Activism or Opportunism?

Identifying and avoiding performative activism in PR.

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

Short answer: they can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT

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

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

  1. Guinness

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

2. KFC

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

3. Netflix

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

4. Nike

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

5.) Emily Crisps

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

6.) Ikea

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

  • McDonalds and Volkswagen

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

  • Gymshark

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

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

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

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Words to live by? I think so.

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

COVID-19. Which brands got it right?

COVID-19. Which brands got it right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coronavirus crisis; how brands are successfully addressing it

Coronavirus crisis; how brands are successfully addressing it

I know we’re all sick of hearing about Covid-19; I won’t bore you with statistics or point out your wrongdoings. Instead I wanted to share my fascination with the way in which brands, big and small, have reacted to the global crisis. Not only is it worth taking note of their crisis management but also their crisis communication and marketing. Sparks of creativity and brilliance were keeping us sane as organisations developed impactful ways to demonstrate how much they cared. They’ve been addressing customer concerns, trying to unearth solutions and attempting to create solidarity whilst promoting a physical separation. Others just graced us with humour during some of the dimmest days.  

Many would argue that brands were faced with a sink or swim dilemma. The options were to think on their feet; either physically changing the product or the service they provide, remaining relevant through crisis marketing or suffer irretrievable losses.

  1. Addressing customer concerns

By early March it became apparent that this virus was here to stay. Every day we were faced with unprecedented decisions taken by the government, impacting on every aspect of our lives and rapidly heightening our stress levels. Companies were keen to express empathy, acknowledging the impact Covid was having on so many. Stockpiling became a daily ritual for those fortunate enough to do so. Toilet paper became a hot commodity; I’m still unsure why. Panic buying led to stretched supply chains and the resultant shortages meant brands were faced with backlash from the self-same panic buying consumers. Cottonelle, one of the leading toilet paper brands, developed a campaign encouraging consumers to “stock up on generosity” and #shareasquare.     

2. Finding solutions

Companies quickly responded to the urgent requirement for medical equipment and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The demand was for hand sanitiser, ventilators, scrubs and masks. Large brands, such as Smiths Group, LVMH and Brewdog, were in a strong position to pivot their manufacturing in order to develop prototypes or products. Smiths Group worked with the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium securing a contract to produce 10,000 ventilators for the UK. Additionally, world renowned company LVMH converted their perfume factories to produce hand sanitiser. LVMH are famed for their high-end luxury products, however, we all learnt very quickly what the real luxury in life was; our health.

Closer to home, we experienced similar adaptations. Groups were popping up everywhere producing thousands of scrubs and other PPE. In fact, I do recall chuckling at the sight of doctors or consultants working in princess-themed scrubs made from children’s bedsheets. With regards to businesses adapting to the new normal and providing a new service, I am sure the majority of us jumped at the opportunity to pick up a takeaway from our local restaurant. For many restaurants this was a completely new experience and hiccups in services were inevitable. But let’s face it, at this point we had the time to wait for our dinner. Restaurants such as Shu in Belfast created an online menu of recipes and ingredients which customers could choose from, collect and cook at home. This ensured that they still managed to stay afloat in uncertain times and continue to provide a product and service to their loyal customers.

3. Sense of solidarity

Brands and organisations took responsibility for spreading awareness and encouraging people to observe social distancing. Brands wanted to demonstrate their understanding of our wish to remain united despite the physical barrier between us all. Coca Cola placed a billboard in Times Square which read “Staying apart is the best way to stay united”. Nike also jumped on the bandwagon, generating a catchy slogan “play for the world, play inside”. Portraying the world as a smaller place with a shared identity, and striving to engender a kindred spirit, became a common theme. The most touching one for me was the St Patrick’s Day Guinness advert. Despite gatherings and celebrations being slightly different this year, Guinness found a way to intensify our sense of camaraderie, yanking on the strings of our national identity.

4. Humour

Humour effectively executed can reap excellent rewards for brands. It creates emotional arousal and promotes the release of anxiety or worry through amusement. Through efficacious humour, organisations can take important rules and regulations set by higher powers, make light of them but also inform their customers. When brands allow us to see their ‘funny side’ we open up more to them and, on occasion, their marketing ploys can become the most memorable to us. In keeping with Covid-19 guidelines, KFC removed the “finger lickin’” part of their famous slogan “it’s finger linkin’ good”, much to my amusement. Another which caught my eye was Connswater Shopping Centre’s sign, making light of the fact they were insisting on customers wearing a face covering.  

