Monday, March 28, 2016

Everyone's a Critic

From personal experience, after I have a positive or negative interaction with a company the first place I go to is twitter. The power has switched from the organization to the consumer through social media usage and suddenly, I’m in control. The thought is empowering. When I shred a company on social media as a result of a horrifying customer service experience I feel like Donal Trump.

My problems are not always resolved from these social media rants nor do I receive the interaction I was hoping for, but what does make me feel accomplished is informing my friends and family of my experiences but most importantly getting it off my chest. 

Yes, I am a millennial and was raised in a time where everything and everyone is accessible by lifting a finger. I am able to create and publish content online via social media and if I am capable of it, so could a caveman. Today, everyone and their brother has at least one social media account. Opinions that were once shared between one-on-one interactions can be read, shared, retweeted, favorited, liked, etc are now accessible to billions of people. Thanks, internet.

The source becomes of utmost importance in earned media because there is now a sense of authenticity when information is coming from real-life individuals like you and me rather than a trained advertising advisor for a company trying to sell and persuade you. I am more likely to be persuaded in my opinions from my best friend who received the most pitifully sad burrito from Chipotle and then tweeted a picture of it than the perfectly photoshopped image that the company has posted to their social media account. 

One example of social media users creating positive PR for an organization is a woman named Christina McMenemy who was a guest at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee for a conference. She shared the following tweet on social media and was informed that the model was exclusive to the hotel and was unavailable for purchase. 

Defeated, Christina attended the conference thinking of nothing but the calming sounds from the clock radio wishing she could sleep as well as she did at the hotel. Having given up hope, she returned to her room where she found a present with a handwritten card. There on her freshly made bed was the clock radio that she had fallen in love with. This loyal customer was so thrilled that she shared this photo on social media. The smile on her face says it all. 

The hotel received serious media coverage from this post, including mentions in big time blogs such as this one;) 

Social media is not always rainbows and butterflies for businesses though. One Directions former guitar player, Dan Richards recently shared a sarcastic tweet about losing all his accumulated British Airways miles. 

His followers, many of them members of the 1D fandom (such as myself), responded to the tweet in hopes of the airway seeing his tweet. Two days later, Dan was all smiles because British Airways had returned the miles back to his account so he tweeted a thank you. 

Had they not resolved his conflict, his tweet could have influenced others to have negative associations with their brand. Without proper “medical” attention, these unpleasant posts could create long-lasting damaging effects to your company or brand. This is why it is important to take advantage of this revolution and utilize the power shift before it breaks them.

Anyone is capable of making a social media account, but the content on these accounts can have serious affects on an organization. The power is now ours as consumers, so next time you are unsatisfied with the dismal amount of rice in your Chipotle, forget the hassle of searching for their customer service phone number or email address, go straight to the source of power; social media.

The power is yours,

Mallory West
Twitter Savvy User & 
Burrito Bowl Enthusiast 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fight for Memories

I can’t remember the last time my grandma called me by name. I can’t remember the last time she recognized my face. I can’t remember the last time she was able to host Christmas dinner. What I can remember is her hair turning from blonde to gray. I can remember Christmas dinner where she would wet herself because she couldn't help it. I can remember holding her hand as she cries and shakes. I can remember helping her shower because she couldn't do it on her own. I can remember visiting her in the nursing home and realizing that she doesn't know who I am. 

I think I was a freshman when my grandma was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. After the doctor’s confirmation, we realized that she had been showing symptoms for years now. At first it was just her misplacing her purse, locking herself out of the house, or stumbling over names of grandkids. Then it progressed into a physical as well as mental transformation that led her to resemble a shell of the person she used to be. This disease has taken an extreme toll on my family as a whole and has caused us tremendous stress, pain and other obstacles. It has turned a strong-willed, stubborn, hard-working, loving, caring woman into a ghost. 

Not all of my memories of her are ones centered around her disease. As one of the oldest grandchildren I have fond memories of her being the best grandma a little girl could ask for, which is not so true for the youngest cousins who have no memories of her that aren't centered around Alzheimer’s. I’m truly lucky to have those memories. I remember when I was little I would beg and plead with my mom to let me spend the night at her house. I loved those sleepovers with her she would put my hair in curlers at night so that way I would look pretty the morning. Sometimes my cousin Lexi and I would both stay and when it was bath time I remember she would say “Alighty girls, let’s get necked!” in her Kentucky accent. These Family holidays at grandma’s were the best because there would always be so much food. The woman never stopped cooking or cleaning, I swear. These are the times I would like to remember her by, but the majority of my life has been filled with memories of her disease. 

