When I worked for Webinar Resources, I wrote a lot of blog and newsletter articles. I’m going through some of them for an assignment I’m doing in my Strategic Communications class. Here is a Wayback Machine link to some of the articles I wrote between 2009 and 2012. Enjoy!
“In the article “Why Traditional Marketing Trumps Social Media, And What To Do About It” author Kimberly E. Stone makes the case that social media should be used to reinforce what traditional marketing is doing, but not take over or take the lead from traditional channels.
She believes the best uses for social media in the present day are:
Interacting with customers
It would be interesting to review how I thought social media should be used back when the company I was working for was heavily into business blogging and I was writing blog and newsletter articles about how and why to use social media. I found articles I wrote on our old blog from 2009-2012 on the Wayback Machine. Here is the link I used to view my old articles.
What did I think social media was good for during that time?
Making it easy for customers to share your content
Applications designed to build subscriber lists
Making shareable archives
What are customers currently interested in
Is anyone talking about us in a negative way
Cutting the cost of distributing your content
Leveraging the investment in content by repurposing in different channels
My list is much more broad, but although I worded some things differently my list mostly includes everything that is in the author’s list. I did say in one of my articles that I learned in a webinar put on by Compendium Blogware that an organization has to get their “SEO, Social, Content, Email Marketing and PR people to communicate with each other”. A PR practitioner can play a role in facilitating communication within an organization as well as between the organization and its publics (Broom and Sha 189). So I do agree with the author’s premise, that social media should augment traditional channels but not replace them.
While I was writing these articles I was mostly writing for small companies. I touted the benefits of social media partly for the lower price point of entry over some traditional marketing channels. That did not mean I favored not using the older channels if there is a budget for it. Whatever is new is always exciting, but it doesn’t mean you have to jump on every new thing if it doesn’t fit. The goals of all the channels that are used should be to present a consistent experience in keeping with the organizations brand and objectives. All channels are not appropriate for all audiences, so it isn’t necessarily good to use every one that is available. Also, during Marketing 5000 class I learned there is at least one older channel that is coming back into favor if used in an updated way – the catalog. To choose the right mix means keeping up to date on the trends as popularity waxes and wanes for certain channels.”
Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.
Stone, Kimberly E. “Why Traditional Marketing Trumps Social Media, And What To Do About It.” Forbes, Sep 18, 2012. Accessed 15 September 2020.
Here is what I wrote for one of my assignments for my Strategic Communications class. I’m posting it here because I needed a history refresher to write this and some of you out there might enjoy one too. The question put to us was, “Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay engineered “history’s finest public relations job” to gain national acceptance of the U.S. Constitution. Based on your reading of Chapter 4, describe the organized effort they undertook to urge ratification of the Constitution. How did their approach differ from those of the nation’s first publicity agencies, and now in contemporary times?”
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers to make the case to ratify a new constitution featuring a stronger, more centralized Federal government to replace the Articles of Confederation (Thernstrom 174-177). Federalists had appropriated the title “Federalist” and labeled their opponents “Antifederalists” because it sounded better than to call themselves “Nationalists” even though Nationalist was a more accurate term (Thernstrom 175). The climate in which Hamilton, Madison and Jay wrote these articles was one in which 88 out of 100 newspapers in the colonies were Federalist-owned and did not print opposing views (Thernstrom 176). Hamilton sponsored a paper called the Gazette of the United States in order to insure the promotion of his ideas (Bitter 22). Even though he did not necessarily agree with which form Federalism should take, fellow Federalist Madison also used his influence to install a poet sympathetic with his own views as editor of a rival newspaper called The National Gazette (Bitter 22). Even with much press influence in place the Federalists came very close to failing to win ratification as the fear of replacing one type of tyranny with another was well-entrenched, especially among more rural populations (Thernstrom 175-176).
At the time the Federalist Papers were written, newspapers were generally published for specific audiences and not for a mass audience. The majority of Americans were not literate then so what newspapers there were mostly served specific interests (Bitter 21). The Federalist Papers were similar to the era’s papers in that they represented the interests of a group that was very influential but not what we think of today as “the masses” (Bitter 21). Only people who were very involved in politics were much concerned about which form the new government should take (Thernstrom 178).
