you, providing hand sanitising stations and a security team to ensure social distancing.
With all safety measures in place, what could go wrong?
On the night of the store opening, as anticipated hundreds of fans gathered from all over Belfast. Queues of people lined up for the must have beauty products and to meet the celebrity influencers, Jac Jossa, and of course get the all-important selfie of themselves instore.
However, the next morning BPerfect were slammed as a “disgrace” by other beauty bloggers. IRadio presenter Louise Clarke tweeted “How is this acceptable? As if it was ever going to be a controlled environment. Shame on the influencers who attended and promoted the event and massive shame on BPerfect for holding it. What’s with certain ‘influencers’ thinking they’re above Covid guidelines?” Ultimately, something that was meant to be a great achievement in the history of the brand backfired and ended up being slammed in the media as a “Total Disgrace” and “A joke”.
How could BPerfect come back from something so brand damaging?
Once Brendan and the BPerfect team heard about the backlash they received, a spokesperson for the brand issued this statement to the media “Before, during and after the opening of our new BPerfect Megastore, we made numerous public pleas to anyone shopping with us on our opening night to ensure they adhered to all social distancing guidelines at all times. This included asking everyone to be personally responsible for social distancing in the outdoor queue, wearing a mask when indoors, sanitising their hands and following all instructions from security.” Brendan posted on his Instagram stating that he was extremely sorry for any offense caused and him and his team really tried to make the store launch as safe as possible for everyone involved. A spokesperson for CastleCourt shopping centre said: “We thoroughly examined BPerfects event management plans and were satisfied with the measures outlined and the focused approach taken to address public health guidelines and to promote safety advice at all times”.
The BPerfect brand had to apologise to their fans. You could argue that it is not their fault as fans chose to attend the event having received the appropriate advice and knowing the safety measures in place. On the other hand, you could argue that their timing was off. Should a successful brand like BPerfect with hundreds of thousands of followers launch their first store knowing it will attract a large crowd in the middle of a pandemic?
The BPerfect launch is the perfect example of how something so exciting and ground-breaking for a brand can very quickly be torn to shreds by the media in the space of 24 hours. I feel this was a PR nightmare because it happened during a global pandemic when the emphasis is on personal safety and social distancing. The brand cannot undo the damage but can demonstrate how they have learnt from it. I personally feel that despite the publicity drive for this launch and given the unprecedented times we are living in, they could not possibly predict the outcome, that hundreds would attend or even be interested in all things beauty related when social events everywhere have been cancelled. While I’m confident the brand will recover, there is no doubt that their next move will have to be an outstanding PR success.
Tara Hamill is a final year student at Ulster University studying Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on Linkedin: @TaraHamill and Instagram: @TaraHamill.
We all miss the normality of our pre-pandemic lives, things we never imagined not being able to do. Like going to a nightclub, letting your ‘hair down’ dancing the night away to your favourite songs with your friends. Going to events, saving money for ages so you can see your favourite artist at a festival or concert. Always having something to look forward to! Despite not being able to attend events, I think throughout lockdown I’ve watched my fair share of Netflix (or far too much) and turned to Spotify to keep me sane.
“Without the arts, our lives are impoverished.” – Ian Rankin
ONS have recorded that “Since lockdown in March, 82% of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses reported closure or a pause in trading activities.” The creative industries have been massively affected by Coronavirus with little Government intervention and support. This is so frustrating to see as in 2018 these industries contributed £110 billion to the UK economy and employed 3.2 million people. When you think about all the different jobs involved in creative industries, it’s hard to picture how many people are affected! If The Government do not give the correct support, we could lose this amazing industry.
This community is known for their extreme skills, talents and creativity and pave the way for us to entertain and express ourselves. Due to a lack of support, various movements were created on social media for financial support. In particular, the hashtags #SaveTheArts and #SaveTheArtsUk have over 125,000 posts on Instagram.
So far… it’s not looking too good on The Governments behalf…
The ‘Context’ of the campaign…
The resurfacing of a 2019 Government backed campaign by Cyber First has been greeted with widespread backlash on the Internet. Originally, it was released as a long-running campaign to promote cyber security jobs within young people. Although the campaign used a variety of images showing people from different career backgrounds, the slogan “Rethink. Reskill, Reboot” created implications with one particular image. This campaign was released in 2019 so continuing to run this campaign during the pandemic has been called extremely careless.
Following an interview with Rishi Sunak the campaign recirculated online. He stated that people who are unable to work should “adapt” their job prospects and be open to “new opportunities.” It’s believed that he aimed this speech towards people in the creative industries, which is extremely sensitive for those facing extreme financial difficulties. Sunak has ultimately denied this claim however, the creative communities are tired of being disrespected.
The heart of the campaign backlash comes from one image in particular, ‘Fatima’ a ballet dancer. This image was taken out of context due to the existing problems faced by creative people, making this a PR disaster for The Government. Due to this being a long running campaign, it gives the impression that the Government have always dismissed the skills and hard work in this industry.
DANCE FATIMA. DANCE!