Nothing about having a loved one with Alzheimer’s is easy, but the toughest part is that every time I visit her in the nursing home I am left wondering if that will be the last time I get to see her. What I do know that when it is her time to go, that she gets a straight pass to Heaven after what she has been through and that is enough to bring some peace of mind. 

The special edition purple Lokai bracelet spread aims to spread awareness and to raise money to support the Alzheimer's Association which is why I bought mine to show support for my grandmother. This was inspired by the CEO of the brand, whose grandfather also suffered from the disease and he wanted to create this purple bracelet to honor him. Lokai made a minimum donation of $300,000 to the Alzheimer’s Association as well as $1 per purple bracelet sold to advance research for a cure as well as provide care for my grandma and the other 47 million people living with the disease. #FightforMemories

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Political Campaigns Enter the 21st Century

The influence of social media has revolutionized political campaigns, chaining the way candidates send target messages to audiences. The goal of political campaigns is more than just to win an election. In fact, campaigns serve four main purposes; to educate, legitimate, sensitize, and activate voters. Before the rise in popularity of social media, campaigns were advertised though the basic media channels of print, television and radio. The use of social media in political campaigns has expanded the number of outlets that can be used to achieve the goals of a campaign.

Without creating awareness and educating voters on a political platform, a campaign is doomed to fail. In order to successfully educate their audience through social media, a candidate must create content that is relevant to their platform and what they hope to achieve if elected president. Simply creating awareness and getting their name out is key in earning an online following. Through social media platforms candidates are now able to target the younger millennial generation, who has a lower voter turnout rate, by communicating on their turf. Millennials such as myself are internet connoisseurs as well as social media gurus. Everything we do, we post on social media. Utilizing this knowledge to the candidate’s advantage, it is known that print newspaper is a dying medium and is not applicable to reaching a younger audience and altering messages to be sent via Computer Mediated Communication.

View an expert's opinion:
How candidates are using social media to educate publics

Campaigns should also draw citizens closer to the government. Legitimizing is an important contribution to campaigning because it creates a sense of identity and allows for individuals to feel like they have a voice. Instead of voters seeking out information on the election or specific candidates, social media brings political campaigns to them. When candidates communicate with voters on social media, they are in a way, inviting their followers to interact with them and share their opinions. First hand, people can see what candidates are posting to social media and bring the government to the people.

Political campaigns should also sensitize which allows for public leaders to listen to the public’s needs. This seeks to form a relationship between the public and the candidates, familiarizing them with the public. Social media closes the gap between the government and the public allowing them to feel more connected to candidates. The timeliness of social media allows for candidates to engage in conversation immediately. The conversation-style aspect of social media benefits candidates by making their followers feel like they are talking to their friend, rather than a political candidate that is essentially a stranger to them. Social media breaks down physical distance barriers, making the audience feel a closer connection to the candidate.

A campaign should also activate. This should encourage voters to act upon what the candidate has said, whether it be by making a donation, spread awareness and finally vote for the candidate. Party Identification refers to the specific party or candidate that a person choses to pledge their loyalty to and most commonly supports. This pledge can take several different forms that range from: registering as a member of a specific party, volunteer for political campaigns, directly giving your vote to a political candidate that aligns with one’s own party, promoting party ideas, beliefs and goals with friends and family. All of these are forms of activating citizens, the fourth and final goal of political campaigns. Social media enables people to share their views, opinions and beliefs about a political party or candidate with their family and friends. It can be used to show support or in order to share their displeasure with the issue or person in question.
Throughout the years, political campaigns were solely advertised political parties which then developed into candidate-focused strategies that aimed to sell candidates to the public like they would a bar of soap. Today, campaigns have transformed even further into the technological era, utilizing social media to their maximum benefit to educate, legitimize, sensitize and activate voters.

Mallory West
Political Novice and Social Media Enthusiast

Friday, February 5, 2016

Branding to a T(ea)

Thanks to the internet and social media, we are now able to keep up with each of our friends (or enemies), family and peers; sometimes too well. Through these multiple media channels, you are able to read on Twitter that someone ate a bagel and then check Instagram to see the same person posted a photo of her entire brunch (including the bagel) with a fun n’ flirty caption and filter. We feel the need to post about each and every part in order to form our own ideal personal identity online. Just like companies create and share their brand, we make ourselves into a brand and sell this image to our followers. The most popular way that we have started to brand our identities is by taking selfies. One theory suggests that we view ourselves through other people’s perceptions of us, called the Looking-Glass Self. We are able to share an idealized version of ourselves and make others see us how we want them to. 