John Jay, although he only wrote 5 out of 85 Federalist Papers, wrote some of the most influential. He was able to write persuasively by drawing on his personal experience as Foreign Secretary of the national government (Ferguson 223-224). After expressing some of his frustrations, Jay switched to more rational language that was also in contrast to the more fiery tones of Hamilton who wrote “Federalist No. 1” (Ferguson 225). Jay expressed his arguments in language that was beautiful on it’s own merit while conscious of trying to convince the reader of the rightness of his cause by insisting that the more aesthetically pleasing idea is the right idea (Ferguson 227-235).
When more organized public relations firms came into being in the early 1900s, they were responding to the needs of organizations seeking to counter the new phenomenon of mass media. More of the population was literate at this time and newspapers aimed at a mass audience were engaged in a lot of muckraking to advocate for and appeal to a more popular audience (Bitter 21).
The public relations profession further matured as the 20th century progressed, with specialization, increased recognition and milestones obtained by women and minorities. The pace of change accelerated at times of national crisis (Broom and Sha 91-101). Right before the 20th century ended, the internet started to see wide adoption and changed the way we all consume and produce information. Almost everyone now has some kind of a “press” in their possession, so we don’t have to sponsor a newspaper to get our opinions “printed”. However the amount of influence we can bring to bear and the way we use language are still important in determining how effective we are at communicating and persuading so most of the strategies that the Federalist Papers writers used are still relevant in my opinion.
Bitter, John. “Which Came First – Journalism or Public Relations.” Public Relations Quarterly, Fall 1987, pp. 21-22. Accessed 20 August 2020.
Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.
Ferguson, Robert A. “The Forgotten Publius: John Jay and the Aesthetics of Ratification.” Early American Literature, vol. 34, 1999, pp. 223–240. Accessed 20 August 2020.
Thernstrom, Stephan. A History of the American People: Volume One: To 1877. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.
Here is a follow up comment from me.
A lot of what I remember about the Enlightenment era has more to do with Art History than History class, since I took more art history being an art major. I’m going to get out my art history books and refresh my memory on that time period. I didn’t have much time to review this material at the time but I did go on a business trip to Philadelphia in 2009 and I traveled a day early so I could see Independence Hall and some other things. Walking the area around it, I took a lot of pictures of the classical style architecture and statuary of the day and tried to imagine what it was like back then.
Here is my Facebook album of pics from the time. It’s set to Public for viewing.
I’m enrolled in Strategic Communications class at Webster University for the Fall 1 Session. For one of my assignments, I was asked to answer some questions and then engage in discussions on the topic. Here is my answer plus some of my subsequent remarks.
Define “public relations” and “marketing” and explain why these functions often are confused.
According to Broom and Sha, public relations is a function of management that organizations use to build and maintain relationships with the public to the benefit of all stakeholders (Broom and Sha 2).
In marketing, organizations study what consumers want and need and strive to provide attractive and useful offerings in exchange for something of value (Broom and Sha 5).
In your answer, point out the major difference that distinguishes these functions.
The major difference between marketing and public relations is that in the former, there is an exchange between the involved parties of goods, services, money, or some other consideration that has value (Broom and Sha 5).
Contrast publicity with advertising. In your answer, address issues related to message control, expense and relationship to marketing.
Publicity is something that an organization might cultivate, or it could happen to them involuntarily due to some kind of unforseen issue or circumstance. Publicity professionals can use their knowledge to tailor their publicity submissions while targeting the right recipients so that the information is used in a way that is favorable to the organizations goals. They can’t compel or control how the information is used however (Broom and Sha 7). Some publicity can be had for free, while other publicity might involve expenses such as labor to research and prepare the strategy and content or mailing printed information.
Some of the same skills that publicists use are used by advertisers and in some organizations the same people people might perform both functions. Organizations are not necessarily consistent in how titles and functions are used and the public can be influenced by the portrayals of both types of jobs by portrayals in the media which are not always accurate (Broom and Sha 7).
In advertising, the organization is paying for the exposure which gives them control over where the message is placed, the timing and the content (Broom and Sha 10).
Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.
I took this picture early in the summer because I figured it would come in handy in marketing classes. One of the times that I used the Wal-Mart grocery pickup service, I got this surprise free bag with my order with free samples in it. Is this marketing or PR? Can they be doing both at the same time?
The book (Broom and Sha) mentions that some efforts at PR are looked at with suspicion because it looks like the organization is trying to gain while appearing to be doing good, or some people already dislike and distrust the brand. There was a very different reaction among people depending on political affiliation with the stimulus checks, for example.