This image has become extremely controversial on the Internet and is highly problematic for The Government’s image. It suggests that women who have worked tirelessly to become professional dancers should ‘by the click of a button’ switch to a career in Cyber. The Government should be supporting and encouraging these people instead of having the attitude that retraining is the only solution! On average, it takes at least 9 years to become a professional dancer. Therefore, The Government have been criticised for having no regard for their excessive hard work, determination and talent.
‘Cyber First Campaign’ – 118,000,000 search results…
The ballet dancer image has been very popular throughout social media. #Fatima trended on twitter, with a variety of opinions, mockery and frustration by many users. Political figures have been mocked in a series of memes suggesting that they should also “retrain” like Fatima.
One post by @penleeparktheatre has really stood out on Instagram. The theatre have shown how ironic it is that without the use of a creative team, the campaign would never exist. The backlash by social media users has shown that this campaign is completely “tone deaf”, tasteless and insulting.
In reaction to the campaign, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has distanced himself and his department from it, calling it “Crass”. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister has said the content of the campaign image was “not appropriate” and has now been removed. Although the campaign aimed to encourage “people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber-security.”
Despite The Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund programme, so far it has been largely unallocated and will not be enough to save every job. However, the announcement of £257 million funding towards museums, theatres and cultural organisations is a step in the right direction. To date, there has been no support towards freelancers who are continuing to struggle every day and overall the creative community feel the campaign has proven that The Government don’t care about the them.
It’s no secret that Covid-19 had a massive impact on how businesses operate now, whether or not that’s adopting new business practices or cutting staff. It’s no secret either that some areas have been hit worse than others, especially if that area is the hospitality, events and entertainment industry.
Hospitality and Tourism
Sure many businesses adopted the eat out to help out scheme in August and, yes this did help for a while. It created more work not only in hospitality but also in marketing and PR roles and it was probably one of the most notable PR campaigns for many businesses across the UK after lockdown. But did it fix things? While on the surface it did boost economy and present a sense of normality, but was it enough to compensate for months of closure for many restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and pubs? The answer is No. The graph below from statista.com, shows the record for the monthly number of seats booked in restaurants across the UK. As you can see the number of booked seats raises and remains its highest in August, but then once the scheme is finished these figures dramatically drop again, as it stands the figures for September 2020 for the amount of people seated in restaurants is 9.34 percent lower than the last year’s figures.
As for flights and tourism this area is a complete no go, with the likes of Ryanair having to sell off runway space in order to cover costs. Across many of the world’s cities, personal planned travel went down by 80–90%. The figure below shows the drop in flights across the lockdown period. As you can see for yourself at one point flights in nearly every country across the world dropped to nearly zero percent a phenomenon that we thought we’d never see in the 21st century. It is statistics like this that make you question, how long will it actually take for the tourism industry to recover, and will some businesses every fully recover?
Pubs and Clubs
You’d expect after months of being stuck in the house the first place people would run is straight to the pub, well that was my thinking anyways. Incorrect! Government measures as we all know saw the closure of many pubs and clubs and while restaurants and hotels were allowed to open, for places that didn’t serve food this wasn’t the case.
Over the period for the month of March alone bar sales dropped by 60 percent. Yes, some pubs and clubs redesigned to suit the new measures that the government brought in but that also takes time and money to fit new infrastructure and not all were even ready in time for the August scheme, as well as this redesign just wasn’t feasible for every facility to do at all. It was estimated in May that when lockdown was lifted only 69% of late night venues would have actually been able to open. From what we know now, due to ever changing measures brought in by the government this number could have been lower.
On the topic of Pubs and Clubs, may different establishments have been quite pissed off recently at recent government guidelines and rightly so… Oh and they been quite vocal about it. Many different nightclubs in the Belfast area have been using their social media pages recently to cause quite the stir. Outraged at the fact that clubs and bars have to close at 11pm as well as the ban on live music a number of different nightclubs have took to social media to express their opinion. The venue known as Limelight went viral on Facebook and twitter gaining thousands of likes and hundreds of comments and shares, with students across the area sharing the page on their social media and hash-tagging Limelight in the picture. Limelight made a statement on Facebo stating “The effect that these curfews will have on jobs, morale and mental health is immeasurable and we call for the Executive to review them as a matter of urgency.” As well as this the nightclub went on to contradict the measures put in place by stating “we believe we can deliver (and have already delivered) Live Music events safely within government guidelines” They finished the post by calling for the Executive to engage in the events and entertainment sector before” imposing seemingly arbitrary decisions on an already struggling industry”. Many other nightclubs such as Filthy McNasty’s and Thompsons Garage have since followed the trend showing images of their empty venue after eleven o’clock.
We Make Events NI
We Make Events NI is a group made up of a range of professions that make up the live event industry, they have a substantial following on Facebook and among them are some of the people responsible for taking the empty nightclub photos we spoke about earlier.
They recently made headlines as they held a socially distanced demonstration in Custom House Square in Belfast. More than 500 live event workers attended to raise awareness about pressures on the industry. The protest was held in order to call on the government to provide more support for workers who have had little to no income for six months.
What Now? Where does this leave us?