We will never forget the year 2020, each of us for slightly different reasons. Despite the difficult times we’ve faced, I know I’d be speaking on behalf of so many when I say it’s been a hugely insightful time. Particularly for me as I begin my career in communication and public relations. I have been inspired by so many organisations, watching as they harness their creativity in every aspect of business life. Learn from them, take chances, be bold, and prosper.

Lydia Killen is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter

My Top Favourite Campaigns!

Ever since I started to study PR and started to understand the effort that goes into creating a PR and marketing campaign, I have gained an appreciation for a campaign that can make me stop and think!

For me, the campaigns I remember the most are those were companies use their platforms to highlight the social issues happening all around the world to gain consumers attention to the social issues as well as the product they are promoting.  These campaigns are always very controversial and inspiring, social media however allows everyone to post their opinions and views without focusing on the issues being promoted. Campaigns are becoming increasing more difficult to promote as consumers are always finding ways to avoid watching or listening to ads, which requires companies to work harder than ever to gain our attention.

Here are a few of my favourite Campaigns that focus on social issues:

Nike

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

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Like many, I didn’t really understand the sacrifice that Kaepernick made when taking a knee during an NFL game, it wasn’t until I seen the Nike campaign that I actually researched what it all actually meant. Nike took a stance on a social issue for their 30th anniversary campaign, the campaign featured former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. Kaepernick took a knee during a pregame playing of the American national anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice America, as a result of this he has not been signed by another team. This caused outrage among many people including President Trump who attacked the advert ‘’I think it’s a terrible message that [Nike] are sending and the purpose of them doing it.’’

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Many went as far as to burn or cut the Nike logo off their products in solidarity with their country, many felt it was unpatriotic and incited rage among consumers.. However, the campaign actually increased Nikes stocks by 5%.

Following this controversial campaign, Nike also launched a campaign featuring women in sports.

 

‘Dream Crazier’

Nike also released a campaign focusing on ‘crazy’ women in sport. This campaign worked to redefine what it means to be a ‘crazy’ woman and remove the negative connection of the word. It focuses on female athletes who have worked to break down barriers, to inspire the next generation of female athletes.

It features tennis champion Serena Williams who speaks throughout the campaign as she has personal experience of being called over emotional. She was questioned by both the media and social media when she returned to the sport after giving birth to her daughter.  Throughout history women have always been seen to be inferior to men within sport, to this day these negative stereotypes still apply.

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I have always appreciated Nike’s ability to tackle the most controversial issues without worrying how it will affect their brand but focusing more on bringing attention to issues that they support. Nike founder Phil Knight, said “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it.”

Jigsaw

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Jigsaw is a luxury British Fashion clothing and accessories retailer, that took a stand on immigration with their ‘Heart Immigration’ manifesto which challenged the idea that  anything or anyone 100% British.

NM24This comes at a time when no one knows what is in store for us in regard to Brexit and what this means for immigration. It focuses on the idea that is nothing is ever completely British, it is a little of this and a little of that. This was done exceptionally well by working aside ancestry UK to show how diverse fashion is as ‘British style is not 100% British. In fact, it’s just as diverse as we are’. It received a lot of support from social media as well as critiques who felt that it is not the brands place to speak on such a controversial issue.

Are we ever just one thing, if you look within your family or friend group are they a mixture of different nationalities or all one? I don’t believe any of us are just one. By using none traditional ways of promoting there brand they made me click into their campaign and look at the clothes in a more in-depth way than I would a brand who just use the same pretty pictures with pretty clothes as everyone else.

Gillette

It is  impossible to not know what the ‘me too’ movement is unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years. Gillette is just one of many brands who had to change their stance. They changed their tagline from ”The best a man can get”, replacing it with ”The best men can be”.

As a well-known men’s brand, Gillette challenged sexism, the dangers of toxic masculinity and the importance of setting a good example for boys. Throughout the ad, it shows examples of cyber bullying, sexual harassment and mansplaining. The advert also highlights the proliferation of the phrase “boys will be boys” as a means of excusing harmful or violent behaviour exhibited by young boys.

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This ad has been praised as being ‘pro humanity’ as opposed to ‘anti-male’. Actor Terry Crews supported the campaign ‘I was told over and over that this was not abuse. That this was just a joke. That this was just horseplay. But I can say that one man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation.”

Throughout the ad, there was many examples of ways for men to improve the negative stereotype surrounding them following such a huge #metoo movement, I felt it was a very well thought out campaign that used the timing of the #metoo movement to their advantage. This is only one step they have take to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man. As a company they have promised to donate $1m a year for three years to non-profit organisations with programs “designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation”.

Piers Morgan tweeted ‘I’ve used Gillette razors my entire adult life but this is absurd virtue-signalling PC guff may drive me away’. Does he really think anyone cares about his opinion?