Wal-Mart is a brand that some people have strong reactions to. Wal-Mart gave me this bag of goodies when I had already used their services for awhile and it was a surprise. This was given out when a lot of brands were giving out some freebies to help out with COVID care and also get a little promotion.
For example at Schnarr’s, some companies gave us free hand sanitizer with their name on it to use for the store. Before masks were available at a reasonable price, I had a large stash that a client had given me for crafts, so I had plenty to share for awhile. If a customer came in the store really needing one to tide them over, I gave them one from my stash in a ziploc bag that I had packed after making sure my hands were clean. This is something I would have done whether or not it was good PR for the store and no one asked me to do it, but the store was my main exposure to other people at the time and it was something immediate I could do to help. I gave some plus some gloves to an old friend who works at a radio station. I didn’t give them to him because he works at a radio station, rather it was because he has health issues that make him very vulnerable and he was understandably scared. I did not ask him to mention me or Schnarr’s (where he started buying stuff without being asked) on the air. I don’t know if he did or not, I didn’t ask. For me it was not a quid-pro-quo situation, but I was not at all displeased to get a new customer at the store.
The Wal-Mart bag doesn’t really have anything useful for COVID, but it was something that brightened my day. I loved some of the free samples and others I gave away. I have not re-ordered any of the free sample products but if someone wanted to Wal-Mart made it easy to re-order. I might re-order the deodorant if they have a non-spray version. It smells wonderful. Other than brightening my day and being good for health in that sense, this bag seems more marketing than PR. I think it’s effective because it thanks people for trying the service, and gives them incentives to try it again and at the same time makes it easy and convenient with the bar codes and QR codes. They knew they were probably getting a lot more new customers because they were one of the first to have pickup services and it was fully in place and working well before the pandemic so they didn’t have to put it together in a hurry.
Here is another example of something I’m giving away. Like a lot of gardeners, I tend to have more seeds than I need of some plants and I save some to trade and give away. A few years ago, I designed and printed out some of these little seed packet templates to fill with seeds and give away at Schnarr’s Hardware along with candy and other goodies like safety lights as “treats” on Halloween.
After the COVID-19 pandemic started, some friends and customers asked me if they should be concerned about food security and if so what to do about it. I didn’t really know the answers, but I know that when people are out of work that there is less money to go around and people who are poor will struggle more than usual to get their basic needs met. It’s not a new idea for people who find it difficult to afford food or live in “food deserts” that lack stores to buy healthy food to engage in community gardening as a way to supplement the food supply. I gave some plants to someone who was trying to get a community garden started in his neighborhood.
Schnarr’s customers are mostly not of the group that needs to worry about meeting basic needs, but there are a lot of customers that engage in gardening and might want some extra seeds to grow themselves, give away or trade. Also with possibly more kids being home schooled there might be more interest in home gardening so that kids can learn about plant biology and other related topics. I decided to reprint some of my little seed trading envelopes and package up some of my extra seeds for free giveaways as I harvest them.
Schnarr’s sells garden seeds, so is it a good idea to give some away? Mindful of not wanting to hurt sales I put small quantities in the packets, 4-10 seeds in each depending on the size of the seed. Someone who is not sure about trying a new plant or is casual about gardening in general might get inspired to do more if they try a free sample. That could bring us more sales in the long run of garden supplies. I put the Schnarr’s blog address on it so that people can read the large amounts of gardening information that I have contributed there. I think the information I put there will benefit those who want to learn more about gardening, but of course more readers also means more exposure for the blog. Those are a couple of ways that I think this giveaway can help Schnarr’s a tiny bit.
More importantly, how does this small action help the community? With the increased demand on gardening supplies in general that we have seen since the pandemic began, we are sold out of some seeds so even if someone wanted to buy a larger package of seeds from us, with some varieties they will have to wait. Some of my plants are species we wouldn’t carry anyway, so customers get the chance to try some new things. I also am convinced that since growing serious amounts of food is not easy, the more people who know how to do it the better off we are as a society. Added to that are the benefits to overall health of getting outdoors, interacting with nature and engaging in exercise. There has never been a better time to garden, if one is able, with the extra stress many of us are under – horticulture has therapeutic uses for mental and physical health.
