The Brand Putting Sustainability First

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

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

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

Introducing Tala

Pictured is founder Grace Beverley

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

Sustainability

One of the models featured on the website

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

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

The models featured in one of the campaigns

Operating Ethically

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

The tag contains seeds, ready to be planted

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

Putting diversity first

The models show the diversity of the brand

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

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

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

Guinness, King of Marketing

Guinness, King of Marketing

Creating marketing activity that has global synergies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corporations and Performative Activism on Black Lives Matter (BLM)

Corporations and Performative Activism on Black Lives Matter (BLM)

I remember waking up on the 25th of May 2020 thinking it would be another monotonous day in lockdown but it is a day that shocked millions around the world, the day George Floyd was murdered by members of the Minneapolis Police Department and the ensuing outrage as a result of this awful injustice which spilled over onto social media, this is where I was first introduced to performative activism. Performative activism can be defined as when an individual acts out of a desire to increase their own social capital rather than out of true devotion to a cause.

Since then it has become an ever-increasing trend to “perform” activism. This is a simple task that can come in many different forms, whether that be posting a black square on your Instagram, retweeting a post calling for the killers of Breonna Taylor to be brought to justice or following a page that creates generic social media posts made for Instagram or snapchat stories. From there it is nothing more than a copy and paste activity and after you have posted a few quotes or pictures you are now an activist. Being a modern-day activist seems to be about saying more while doing less. As a result, it establishes a culture where one can carry on the charade of caring. It creates a world where people believe that by posting a black square on Instagram that they will help to end injustice and racism. This act can be seen as the epitome of performative activism, over 29 million people participated in #blackouttuesday and posted a black square on their Instagram, however the online petition to bring justice for George Floyd received fewer than 20 million signatures. Unfortunately, businesses and brands are also held to these measly standards despite many exploiting the very people they claim to support. As a result, this allows brands to repeat popular phrases of support and offer a hollow condolence to the victims. Again, this is all performative and does little to further the cause, instead this is simply a marketing ploy by corporations wanting to cash in on the latest “trend”.

Even as recently as a decade ago it may have been an extremely risky marketing decision for a business to have a political alignment. However, as the line between politics and profit becomes ever more blurred companies will try to gain from these “trends”. This can be seen in companies such as L’Oréal, who on June 1st posted “Speaking Out is Worth It” in support of Black Lives Matter. The irony is that the company had previously fired a black transgender model called Munroe Bergdorf after she spoke out against white supremacy in 2017. These hypocritical and performative displays also take place in sport as seen in the NFL. After Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the US national anthem to protest police brutality and has since been blacklisted by the NFL. The organisation then posted a message condemning police brutality this year. This can also be closer to home with the Football Authority who historically have dealt with instances of racism poorly as can be seen in the handling of Luis Suarez while he was playing in the Premier League, he received a ten-match ban for biting an opponent but only an eight match ban for racially abusing an opponent. This is despite their recent performative attempts to show support for black lives by having Black Lives Matter printed on all Premier League shirts.

In stark contrast to L’Oréal is Ben and Jerry’s, the company has taken the morally astute high ground and outright condemned white supremacy within America. They worked with several advocacy groups on how to best phrase the unequivocal takedown of racial discrimination and injustice. They have long been an ally to the Black Lives Matter cause and have prioritised racial justice as one of the main issues the company cares about. They also have several articles on their page educating people on BLM and have a page showing you how to donate money to different organisations. A sport that has performed more than the bare minimum for the BLM cause is the NBA. The athletes in the NBA are overwhelmingly diverse with around 75% of athletes being black as a result they have used their platform to encourage voting. They do this by creating portals to simplify voter registration, using their arenas as polling centers and giving free parking to those who need it. These examples show that it is unlikely these corporations will be able to dismantle racial inequality alone, however this shouldn’t stop them taking part. I believe that every big corporation and has a social responsibility and should exercise it. They should look from within and locate any problem areas they may have and address them. These problem areas could include a lack of diversity in managerial roles, working down to pay disparities. There should be training to create a more accommodating workplace for people of colour. Corporations will need to assess the impact they have on the black community and address the damage done. Such activism does not need to be flaunted on Twitter or Instagram but instead, in time, should speak for itself. As actual activism can only take place for the right reasons.

Joel Currie is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn and Twitter

Activism or Opportunism?

Identifying and avoiding performative activism in PR.

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

Short answer: they can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SS1

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

COVID-19. Which brands got it right?

COVID-19. Which brands got it right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did You Grab A ‘Deal’ In PLT’s 99% off sale?

Did You Grab A ‘Deal’ In PLT’s 99% off sale?

There is no denying that we are all partial to a bargain (as a student this is what I live for) however, with the increased consumption of fast fashion, these cheap clothes deals come at the cost of someone else along the chain of distribution.

Don’t get me wrong, I love online shopping as much as the next person however, recently I have turned away from fast fashion brands such as Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing firstly because I am not a fan of the quality of their clothes and secondly, because I have learned more about the brands themselves. Both brands are owned by billionaire Mahmud Kamani and it goes without saying that the Kamani family deserve a lot of credit for the portfolio of brands they have built extensively since they began in 2006. They have grown in the UK and internationally and are now a platform which serves customers right across the globe, bringing in sales of over £1billion.