Well what now? and why am I even bothering to write this today? Well like everything surrounding this pandemic everything I have just told you leaves us with a large amount of uncertainly, and not to depress but the idea of normality to me seems like a million miles away. In Northern Ireland around 7,500 jobs are at risk due to a ban on some live events in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The recent outrage by the late night venues has become a bit of a PR nightmare in my opinion for the NI executive, who at the moment don’t seem to be able to answer anyone’s questions. As someone who works in hospitality and events I can’t see a return of anything resembling a gala or black-tie dinner any time soon. The only thing to look towards is possibly the internet? It seems to becoming the answer to all our problems recently, as we have seen many award ceremonies and events such as the Emmy’s and the MTV music awards were broadcast virtually and there was no audience and very little people attending. Neil Dalzell the owner of ND Events recently stated that he has “delivered virtual events from a purpose-built studio for clients. The events have the same look and feel as they did pre-lockdown but the only difference being that the audience watches the speakers or presenters from home.” As well as this Anna Connor the head of events at MCE Public Relations, has stated that they too will be looking into more virtual events in order to ensure that they go forward.
It difficult to know what the answer is to anything these days, whether or not if that involves longer opening hours or virtual events, although I’m not sure how much money I’d be willing to pay to virtually see any music performances when I have YouTube for free, but it guess only time will tell. My leaving piece of advice, after reading this maybe decide to tip your waitress an extra pound, or support your local hospitality sector a bit more where you can even if it’s just sharing a Facebook post, because from what I can see they need it!
Alicia Fox is a third year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at Linkedin: Alicia Fox and Instagram: alicia_fox3
The golden doors opened and once again the stage was set. Out into the light stepped Donald Trump, he paused to enjoy the adulation while the watching cameras went into overdrive, or maybe that was just the sound of the White House PR machine ratcheting up another notch. A quick fist pump and he was on his way, down the steps, patting the handrail with gusto, as if to say a health strong man like me needs no rail.
His armoured cavalcade was waiting at the bottom of the steps and there was just time for another fist pump and a quick thumbs up before climbing into his chariot to be whisked away on a journey of 50 whole metres to Marine One. Then it was off into the air for a triumphant return to the White House.
Touching down on the South Lawn, we got more fist pumping, thumbs up and waving before Trump, basking in the press attention, ascends the White House steps for another photo op on the balcony, this time whipping of his mask and patriotically standing beside the stars and stripes in a show of strength and defiance.
His return to the White House could have come straight from a TV drama, the returning presidential hero coming to save the nation! Trump is very aware of the power of images in the media and the message they send to the American public. I have no doubt that was why, during his hospital stay, he went on his slow joy ride around the hospital, waving to his supporters when he should have been isolating and not risking the lives of his security team in his hermetically sealed SUV.
The reality TV star, with one eye on the presidential election and scoring points with the American public, clearly, believes that somehow, he is showing strong leadership by putting the office of President above his own health. Downplaying the fact of having COVID-19 with all the risk and serious consequences that can have.
Donald Trump with groundless confidence told us “Don’t be afraid of Covid”.
Did the White House PR team really think this was a good idea?
Political analysts have pointed to Trump’s record on Coronavirus over the last year, and the fact that he is vulnerable in relation to his handling of COVID-19, as evidence suggests that many Americans are now critical of how he is handling the pandemic. Does Trump believe that if he downplays COVID-19, as someone who has had it and made the most amazing, wonderful and beautiful recovery, he can show the American people that the virus is not as bad as everyone is making out, and that his actions over the last year in handling COVID-19 have been correct? On the other hand, Trump received the best drugs and medical treatment available in the world and sure only very few Americans can avail of these services, this strategy might well backfire on Trump.
Is Donald Trump really stage managing his COVID-19 diagnosis to help get himself re-elected?
Trump has ignored official medical advice on COVID-19, and the White House staff seem to be following suit by not wearing face masks. Joe Biden was even mocked at the first presidential debate by Trump for regularly wearing a face mask.
Maeve Reston from CNN reported in May that the White House has ramped up the PR Campaign to improve America’s perception of Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus. Was the White House trying to move the focus away from Trump’s poor handling of Coronavirus over the last 10 months and on to the economy? Trump at the press conference used the same old platitudes along with announcing “Operation Warp Speed” to get a vaccine and the Obama administration was once again blamed for most of Trump’s failings.
Chris Cillizza from The Point commented “Donald Trump can’t distract voters from coronavirus now”.
The White House might have to rethink its PR strategy, or maybe it already has as Trump is now embracing Coronavirus, announcing his diagnosis was “a blessing from God”, and his eyes have been opened to the treatments available, and he intends to make sure, that all Americans will be able to have free access to these drugs by the end of the year. Is this just an empty promise to boost the election campaign? Trump’s sudden conversion to free universal health care in respect of COVID-19 for all Americans sits awkwardly with his policy of opposing and dismantling Obamacare – America’s first tentative step towards universal health care provision for all its citizens.
Can you imagine the dilemma the White House team have in trying to manage Trump’s image as a responsible leader against his unfettered ego which knows no bounds medical or otherwise?
Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman wrote in August “After all this death, Trump is still treating the pandemic as a PR problem.”
In my opinion, I think that Donald Trump is now using the pandemic and his COVID-19 diagnosis to further his election campaign.
Is this a good PR strategy to get a reality TV star re-elected as the US President?
Will the viewing public of this reality nightmare think he is doing ‘a really great job’?
I think not, it may be a case of “your fired”.
Kerry Bradley is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @kerryweatand Instagram: kerryweat.
The word “unprecedented” is everywhere. Cardi B warbling “Coronavirus” is on repeat in my head. Each day is rolling into the next and every now and again, I have to forcibly relax my jaw after realising I’ve been anxiously clenching my teeth.
I’ll stop there… while quarantine has been an unusual transition, I’m definitely feeling very grateful for my health and loved ones during “these strange times” (another *very* popular phrase).
Something that has been helping though, is seeing the creativity and innovation that has been sparked by brands as a result of lockdown. Humour can be tricky to get right during a crisis but can also be a great outlet and distraction from all the scary news that’s clogging up every social media platform at the moment.
Here are some brands I think have nailed it on the head with humour and creativity.
Ryan Reynolds & Mint Mobile
Filmed in the style of many Zoom quizzes and virtual meetings now taking place across the world, this gave me a proper chuckle. The ad titled “New ManageMint” opens with Reynolds appearing to be recording from his laptop as he introduces a slideshow, poking fun at himself and his movies throughout.
The actor sarcastically tells us “instead of using the magic of film, I’m gonna use the magic of slides!” I love this light-hearted ad and how it gets the brand’s message of low-cost mobile service across in a fun and creative way. Definitely worth a watch!
“WAZZZAAAAA” was to 1999 what the Go Compare opera man is today. It’s one of the first ads I remember seeing as a child. I don’t think I even knew it was from an ad at the time? I just remember everyone shouting WAZZZAAAA at each other, quite often in a context that didn’t make sense (E.g. Q: “Well, what’s new with you?” A: “WAZZZAAAA”). Turns out it was an ad for Budweiser! And now, the beer brand has repurposed the ad to reinforce the message of staying home and social distancing during the Coronavirus lockdown.
It isn’t a fantastic time to launch an outdoor advertising campaign, given that no one is leaving their house these days. This was the problem snack brand Emily Crisps faced when they realised their first OOH advertising campaign was going to be seen by a lot less eyes than they had initially planned. Despite the challenge, the brand turned it into an opportunity to express humour and get their personality across by changing the creative a little.
Initially, the message was to “ditch dull, eat bold” referring to the fact that most crisp brands look similar to the standard red, green and blue packaging. Instead, Emily Crisps have kept he “eat bold” slogan for their OOH campaign, while making fun of themselves too. One of the digital executions reads “Our first ever poster, seen by a runner and one pigeon. Typical.” Another says “Do an ad when it’s warmer, they said… more people will see it, they said. Pffft…” and “Hmmm… maybe we should have made a TV ad instead”.
Coronavirus (cue the Cardi meme) has altered our lives in every way imaginable and it has been a really difficult time for a lot of people. Seeing brands harness their creativity and rise to the challenge that lockdown has brought, has been incredibly inspiring.
I do believe that a pinch of humour (when used in the right way) is a great way for a brand to show their personality and ultimately create a unique form of engagement with their customers. It lets us see the human faces behind the Big Corporation mask and in this case, reminds us that these brands are going through the challenges of Coronavirus along with us.
I think everyone would agree that normality has been thrown out the window and a ‘self-isolating book for dummies’ would be greatly appreciated right now. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon so I have came to the conclusion that we have two options:
We can let the situation take control of us
Or accept that we can’t control the situation but we can control our reaction to it.
The cliche is true: we really are all in this together. I am now 5 weeks into isolation and the version of me that you would have seen 4 weeks ago is extremely different to now.
When isolation began I worked from home for a few weeks. Truth be told if not for work I would have lost my mind! It was the only thing filling these long and empty days (and I know a lot of people will relate). Next thing you know I am off work for 4 weeks and now what? This is the question I asked myself repeatedly. For the first time in so long I had no purpose and that was the most difficult thing. The next few days was a downward spiral of: anxiety, sleepless nights and mind draining bordem.
Looking back now I’m annoyed that I wasted a week moping around feeling sorry for myself. Little by little, day by day I started doing things that I had been putting off because I was so busy. Then it occurred to me that I have been handed a huge opportunity! Think about it under normal circumstances if someone said to you: ‘take 4 weeks off work and do nothing or go try new things or spend time with your family’ YOU’D BE BUZZING! SO that’s exactly what I did!
A New Chapter
First steps: Write a list of things that you always said ‘I’d love to try that’. Now go and do it. It’s that simple. Read the book that you bought 6 months ago, try a 30 day online yoga class, bake a cake, start a blog.
(This actually is my list and I have now done all of the above!)