I also put some of these seed packets in the little goody envelopes that I put in orders from my online store. I give a few to friends and fellow Master Gardener volunteers from time to time but since I’m not seeing those groups of people as often as I normally do, I need someone to give some of the seeds too!
What do you think, am I doing PR, marketing, or both?
I have never lived in Ferguson, MO but I have a lot of ties there. I worked there for several years. I went to school there for several years (yes I know STLCC is a two-year college but it took me longer than that – plus I took continuing ed classes for many years afterward). I know how hard the people of Ferguson have worked to create a nice business, dining and entertainment district. I’ve had several of those businesses as clients over the years and have been a customer at many others. A couple of my best friends lived there. I don’t like to see any community torn by violence but of course it’s extra emotional when it’s one that I am familiar with.
I believe the arts can heal and I believe that gardens can heal. That’s why I’m a Master Gardener and why I’ve been having my #virtualartparty online. When I saw that a friend of mine that I respect for her art ability, spiritual commitment and community spirit was participating in #paintforpeace in Ferguson, I wanted to put my beliefs about the healing power of art to the test. This past weekend I painted one panel along the main drag of Ferguson to make my contribution and to see what would happen. My husband joined me for one of the two days I was there and helped me paint a panel. If you have any questions about what we experienced or opinions about the project please feel free to ask and comment.
The theme for #virtualartparty Thursday, June 11 is Public Art. #paintforpeace is a form of public art that is intended to have a specific function. There is also a lot of other public art in the news lately – statuary and monuments from US and World History. There are monuments that are being targeted because they cause offense and make people feel unwelcome, and there are others that I theorize are being targeted to get footage of statues being toppled in the hopes of inciting fear and anger and sparking a violent revolution of our form of government. George Washington, Winston Churchill, Ghandi, Queen Victoria, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are all under attack and if continued we in the US and any part of the world influenced by European culture will see a Cultural Revolution to rival past events in history. Has anything good ever come from that? Please give your opinion.
Although it is not perfect I still support the Democratic Republic form of government and the US Constitution. I predict public art is going to be in the news for a long time to come. In between questions and comments, if we get any, my husband Tom is going to read selections from the following books. I chose these books because they were on my shelf and convenient, and also had something interesting to contribute to the public discourse about public art and public spaces. I have a HUGE book collection (seems pretentious to say “private library” but I guess that’s what it is) and I need to dig into it more often. It’s very illuminating, and I also find it calming to know that the issues we wrestle with today are not new and people have the ability to persevere through a lot of tough times.
Book selections for June 11, 2020:
“The Expressive Arts Activity Book: A Resource for Professionals” by Suzanne Darley and Wende Heath, 2008. Pages 60, 68.
“American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Excerpts from pages 186, 189, and 190.
“A History of the American People: Volume One: To 1877” by Stephan Thernstrom, 1984. Excerpts from pages 358, 372, 377-379.
“Parks, Plants and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape” by Lynden B. Miller, 2009. Excerpts from pages 65-66.
“Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, 1991. Excerpts from pages 68-69, and 98.
“St. Louis: Portrait of a River City” by Elinor Martineau Coyle, 1966. Excerpts from pages 56, 66-69, 82, 128.
“Arts and Ideas”, Seventh Edition by William Fleming, 1986. Excerpts from pages 86-87.
“The Visual Dialogue: An Introduction to the Appreciation of Art” by Nathan Knobler, 1966. Pages 238, 261-263, 289.
If you have book, article, or art recommendations, please post them! I’m going to be posting more after tonight’s discussion because there is enough material to stay on this topic for quite awhile. I might even want to turn this into a project for my Master’s Degree at Webster University, if I don’t get expelled first for “thoughtcrime”.
Update June 12, 2020
Ok, here is how last night’s video turned out.
#paintforpeace in Ferguson organizers video:
They are promoting the hashtag #wehearyou so I’m going to start adding that to related stuff in social media.
Listening and hearing I think are some of the key things I’ve learned from this healing experiment. We live in a “gotcha” culture and everyone is quick to see and pounce on the flaw in someone’s reasoning rather than trying to understand how they got to where they are in their thinking. People in our society today have an average attention span of 8 seconds which is less than that of a goldfish which is 9 seconds. Is it any wonder that the humanity part of being human seems to be hard to find? Understanding and healing takes patience and work, but we are being pushed to instantly judge someone to see if they fall into one category or another so their concerns can be dismissed. If you treat people like that for decades you can’t earn trust back in an instant. Have we all examined ourselves to see if we are worthy of trust? That’s what we have to do first before we judge someone else for getting the wrong idea about us and writing them off as not worth trying to engage with.