Health and fitness has become so heavily emphasized in today’s society. There are thousands of diets, equipments and pills out there that swear that you will lose weight. With the increased desire to achieve the “perfect” body, consumers are willing to try and spend whatever it takes to attain this image. One brand that has recently become extremely popular is Fit Tea. This product is detoxifying tea that increases body metabolism and energy levels. Their Instagram is comprised of selfies of people holding their mugs of tea or the Fit Tea bag. This company has gone from being a small unknown business to taking over the Instagram world by utilizing the power of the selfie.

Celebrities love taking selfies with their Fit Tea.Vanessa Hudgens, Ed Westwick, Sarah Hyland, Ross Lynch, Tyler Posey and Danielle Campbell are just a few of the celebrities that have posted selfies with their Fit Tea on Instagram. Each of these celebrities are physically fit and publicly promote a healthy lifestyle and by posting selfies with this brand, then the brand becomes a part of that image. We see the brand and we see the people in the selfies using the product and we like the way they look, so we think that if we also use that product then we can look like them. It’s selling an ideal lifestyle.

The best celebrity to post a Fit Tea selfie, in my opinion, was Khloe Kardashian. In the past year, Khloe has gone through an impressive body and lifestyle change. With her new book, talk show and body makeover reality television show Khloe has become a respected and impressive health and fitness guru. This is the selfie that she posted to her Instagram profile.

 The caption reads “Missed the gym yesterday and this gave me all the extra help I need!! @fittea keeps me healthy and gives me that glow I love, especially when I’m getting ready for #KocktailsWithKhloe! Being healthy is a lifestyle!!”

Fit Tea does not only repost selfies of celebrities, their Instagram profile contains a range of individuals from all walks of life. They encourage users of Fit Tea products to post pictures with their tea  and to share their own personal transformation photos. Because this is a product that helps lose weight, there are several before and after body transformation selfies. Seeing these selfies and reading their stories creates a sense of community through the brand. When there are selfies of everyday people with imperfections and similar body size and weight to you and you all share a similar goal (to lose weight), then Fit Tea becomes the bridge that connects each person together. There forms a support group through the brand to all reach your own personal fitness goals together, supporting one another.

Without their use of selfies, I would have never heard of this brand. Next time you are out eating brunch, drinking Starbucks, or out with your friends, snap that selfie! Don't underestimate the power of the selfie. Instead of being viewed as a basic “white” girl move, think of selfies as a strategic and powerful branding/marketing technique.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

#LikeAGirl Doesn't Have to be a Bad Thing

The phrase “like a girl” has developed such a negative connotation in our male-dominated society. During the most vulnerable times in their lives, young girls are told what they should or shouldn’t do and how they should act. This behavior is toxic for developing self worth and identity. Always is a brand for women that sells feminine products for menstruation, because the brand has a strong female connection, they designed a campaign that set out to reverse this reputation of the phrase. The campaign is called #LikeAGirl and the first of the videos was released during the Super Bowl in 2015. 

Most other advertisements that are targeted towards women like to push an ideal image for physical beauty. Always took a different approach by interviewing young girls and boys, varying in the range of 8-16 years of age, about their life experiences as a girl. All older interviewees admitted that they have been stereotyped and degraded in some type of way based on their gender which impaired their self-worth. Instead of showing footage of girls ballet dancing or playing tennis while on their period, the ad asked them to demonstrate different activities from running, throwing and fighting but in the manner of “like a girl”. Each of the older females/males were shown demonstrated these activities in a weak manner including over-exaggerated hip movements that portrayed the meaning of “like a girl” to be something derogatory and weak. Next was shown a segment of young girls who, when asked to run like a girl, began to run in place with power and determination and executed all other commands in the same manner. When asked how they would run “like a girl” next time, they said that they would run like themselves.

In a second video, the question "Why do we limit girls?" was asked. Always had girls  to write something they have been told that they are not good at or shouldn’t do because of their sex on a large white cube. Each girl wrote words like “weak” or “not good enough” and shared how it made them feel. One young girl shared that she was told that she shouldn’t play the trumpet because she was a girl and wasn’t good and took that to heart and gave up…for a week. She wanted to prove the people who told her she couldn’t wrong so she practiced and practiced until she could. All participants then shared that all of these obstacles that were written on the boxes made them feel weak and did not accurately define them. Then they were told to knock down the boxes, kick them, do anything to break free of them. You can see the look of relief on their faces when they realized that these words were not who they were.This second advertisement had a similar message to the first, but instead focused on encouraging girls to be themselves and be whatever they wanted to be. The word 'Unstoppable' is used in order to reinforce their message of instilling confidence in their audience and not allowing anything to hold them back anymore.
"I mean, yes! I kick like a girl, and I swim like a girl, and I walk like a girl, and I wake up in the morning like a girl and that is not something that I should be ashamed of, so I'm going to do it anyway"