Doing all of these things was great and it distracted me for an hour everyday. But I knew that if I was to take back control I would have to be in control of my emotions and my mind. After a lot of research and many podcasts later I learnt that journaling may be the answer to all of my problems. I have kept a journal on and off for many years but I’ve never committed to it, so after lots of research I realized that I definitely wasn’t doing it right before nor was I getting the many benefits out of it.
“ What a comfort is this journal I tell myself to myself and throw the burden on my book and feel relieved.” Anne Lister.
After a few weeks I perfected the journaling technique that worked for me. This quotation is the best way that I can explain it. Usually we would open up to other people. But there is so much going on in the world right now that no one wants to hear my first world problems, so I open up to my journal. I wanted something that would: add structure to my day, allow me to aim for goals, let me reflect on how I felt and visualise beyond this time in my life (creating a sense of hope). I can honestly say that the benefits that this process has had on my mental health has been mind blowing and for the first time in a long time I have control and I am happy.
I was always that person that bottled things up and kept myself to myself. I hid behind an insecure smile and I found it difficult to sleep because the conversation between me & my mind was so negative. I can not stress enough the positive impact this has had on my life and especially on the quality of my sleep. I now sleep like a BABY!
Tip: I have gotten into the habit of finishing my journal entry every night by writing down a few things that I am GRATEFUL for. Because no matter how tough the situation is, we all have at least one thing in our lives that we are grateful for.
The new me had so much energy and positivity that I wanted to share my thoughts about journaling with other people. I believed that everyone should have the chance to experience how I feel. So, on 15th April I set up my own blog on Instagram called mindtalkblog. It talks about all things journaling: what it is; how to do it; tips & techniques etc. and to my surprise the response has been amazing!
I have wanted to create a blog for years but something in the back of my mind has always stopped me. Perhaps it was my confidence or perhaps I had to go through this experience first. But finally I ran out of excuses because all we have at the minute is time. Time to take chances, time to grow and time to flourish.
So I will say it one last time: When you can’t control the situation, control your reaction to it.
Brexit, same-sex marriage becoming legal in Ireland and the hilarity of Donald Trump actually being the President of the United States. Those are a few of the historical events of my young adult life that I thought I’d be telling my children and grandchildren about. I never thought I would be telling them about the time a global pandemic shut down the world and changed life as we knew it.
When Coronavirus first came onto the scene I, along with many, didn’t take it too seriously. I just washed my hands with a bit more attention to detail, palm to palm… right palm over left… and don’t forget your thumbs, and waited for the media hype to die down. Up until March, I was attending work and class as usual, living in Belfast, planning the trip of a lifetime with my best friends and rolling my eyes when my Mum would say, “What if the Coronavirus is still around then?”. It was then that COVID-19 got closer and closer to home, cases of the virus and deaths were on the rise and plans to close schools, businesses and social spaces were in the works. I left work on the 13th of March after a day of hearing customers say, “This isn’t good. By next week I think the world will be a lot different.” and I started to think that they were right.
Within a few days, I had to cancel an upcoming St. Patricks day trip to Amsterdam, was temporarily let go from my part-time job, I learnt that I would not be going back to University for the last few weeks of my Final semester and Boris told us that when a friend asks you to meet, say no. For many of us life has been on pause for weeks now, I’m on day 38. And in those 38 days, I have found myself looking at things differently and realising the amazing things I took for granted before COVID-19 changed our lives as we knew it.
“We are not trapped, we are safe at home.”
After a few days of frustration, disappointment and anxiety about the fact that I had to prematurely move out of my student house in Belfast and move back home for the foreseeable future, no longer live with my friends and spend every day minus 1 hour within these walls, I realised how lucky I was to have a safe home to spend quarantine in. Heat without having to stick £5 on the meter every few days, my mothers cooking and the company of my loved ones which I previously would have taken for granted. All of us who are able to spend this time inside with our families are fortunate, and it puts a perspective on the essential workers who are putting themselves at risk every day to protect us. Please protect them by staying at home.
To all my friends who I have ever cancelled plans on or not followed through with that, “omg we need to get coffee sometime!” I’M SORRY, I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN. I will never hesitate when someone asks me to go out, to watch a movie or to go for a walk. Want company on a trip to Tesco? I’ll be there. I miss cooking dinners with my friends and struggling to have everything ready at the same time. I had to binge watch Too Hot Too Handle by myself without running commentary from my friends, lusting over the boys and wishing we looked like the girls. I miss Limelight Mondays, Hatfield Tuesdays, Funkarama Wednesdays. I miss the supportive chats that we had when one of us had a bad day, was worried about a deadline or our futures and the cup of tea (or bottle of wine) from your best friend that fixes everything. At a time like this that is detrimental to many peoples mental health, it makes you realise how much a little chat and a cuddle from your bestie makes everything okay. But for now, watsapp check inns, a Saturday night on house-party and making plans for the epic reunion when this is all over will have to do.