Of course there are those who have ill intent and want to sow hate and violence to achieve their destructive goals and sometimes they hide those goals under a facade that seems benign. I believe in letting people show you who they are with their behavior before you judge. I don’t blame people for not knowing who it’s safe to trust. I try not to take it personally and use patience and love to “give peace a chance”. You might get burned, but you might find something beautiful. We have to accept that we aren’t always allowed to have peace but where we can have it I like to try it first.
Here is an amazing video I watched the other day. It’s called “Before You Call the Cops”.
This is a homework assignment for my Marketing 5000 class at Webster University. It has not been graded yet.
Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Dr. John Jinkner
20 April 2020
Name of the Article: “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes”
Source: Multichannel Merchant
Author Lisa Henthorn in the article “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes” first addressed the decline of printed catalog use by many retailers in the late 2010s during a recession that coincided with the rise of social media and the continued adoption of ecommerce (Henthorn). Some retailers who took the opportunity to cut costs also lost a lot of revenue. Land’s End, for example lost $100 million in revenue the year after ceasing printed catalog production (Henthorn). Other retailers returned to using printed catalogs after noticing that catalogs were still popular with many customers and influenced purchases in stores as well as directly from the catalogs (Henthorn).
It has been noted that the majority of millennials, consumers in the 21-35 year-old age group, have used catalogs to make purchases influenced by a catalog (Henthorn). Neil O’Keefe, senior VP of marketing and content for the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) believes that millennials enjoy catalogs because they have viewed less printed marketing material than past generations and the imagery in catalogs attracts them (Henthorn).
Catalogs continue to be part of the omnichannel marketing mix employed by many retailers today (Henthorn). The purpose of omnichannel marketing is to give customers a seamless and consistent shopping experience as they interact with the brand via the channels of their own choosing (Sopadjieva). A study published in Harvard Business Review showed that the majority of the customers surveyed in a 2015-2016 study were multi-channel customers and shoppers that used only a single channel were markedly in the minority (Sopadjieva). Multi-channel users were also found to spend more on average both online and in stores, as well as being more frequent and loytal customers (Sopadjieva).
Henthorn makes the case in her article for not only continuing to use catalogs along with other channels, but also leveraging technology and data from all channels to make the catalog shopping experience more personal for the shopper and relevant to seasonal campaigns (Henthorn).
How this Article Relates to our Course
Printed catalogs can be either a stand-alone shopping channel or part of a multi-channel or omnichannel mix (Pride and Ferrell, 473). I chose to write about the state of catalog marketing in the present day because I currently work part-time for a company that includes printed catalogs in the marketing mix and wanted information on how to use the printed catalogs more effectively.
L.L. Bean is a company that is featured as a case study in our textbook (Pride and Ferrell, 487-488). L.L. Bean began as a mail order company and now continues to use catalogs along with retail stores and online retailing. Unlike the previously mentioned Land’s End which reduced the use of printed catalogs and lost considerable revenue, L.L. Bean has thrived by retaining catalogs as part of its marketing mix while using technology to send a number of specialized catalogs to targeted customers (Ruiz) as suggested by author Henthorn. Henthorn mentioned catalogs being popular with millennials because they are more of a novelty to that generation, and author Ruiz picked up on a similar observation by quoting a customer named Melissa Berggren who felt that the trend away from catalogs during the recession years made catalogs seem fresh and interesting again. Ms. Berggren also appreciated the upgraded concepts and production values of some of today’s catalogs which she likes to use for decorating inspiration rather than just product listings (Ruiz). Rohit Deshpande, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, notes that brands need to really work hard to gain attention from customers (Ruiz). When customers enjoy interacting with a brand in any channel, that company has a competitive advantage (Garnier and Poncin, 363).