Boohoo Labour Exploitation

However, earlier this year it came to light in an undercover report by the Sunday Times that Boohoo factory workers in Leicester were allegedly being paid as little as £3.50 an hour, were forced to work during the Covid-19 lockdown and in poor conditions with little social distancing. As you can imagine, this caused uproar among the media and customers and their share price began to drop as other companies such as Asos, Next and Zalando removed all the brands clothing from their websites. However, Boohoo Group responded by launching an independent review into the supply chain which supposedly found some inaccuracies with the report although there was evidence that showed codes of conduct weren’t being followed.

Paying Pennies for Clothes 

This had a massive impact on Boohoo and their brand portfolio reputation however, it really struck a chord with me when I see on Black Friday that Pretty Little Thing (owned by Boohoo Group) were having a “up to 99% off sale” – sorry what? It was trending across Twitter that the site had basically sold out already with some items of clothing being reduced to as little as 25p (Yep – pennies). It’s not a hidden fact that Black Friday is a race for some companies to see who can offer the best discount, however, when the company has been subject to criticism like earlier in the year, selling clothes for as cheap as 25p doesn’t really paint an ethical picture does it? 

Even though the company is worth billions and can obviously afford to do this, the question still remains “How can they sell clothes at that price?”, it makes you wonder what the human cost of that £1.60 dress is and who within the supply chain has been exploited. In my opinion, I’m not sure who thought having a sale like that was a good idea due to the recent company backlash and also, the current environmental issues as over production and consumption of textiles contributes significantly to waste. 

So what?

The Black Friday situation has taught me a few things; we need to be more aware of where our clothes are coming from – if it’s being sold for a few pounds it’s probably came from a supply chain of exploitation; customers are still driven by fast fashion prices regardless of a company’s bad reputation; and that I would 100% rather pay more for a good quality piece of clothing if it was produced fairly. As well as that, it’s sad to see shops like Topshop, which used to be extremely popular, on the brink of administration as I believe people know they can get the same clothes for a fraction of the price on sites like Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing and then opt for the cheaper option. 

Perhaps we can all try (myself included) to make better choices when it comes to shopping online in the new year and perhaps look at different ways to upcycle and re-wear outfits instead of buying a dress under a fiver for the sake of it being that cheap!

Shauna McKillop is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She spent her placement year at The Tomorrow Lab in Belfast, where she continues to work as a digital marketing executive. Shauna can be found on: LinkedIn and Twitter.

Brands Building a Sustainable Future

Brands Building a Sustainable Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Market the C-Word

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

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

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

CM23

Netflix #YouShouldveStayedAtHome

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

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

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Guinness #StayAtHome

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

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

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

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

#Sainsbey

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

It’s……….Innocent Smoothies

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

“I’ve had te go te Burger King.”

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

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

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

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

How Brands Are Supporting Us During the Coronavirus Outbreak

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

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

  1. Unilever promises €100 million to tackle the virus

 

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

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



 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

5. Some iconic logos staying relevant and encouraging social distancing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Great brands demonstrating social distancing

As governments around the world promote staying at home to curb the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak, brands are stepping up to help. 

With consumers staying at home, brands now have a unique opportunity to craft creative digital campaigns to showcase their products as well as their social responsibility. By spending all this time indoors, it is no surprise that creativity is booming around the world, with strong messages of hope, unity and forward- thinking gracing our social media timelines. 

Cleverly, Slovenia-based creative director Jure Tovrljan reimagined some of the world’s most iconic logos for the new age of social distancing. Tovrljan redesigned 12 logos from brands like Nike, Starbucks and The Olympics. Some updates were as simple as a play on words: LinkedIn becomes ‘LockedIn’, Nike’s famous ‘Just do it’ becomes ‘Just don’t do it’.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst these designs are just thought experiments, some brands have made actual changes to their logos to express official recommendations surrounding Covid-19.

Fast food chains have taken their own twist on this emerging trend. McDonalds has separated the Golden Arches that make up its iconic ‘M’, whilst similarly KFC adapts its logo with a strong tagline to reinforce its message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile Coca-Cola widened the space between the letters in its iconic script with ‘Staying apart is the best way to stay united’ situated below it, promoting the stay at home order. Whilst it hasn’t touched its famous ‘Just do it’ tagline, Nike have also made an attempt to adapt the public obligation to stay at home as a personal challenge with their new ad campaign below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not forgetting the disruption automakers have faced to production from the outbreak, Audi and Volkswagen have also joined in temporarily redefining their logo:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, we ourselves at Allstate have applied our own light-hearted approach to this trend to visually engage with our audience and remind them daily of the recommendation we face:

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, whilst not all brands are adapting logos they are being mindful about the way they communicate.

ASOS was recently scrutinised for selling chainmail face masks during this outbreak. Since then, they made the decision to the withdraw the product, and have been more mindful about the way it is speaking about the pandemic on social media. Positively, ASOS is using gentle humor to encourage social distancing, speaking about it in a tone that appeals to its target audience of millennials:

 

 

 

 

It is clear to see that in these challenging times brands are destined to stay current whilst promoting social good. Do you think these are successful?

Stephanie Daly is a third year Bsc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University currently on placement year at Allstate. She can be found at: LinkedIn – Stephanie Daly.