                         -#LikeAGirl Campaign 
The campaign was impressively executed and had an overwhelming response with more than 54 million views on YouTube and around 30 million more times from other various sites. One reason for this campaign being so successful was because it resonated with its audience based on a strong emotional appeal. I can’t speak for all women, but I know myself and innumerable other women and young girls can relate to the experiences that were shared. The campaign presented a problem, which was that a girl’s confidence can tumble during puberty and then provided a solution by saying “it doesn’t have to”. It became engaging at the end of the video with a single sentence; “Let’s make #LikeAGirl mean amazing things”. Rather than presenting their products in an advertisement where the goal is to increase sales/promotion, Always chose a message that chose to empower and instill confidence in women in a way that had never been done before. 

Super Bowl Sunday has the highest rates for television viewership out of the entire year. The commercials during this game are known to be the best of the best in advertising, the majority of them relying on humor to capture the audience. From my own personal experience with the advertisement, the #LikeAGirl campaign stood out compared to all of the others because after it aired, the room was quiet. Unlike typical advertisements for feminine products that are targeted specifically to women, I don’t think the campaign was geared toward any specific target audience because it resonated with every person in the room regardless of age or gender. 

Theory wise, the campaign contained elements of the Cognitive Dissonance Theory which explains that people tend to only seek out messages that are consistent with their attitudes and will ignore others that are not in alignment with their opinions or beliefs. There are only two males featured in the interview segment, one young and one a young man. The younger of the boys who demonstrated the phrase “like a girl” to mean something weak and derogatory. After, he was asked if he thought that he had insulted his sister. Initially his response was a hard and quick no, but then he admitted that yes, he did think that he had insulted girls. I thought that his feature in the ad was interesting because it demonstrated a disconnect between the belief that girls aren’t weak, but their actions showed differently. Most of the time messages that are dissonant are either ignored or changed in order to agree with beliefs, which are both defense mechanisms. However, in this case Always was successfully able to change the interpretation of the phrase and according to studies that were done to evaluate the success of the campaign, cause people to rethink using “like a girl” as an insult. 

No one would have thought that an advertisement for pads and tampons would have stolen the show during the Super Bowl commercials, but the reaction was significant. The video was being shared on Facebook, linked on twitter as well as other social medias making the hashtag #LikeAGirl trend worldwide sharing their stories and what it meant to be #LikeAGirl. What I like about this campaign and what made it so impressive is that they did not use the product as a solution to the proposed problem. In fact, there was no mention or use of any Always products. They are a brand that sells products for women and therefor created this campaign in order to strengthen and empower females of all ages.

I am no feminist myself, however I did find myself to be very drawn to this campaign because I think it was enlightening and inspiring. 


Friday, January 15, 2016

Study Abroad: London

The year 2016 has some pretty exciting things in store for me, but what I am most excited for is traveling outside of the United States for the first time. Towards the end of November I was accepted to study abroad for a semester in London. Then there was the hard part-getting my mom to agree to let me go. I don’t know how I did it but both of my parents were able to financially work it out, allowing me to attend the trip which I am so very grateful for (thank you mom and dad, xoxo). The program includes a week long of classes on campus and then over three weeks spent touring London and other cities in England, including Stonehenge. 

There are several things that I need to accomplish before leaving. This will be my first time officially traveling outside of US territory (Puerto Rico doesn’t count), meaning that I finally have to obtain a passport. Taking care of legal documentation is first and far-most important and then comes the fun part which is buying new carry on luggage for the plane as well as shopping for my new London wardrobe. 

I will be taking 2 courses in a span of 4 weeks which will be extremely challenging and information packed. These courses count for 6 credits of my Liberal Arts core curriculum requirements so it fit extremely well into my graduation plan. To ensure that we don’t  spend the entire duration of the journey studying and reading course materials, my instructor has promised that we will do all course work either the week before we depart for London or once we have returned to the states. This was one thing that I was cautious of before signing up for the program, I didn’t want to be locked up with a textbook when I could be exploring the city. 

The most nerve-racking part of this experience for me is the fact that i do not know anyone else who is also involved in the program. Our first official meeting for the program will be in the beginning of February. I am excited to meet and get to know everyone on this trip. 

I plan on updating this blog throughout this experience from start to finish and I hope that I will be able to look back on my writing and remember the details of the places I saw, the things I did and the people I met.