IKEA is another brand that is using multiple channels to reach customers according to their preferences. Brick-and-mortar retailing dominates, but the catalog, apps, social media and e-commerce channels are still very important (Pride and Ferrell, 489-491). IKEA also put extra effort into making their stores into destinations with cafes and displays that are compelling and tailored to the clientele in the vicinity (Pride and Ferrell, 490). Researchers Garnier and Poncin studied the use of catalogs by IKEA because they are a company that still has a popular printed catalog even though they offer several other channels (Garnier and Poncin, 362). The researchers’ goal was to study the effectiveness of online catalogs as compared to e-commerce web sites and printed catalogs (Garnier and Poncin, 361). Although their findings suggested that online catalogs might not be a necessary investment if a company already has an e-commerce web site (Garnier and Poncin, 366), there are concepts in their paper that can apply to any marketing channel. Customers seek both utilitarian and hedonic value when they shop (Garnier and Poncin, 364). Hedonic value is the “search for pleasure, fun, and experiential stimulation” (Garnier and Poncin, 363). In the brick-and-mortar realm, L.L. Bean is giving customers a more compelling experience in its flagship store by including a cafe and demonstrations, making this location a tourist destination as well as a channel for engaging with the brand (Pride and Ferrell, 488). Like IKEA, L.L. Bean successfully added to the hedonic value of customer store visits. Catalogs that only repeat product listings that are on the company’s web site risk creating a negative impression on customers by wasting paper and the customer’s time (Ruiz). Printed catalogs that contain content that adds to the hedonic value, such as stories, are being used by many brands that know their customers like to be inspired by catalogs (Ruiz).
Marketers that do still use catalogs should take into account what their customers like or dislike about catalogs today to use them effectively. For example Patagonia prints its catalogs on recycled paper to reduce the environmental concern that customers may have about paper catalogs (Ruiz). Land’s End surveyed its customers and found out that 75% of online purchasers had used the catalog to review products, a finding that caused the company to reconsider the role of catalogs in its marketing mix (Ruiz). As we’ve been learning, all marketing should be centered on the customer (Pride and Ferrell, 5). The marketing environment is always changing (Pride and Ferrell, 12-13) and the same forces that influence the marketing environment in general also can cause older channels to be used by customers in new ways.
Garnier, Marion and Ingrid Poncin. “Do enriched digital catalogues offer compelling experiences, beyond websites? A comparative analysis through the IKEA case.” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, vol. 47, March 2019, pp. 361-369. doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2018.12.011. Accessed 19 April 2020.
Henthorn, Lisa. “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes.” Access Intelligence, LLC, 2019, https://multichannelmerchant.com/blog/catalogs-remain-staple-retailers-toolboxes/. Accessed 18 April 2020.
Pride, William M. and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing. 2018 Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2016, 2018.
Ruiz, Rebecca R. “Catalogs, After Years of Decline, Are Revamped for Changing Times.” The New York Times Company, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/business/media/catalogs-after-years-of-decline-are-revamped-for-changing-times.html. Accessed 20 April 2020.
Sopadjieva, Emma et al. “A Study of 46,000 Shoppers Shows That Omnichannel Retailing Works”. Harvard Business School Publishing, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/01/a-study-of-46000-shoppers-shows-that-omnichannel-retailing-works. Accessed 20 April 2020.
Links to some of the resources I cited above and for some that I did not use are on a Pinterest board here: Marketing 5000
Authors Lu and Miller examined how loyalty rewards programs (LRP) combined with customer relationship management (CRM) and social media campaigns could increase sales of “green” products in a retail setting. Concentrating on grocers who sell foods that are marketed as organic, healthy and sustainable, the article explains that while the demand for “green” foods is growing, there are barriers to the acceptance of these products among some consumers (Lu and Miller, 87-88). Some potential customers hold the perception that environmentally sustainable foods are too expensive, aren’t adequate substitutes for conventional products and are not worth the extra cost. With additional knowledge about the value of such products, some consumers can be persuaded to give them a chance and be converted to motivated buyers (Lu and Miller, 88).
Because Facebook was the most dominant social media platform in the world at the time of the study, the authors used it to examine the relationship between Facebook content and sales among “green” grocery retailers in a large city in Australia. Facebook is a platform that marketers can use to practice social customer relationship management (SCRM), an updated form of customer relationship management (CRM) that adds social media into the marketing mix (Lu and Miller, 89). Intuition and previous studies showed the authors that effective content on Facebook should increase sales. Their study focused on participants in loyalty rewards programs which are proven to increase profitability if used effectively (Lu and Miller, 90).