Project 84: Calm

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Did you know that 84 men every week commit suicide? It is one of the leading causes of death among men in the UK. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) started a conversation about male suicide On World Mental Health Day, by creating 84 sculptures standing on top of This morning Studios in London.

NM20On the projects websites there are names and details of each of the men, who stories were told by those close to them. It shows that no matter where you’re from, what age or race you too can struggle. This campaign was implemented to put pressure on the government to make a change, this was achieved by the first UK suicide prevention minister being appointed. This campaign raised awareness for a every growing issue within the UK with  powerful message in a dignified way.

 

I can’t wait to see what campaigns are coming in 2020, as I embark on a carer in PR myself.

Niamh McNally is a final year BSc Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @NiamhMc_Nally 

 

“My Movement told me be a consumer and I consumer it!”

“My Movement told me be a                          consumer and I consumer it!”

 

‘Wings’ by Macklemore narrates growing up in a society surrounded by consumerism. The rapper uses such thought provoking lyrics to express how as a culture, we spend unnecessary amounts of money buying expensive things that we think define our individuality, “Look at me, I’m a cool kid, I’m an individual”.

Relating back to my blogs on part one and two of ‘The Social Influencer’ and the discussion of Erving Goffman’s theory on identity, we have the ability to shape and portray ourselves as whoever or whatever we desire to be.  Humans naturally want to feel a sense of belonging therefore dress accordingly and conform to the set cultural ideologies to fit and feel accepted.  President Jimmy Carter quoted in 1979 “too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns”.  This behaviour continues as Macklemore quotes thirty something years later “We are what we wear, we wear what we are”…“I’m part of a movement”.

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Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis express consumerism using Nike as an example throughout the song, however initially does not outright quote the brand yet references the unique and identifiable qualities associated such as the strap line “they told me to just do it” and the notorious logo “I listened to what that swoosh said look at what that swoosh did”.

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When objects are brought into the market place, people consider them to be sources of satisfaction with mystical characteristics. Consumers only see the surface of the goods and exploit the labouring process, Karl Marx conceptualises this as ‘Commodity Fetishism’ (Marx, 1954).

Nike is well-established and one of the world’s most iconic brands and market leaders for sports footwear, despite claims that link the brand to manufacturing in poor working conditions in third world sweatshops. We as consumers plead ignorance and choose to alienate ourselves from the production process and have no reservations towards paying a lot of money for products that probably cost very little to produce…hands up, I’m guilty of it!  

Through the use of celebrity endorsements such as world famous athlete Michael Jordan, Nike has managed to position themselves as athletic wear, tapping into the emotions of consumers with beliefs that everyone in this world can be an athlete wearing Nike. Macklemore expresses his vulnerability as a young boy and the influence of celebrity endorsement “I wanted to be like Mike, right wanted to be him, I wanted to be that guy”.

As the song draws to an end, Macklemore quotes “Nike tricked us all”, “it’s just another pair of shoes”…fundamentally all shoes serve the same purpose however our ideological perceptions and commodity fetishism will convince us that Nike is superior and gives us that status symbol that no other shoe could.

 

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Even tattoos are becoming a growing commodity that were once perceived as negative aspects in culture however are now considered to be trendy and cool. Somewhat like clothing, however deeper and more symbolic, ink is used to represent important values, beliefs and ideologies and many tattoo enthusiasts are willing to spend huge amounts of money on their body as an investment in art and identity representation. They are used to differentiate and individuate people, while at the same time enabling people to conform with masses of others, take for example the ‘emo’ movement and the star tattoo…

 

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‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ by Sophie Kinsella demonstrates how commodity fetishism can drive a lot of consumers into debt, with the desire to satisfy their obsessions over material things. The novel is based on a young woman called Becky who gets herself in to debt trying to fulfil her emotional and psychological need to amass clothes, shoes, and other material objects in order to present a certain type of image to the world.

The consumerist dilemma is the consistent belief that people can live beyond their means, indulging short-term profits without consideration for the future effects of overspending. Kayne West’s song ‘Blood on the Leaves’ demonstrates how society is so backwards that we would rather have material objects than intangible things such as spiritual, emotional, mental and intellectual fulfilment and we are willing to deprive ourselves in order to obtain those material objects, as Mr West quotes “Two thousand dollar bag with no cash in your purse”.

 

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I find the theory of capitalism and commodity fetishism fascinating… so much that I have based my dissertation on the topic. Through my findings, it seems we are buying into it evermore due to the rise of digital and social media, and with the ability to target consumers based on behaviour and search activity, the fetishes for commodities are becoming harder to resist

Marx, K (1954). Capital Volume 1. 3rd ed.

Cara Cowan is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/caracowan/