My University Life
I am thankful that as I began final year, I was in a great place mentally and after completing an amazing placement I was enthusiastic and excited about starting my final year at university. I made a promise to myself that I would enjoy every moment because it was my last year and it would soon be over… and it was over sooner than I thought. I was so fortunate to make a group of friends within my first couple of weeks as a First Year in Jordanstown, a group that has carried through to final year and no doubt the rest of my life. My group of friends and classmates were something I never took for granted, but I took for granted the coffee dates between lectures, university nights out and struggling through a hangover together the next day. The “are you going in?” texts, the “wtf is going on” during lectures texts and the “HAVE YOU STARTED THIS ASSIGNMENT???” texts. Complaining about the car parking prices whilst telling myself “I really need to start getting the bus” but never doing so because the walk to the bus stop is just too much effort in the morning and I’d rather have those 11 extra minutes in bed. Buying an overpriced mexican wrap from Spar and eating lunch on the mall followed by the collective “should we go to the library or should we just go home” discussion.
As I complete my degree online without the thrill of hand submitting my dissertation or looking forward to my friends and I throwing our caps in the air at a Summer graduation, I am disappointed, but can’t help reflect on the past 4 years and realise that your University days really are the best days of your life.
the little things I will never take for granted again
Calling into my Grannies for a cuppa and a natter
Spending time with my extended family
Going to a job I loved with co-workers I loved even more
Barista Bar Coffee (really thankful for the coffee machine my Brother got for Christmas)
Brunch, lunch and dinner dates even though I said I’d save money and cook at home all week
Making plans with my friends without having to say, “If we’re able too by then.”
Contemplating going to the Gym and then not going
Bumping into friends on the street
Awkwardly bumping into people you follow on Instagram and the two of you not knowing whether to say hello or not so you just give each other an awkward nod
Going for a browse in the city and coming home with £60 worth of stuff I didn’t need
Opening an ASOS parcel without my mum disinfecting it first
Last minute nights out that end up being the best nights ever
The world as we knew it will never be the same. I say this without the intent to belittle the severity of the virus, the lives lost, the pressure it has placed on the NHS and the disastrous effect it has and will have on our economy. Putting all of that aside in this instance, and purely looking at the way this has affected our outlook on life. This has put everything into perspective, shown us what is important, what’s not, how we should appreciate the little things in life and hold our loved ones a little closer. I think we will all lead a very different life after this, and maybe, that isn’t a bad thing.
Catherine Maguire is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn:Catherine Maguire
So far, 2020 has been one big slap in the face. We all had big plans for this year, and I don’t think the “c-word” (behave, I mean the other c-word) was in any of them. But I have chosen not to let it break me.
If anyone here has read my last blog post on ‘Mindset’ you will know that I tend to look for the positives in everything and I like to make the best out of a bad situation. In this situation however, I didn’t have to look very far to see the good side. All I had to do was look outside and see that my neighbour who hasn’t gotten off the sofa in 10 years, is now outside doing their daily walk, or go onto Facebook and see my old school friend putting on a live concert in their living room just for the hell of it.
I want to make it clear that I understand how utterly horrible this virus is and I do hope it leaves us as quickly as it arrived. Nonetheless, the virus has put us all in the same situation. It’s here whether we like it or not, so we may as well make the most of it eh?
When our mate Boris announced the lockdown, it was bittersweet. On one hand, we all knew it needed to be done and that it was the only thing that was going to get us closer to defeating the enemy. On the other hand, there was a state of grief that masked the entire country. We had to say ‘see you later’ to a lot of the things that we take for granted every day – our friends, family members, hugs, our freedom.
I know I am extremely lucky in all of this; I live with my wonderful family, I have the countryside on my doorstep, and I am both emotionally and physically healthy. I am fully aware that there are others who don’t have the privileges I have and this lockdown may be mentally exhausting for them. To those people, I salute you. However, if you are in a similarly lucky position to me then I want you to stop moping around and start to see why lockdown is actually a blessing in disguise.
In the short time we have been gifted with lockdown, I have realised a few things about the human race:
1. We do a lot of things just to please other people
I don’t know about you, but I have not worn make up, washed my hair, dressed nicely, put on fake tan, or shaved my legs half as much as I would if we weren’t in lockdown. Boys, call me disgusting, but if a girl is telling you that she has, she’s probably lying.
The only time I have put on make-up or clothes that aren’t sweats, is when I am recording a video for my music pages. But why? Because that’s the only time other people see me.
We all like to pretend that we wear make-up and do all these things for ourselves to feel good – and don’t get me wrong, it does feel good to strut around your bedroom feeling like Rihanna – but can anyone here honestly tell me that they have put in half the effort in the last 4 weeks as they would have in normal times? Of course not! I mean, what’s the point in making an effort just so you can stare at yourself in the mirror?
Maybe it is about time we started doing these things for ourselves. If you want to buy nice underwear, curl your hair and wear red lipstick just to make your morning coffee, then do it. Likewise, if you feel your best in a pair of sweats and a messy bun, that’s okay too! We’ve got to start saying “I am going to do this because it makes me feel good” because right now, you are all you have.
2. We all needed a break
I don’t know what to believe when it comes to the origin of this virus. I do like to entertain the idea of conspiracies and theories, just because they are a lot more exciting than some dude in China scranning a bat and starting a global crisis. Nobody has a definite answer as to where this started or where it will all end but what I do believe is that this needed to happen.