Social media gives consumers more control over marketing because they can create and share content rather than just consuming content that is pushed to them by the brand (Lu and Miller, 89). Both brand-generated and consumer-generated content can increase the level of interest and engagement with a brand, which has a positive influence on actual shopping activity (Lu and Miller, 89, 91). “Green” products do often require more knowledge on the part of the consumer to realize the value and to stimulate a purchase (Lu and Miller, 91). Many “green” consumers organize themselves into social media-based communities that share common values and exchange information (Lu and Miller, 91). Consumers need to be motivated to effectively consume information presented by a brand (Lu and Miller, 92). It makes sense to leverage the power of social media along with the heightened brand engagement exhibited by long-term loyalty reward program participants (Lu and Miller, 92) to increase the acceptance of environmentally responsible products. Lu and Miller found that thoughtful SCRM strategies did increase the sales of “green” products to long-term LRP members (Lu and Miller, 97) and that these loyal customers responded more to messages about the health benefits of sustainable products than they did about the environmental benefits or the price (Lu and Miller, 98).
How this Article Relates to our Course
In Chapter 1 of our textbook, “Marketing”, we are reminded that environmental factors that influence marketing can change quickly (Pride and Ferrell, 13). As we are now suddenly dealing with a global health issue that has severe effects on many aspects of life, one way consumer needs have changed rapidly is that we need supplies to protect ourselves from infection. Health, physical and mental, is at the top of nearly everyone’s concerns right now. I work in a store that has a loyalty rewards program, engages in social media marketing, and sells some environmentally conscious products, considerations which made the article I reviewed of particular interest. We also sell supplies, some in stock intermittently, that customers want and need to cope with the pandemic. I’m observing and participating in real time how to change course rapidly as we respond to consumer demand as well as reading about it in our textbook.
Perhaps some might assume that such an event in history is a time for mere coping, not marketing. Marketing concept is a philosophy that an organization adopts when it takes into account not only the needs of customers but the welfare of all the stakeholders that it has an effect upon (Pride and Ferrell, 13-14). Customers of the store are stakeholders, as well as are owners, employees, vendors, service providers, delivery people, the families of all those groups and the community as a whole. Profiting by satisfying customer demand at the expense of other stakeholders was already frowned upon by many as a business practice before the current challenges we are facing (Pride and Ferrell, 14). Brand managers would be wise to be wary of being perceived as exploiting a crisis. For example, businesses that inflate the prices of crucial items or make false claims about the usefulness of products have been reported by name in an article published by the St. Louis Post Dispatch (Stewart).
The article I reviewed is enlightening when considering how marketing concept applies to serving the community in the present time. Since long-term loyalty rewards program customers are the most profitable customer category for a retailer (Lu and Miller, 92), it is less than rational to reap short-term gains at the risk of offending long-term loyal customers with behavior that is not community-minded. I hypothesize that a brand that already takes into account all stakeholders and has effectively imbued its organization with the philosophy behind its marketing concept is at low risk for carelessly implementing an action that will backfire because the first instincts of individuals within the organization will be to serve rather than exploit. Now is not a time to cease marketing but to use actions as marketing while serving all stakeholders with a view to their long-term health and welfare, fiscal and otherwise.
Lu, Qiang Steven, and Rohan Miller. “How Social Media Communications Combine with Customer Loyalty Management to Boost Green Retail Sales.” Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 46, May 2019, pp. 87–100. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2018.12.005. Accessed 06 April 2020.
Pride, William M. and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing. 2018 Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2016, 2018.
I found out at the last minute that I had homework for my first Marketing 5000 class which starts in a few minutes. I wasn’t sure how to turn it in (the class is online) so I’ll make it a blog post. Enjoy!
When I was working on an undergraduate degree, I was a participant in Student Government. I wanted to get better at what I was trying to accomplish so I bought and read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. A friend of mine was over at my house visiting and saw the book on my desk. He exclaimed, in a horrified tone, “You shouldn’t read that! It tells you how to manipulate people!” My answer was, paraphrasing, “I don’t think manipulation is the right word. I remember reading in the book you should give compliments to the person you are attempting to influence, but they should be sincere compliments – you should look for something you genuinely admire about the person or the strategy won’t work. Also it says that business deals should benefit both parties.”