I said it from the start, but maybe this is Mother Nature’s way of telling us to chill the f*#k out. It’s like she has given us this beautiful planet with all its resources, where we can roam freely and do as we please – as long as we don’t take it too far. The same way our parents allowed us to go and play with our friends, as long as we are back before the streetlights go on. But what happens when stay out till after dark? We get grounded. Our parents trusted us to be home by curfew but when we broke that trust, the privilege got taken away from us.
We have been abusing our planet for years, thinking we could continue to do so and we would keep getting more and more chances. But we were on our final straw and we didn’t even know it. We pushed our luck and used our last chance.
I read an article about the fish returning to the rivers in Venice since the residents and tourists have disappeared. This, among other amazing observations, shows how much we as humans have damaged the earth’s natural beauty and maybe the only way to restore the planet is to keep the humans away for a while. An American living in Wuhan said, “I used to think there weren’t really any birds in Wuhan, because you rarely saw them and never heard them. I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing.”
As well as the world needing a break from the humans, I think the humans needed a break from the world.
We wake up, go to work, come home and go to sleep, then we wake up and do it all again the next day. I work in the events industry and someone said to me at the beginning of all this, “what are you going to do if you can’t work?”. I replied “I am going to walk, run, cycle, play guitar, draw, write, sing, read, listen to music… maybe just live my life?”
They were shocked. Imagine your life not revolving around work?
As a society, we live to work, we don’t work to live. All I ever hear are people saying:
‘I need a break…’
‘How is it Monday again already?’
‘I wish I could have some time off to do nothing…’
We have been given the break we’ve been asking for, yet there are people who can’t wait to get back to ‘normal’. We go through the rat race of life, constantly competing with others. Whether it is for a promotion or scrolling through Instagram to see who has the most expensive handbag, we are always pushing other people down in order to raise ourselves up. And we call this normal?
I read a tweet that said “Coronavirus has proved that everything around us is a fake social construct. We are learning to live without things our lives revolved around, like work, school, gym, malls and society. It’s taught us that in the end its your own home and family that keep you safe.”
Now that all the things we thought were important have been taken away from us, it’s like we are being forced to face ourselves. To ask ourselves, when all is said and done, what is really important, what is really ‘normal’. The system has been shut down and we don’t have to keep running anymore; we don’t have to keep pretending anymore.
So before you try and rush back to ‘normal life’, ask yourself which parts of ‘normal’ are really worth rushing back to.
3. When this is over, we gotta seize the day
Carpe Diem. We’ve all heard it, I’m sure some of you even have it hanging on the back of your door. But have you ever thought about what it means?
How many of you have made plans in your life that you just ‘never got round to’? Maybe you were planning to find your dream job, maybe you were planning on going to the gym to get your dream body, or maybe you were planning to travel the world – but you just ‘never got round to it’.
I had plans, we all did. There are things we say we are going to do, but we always put them off.
“The gym will still be open on Monday, I’ll start then.”
“The flights are too expensive this year, I’ll travel next year”
“I’ll go see granny next weekend instead, she will understand.”
The truth is, you have been telling yourself you will start the gym every Monday for the last 10 years and your poor granny boils the kettle for you every Sunday but you are always too busy.
Too often, we take these little privileges for granted and expect them to be available to us forever. But guess what? The gym isn’t open on Monday, you can’t fly anywhere anytime soon and you most definitely cannot go and see your granny next weekend.
We need to start seizing the day. We have been putting our goals off for too long, and now the possibility of achieving them has been taken away from us. None of us expected this to happen but we assume that these things will always just be there when we want them, and now they’re not.
We will reach the other side of this and it is not the end of the world. But one day it will be, so if there is anything you can take away from this lockdown, it’s that life is short. Book that flight, apply for that job, buy that car you’ve always wanted. Start working on your dreams, before it’s too late.
4. Humanity is at its best when we are united
Finally: the most positive thing to arise from our current situation. Never before has the whole world had to come together to fight one common enemy (except in the last season of Game of Thrones).
For the first time in the history of mankind, celebrities, CEOS, politicians, cleaners, receptionists and interns are all in the same boat. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how successful you are or how much money you have – nobody is immune and the only thing that is going to get us through is the common realisation that we are all the same.
Personally, I think I speak to my friends and family more now than I did before lockdown. We are so far apart but, in some ways, we are closer than ever. We are finding new ways to communicate and using our imagination to keep ourselves entertained.
I never thought I’d see the day when all my friends would spend their Saturday night doing a virtual pub quiz and I certainly never thought we’d be in our 20’s still nominating each other to neck pints and do handstands, but hey, we adapt.
The thing is, normally we are all too busy to see each other or hang out. We always have something more important to do or someone else to please, but when everything is stripped back, that’s when we can see the people who will keep us sane during the hard times. The people who are always there in the background. You may not always have time to show them your appreciation, but when life gets too much and you feel like falling down, those are the people who you will catch you. Every. Single. Time.
One of my best friends recently said to me, “I am so grateful I’ve had this time to bond with my little sister. I never had a childhood with her because I moved away when she was younger but we are so much closer now”.
And that’s what this is about. As I said at the start, I know this isn’t an ideal situation and there are definitely some people who aren’t as blessed as you and I, but we are the lucky ones and it’s time we started recognising it.
If there’s anything I love more than a salted chilli chicken snack box, it’s a good old piece of reactive marketing.
Brands use reactive marketing as a way of engaging their audience with spur of the moment content and advertisements responding to real-time events, news, topics, TV shows, hashtags and threads. It’s a way to appear relevant, relatable and humorous. Although generally successful in getting people talking and your brand noticed, it’s a tricky business in terms of having a limited time to create the content before its irrelevant, and the risk of offending the generation of snowflakes, whom I refuse to identify with. The fallout from a bad piece of reactive marketing can cause a lot of damage to a brand’s reputation and often they would have been better of just remaining silent… but that’s no craic. We all love a bit of controversy.
It’s no shock that the only real-time event that most brands are responding to right now is COVID-19. As the pandemic, unfortunately, continues to spread brands are thinking of creative ways to encourage us to partake in social distancing, stay indoors and wash our hands, MORE OFTEN! Please don’t tell me you ever ever ever need to be reminded to wash your hands, you detty pig. Here are a few of my faves.
A reactive marketing masterpiece if you ask me. I found this piece as I was scrolling through twitter a few weeks ago and it was a breath of fresh air amongst upsetting coronavirus updates, pessimistic tweets *unfollow* and reminders that there are still people who think it’s okay to bounce around households and see their friends. Did ye not hear what Boris said.
The campaign had the aim to encourage people to stay at home by creating Billboards and Adshels with spoilers from Netflix shows including Money Heist, Love is Blind and Stranger Things with the tag line “You Should’ve Stayed at Home.” I was disappointed to see that it wasn’t actually real and was actually an idea by a duo from an advertising school in Miami who created the concept as a marketing suggestion for Netflix. I did see some comments where people were infuriated at the thought of seeing a spoiler for their favourite Netflix show when they were on their way to essential work or to get essential supplies. Which is a fair point. But how amazing if those who are not following guidelines, acting like they are above the law and are single handily decreasing the chances of us seeing our loved ones, or having pints with our mates anytime soon had their favourite binge of the moment ruined. Karma. SPOILER ALERT: if you have a life and didn’t binge Love is Blind in 3 days please look away now.
Copywriter Luke O’Reillys created this piece of advertising as part of a One Minute brief challenge and Guinness loved it. They’ve fully credited the creator Luke and have used it as their way of encouraging people to stay at home during this time. I love the simplicity of it. Guinness also created a pretty emotional video in light of St. Patrick’s celebrations being cancelled across the world. Anyone else still pure devastated about this btw?
The Guinness team collected clips of Guinness and St. Patricks day celebrations over the years and told us all that although we can’t celebrate together this year, we must stick together during this pretty tough time and, “Don’t worry, we’ll march again.” How emotional. I don’t even drink Guinness but I want a Guinness.
Coke and McDonald’s response to the pandemic was spacing out their lettering to encourage social distances, whilst Burger King rejigged their tagline “home of the whopper.” to “Stay home.”
Contrary to popular belief there are other things we can talk about aside the Coronavirus. Can someone remind my Mum of this, please? So here are just a few honourable mentions I want to include from some of my favourite reactive marketing of all time.
When Beyonce dropped her latest Ivy Park collection we couldn’t help but die at the fact we could all go to a fancy dress party as a Sainsbury employee if we bought this particular piece. The memes came in almost instantly and soon went viral with the hashtag #SainsBey. Later that day Sainsbury were absolute legends in the field of reactive marketing and came out with this. Bravo Sainsbury.
Coolen Rooney’s outstanding piece of cryptic literature in 2019 is the best thing I’ve read since the Great Gatsby. The suspense throughout had my heart in my mouth. I still can’t believe It’s……….Rebekah Vardy’s account. The dispute took the Twittersphere by storm and if any brand had any wits about them they would have taken every opportunity to use it for some quality reactive marketing. And Innocent Smoothie was soon to score with their newest “bolt from blue” drink saying it was “THE ONLY THING JUICIER THAN COLEEN V REBEKAH.” Must be pretty damn juicy.
“I’ve had te go te Burger King.”
Remember in 2018 when KFC ran out of Chicken and it was the WORST THING THAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN and people were literally claiming it to be a national emergency. We really didn’t know what 2020 had in store, did we? Anyway, I have the utmost respect for KFC staying cool, calm and collected and rejigging their branding to read FCK. Reassuring to know even Colonel Sanders fcks up sometimes.
So they’re just a few of my favourite reactive marketing campaigns over the past year or so. Over the past month, I have loved seeing the biggest brands ditch their product placements and USP ploys and simply encourage us to stick together and beat this virus.
Stay safe & healthy everyone and whilst the NHS work endlessly to protect us (ye legends) please protect them by staying at home.
Catherine Maguire is a final year year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn:Catherine Maguire
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.
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