I’m aware that some businesses take a “churn and burn” attitude toward their customers. For example there is a retail store I’ve worked for briefly that does not care if the service in the store is horrible because they can always get in new customers by aggressive coupon marketing. At least that appears to be the attitude held by those in charge – I don’t have a statement saying so from them, I’m surmising it by the way the company is run. Their treatment of employees is similar: the equipment, such as lockers and cash registers is always breaking down, the toilets frequently back up and the bathroom stinks almost perpetually. Some of the managers are verbally abusive and don’t give bathroom breaks or answer new employee’s questions about how to do things without an accompanying put-down. As a result of things like that the turnover rate of employees is high which in turn creates even worse service for the customers. I’ve worked at other retail stores that have as part of their “basic beliefs” or “mission statements” goals like “respect for the individual” and “enhancing the quality of life in our community”. In both places the statements of beliefs and philosophy were distributed to all and posted in prominent locations. These businesses are seeking repeat business from customers and want to retain good employees while still trying to meet the challenges of staying profitable.
Dale Carnegie’s urging to make business deals that benefit all involved parties is an example of what is referred to as marketing concept in our textbook “Marketing” by authors William M. Pride and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing concept aims to meet the organization’s goals and the needs of customers through a management philosophy that involves not only the marketing department but all departments and activities of the organization (13-14). In light of this explanation of marketing concept, it’s not too surprising to me that the same company that is willing to treat employees poorly also does not mind treating customers poorly. My Mom and Dad passed on to me the teaching they got from their employer Boeing that other employees are to be considered as “internal customers”.
A business can sometimes legally choose to attempt to meet its customer’s needs while disregarding the long-term welfare of society. For example if a business moves manufacturing to another country to avoid environmental regulations or reduce labor costs, in the short term their profits will go up but society will suffer. We are seeing the effects right now in the coronavirus pandemic of having so many of our needed supplies come from far away. If a company can manufacture goods so cheaply that it’s cost effective to ship them thousands of miles, that might work until there is some kind of crisis that exposes the weaknesses of such practices.
In my opinion, here are some other examples that I’d like business leaders to think about:
Can our employees afford to buy the products? If they can afford them, they can use them and tell customers about them.
If the people in the target market don’t have jobs any more, can they afford to buy the products?
If we force our workers and the community to accept unhealthy conditions, will we always have a healthy and productive workforce to draw from?
If I try to take unfair advantage of the providers of goods and services, am I ok with that store or that vendor going out of business? For example, if you nickel and dime your webmaster to death until they have to get another job to stay solvent, will you care if you have to pay to get a whole new web site because you can’t find anyone reasonable to maintain the old one?
We could probably all go on and on with examples! If there is not enough public outrage or their government refuses to hold them accountable, businesses can get away with unsustainable practices for a long time.
In our textbook there is a case study about New Belgium Brewing on pages 26-27. NBB not only put thought into the quality of the product, they think of their employees, the community and the environment as stakeholders whose well-being is important. It’s part of their brand to care for all the stakeholders and they are still profitable and growing. A marketing concept is intended to benefit both profits and the full range of stakeholders.
I can’t afford to do all my shopping at Whole Foods, but I do shop there sometimes when I need something that other stores don’t have. Once I was trying to buy suet for making wild bird food cakes. The butcher at Whole Foods told me they did not sell suet. Since they do some of the meat cutting there in the store, I asked the butcher if I could buy a quantity of fat trimmings to experiment with. He told me I could have them for free and he’d save me some and to come back tomorrow. I did and got a nice big package of fat which helped feed a lot of birds. This employee did not know if I would buy anything from Whole Foods or not, but knew it was in keeping with their brand to provide that service. Whole Foods also donated a quantity of unused plastic containers to Litzinger Road Ecology Center where I am a volunteer. We used some of the containers as suet molds. With actions such as these, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to all stakeholders while reinforcing their brand.
Some consumers probably think of a brand as a name of a product or a logo, but a brand can also include things like sounds, colors, pictures, experiences, environments and actions. A marketing concept can help a business select actions that are good for profits and also for society.
The “Back To Our Roots” art show opened Friday, February 21 and is on display until March 20. I am in this show along with 21 other artists who are students in nine different departments at Webster University. The exhibit is in the Contemporary Art Projects Gallery in Arcade building in downtown St. Louis.
From the upper right clockwise, my pieces are named “Correspondence That Could Have Been, I – IV”. Here is a statement from me about what these works are about.
“A dear friend of mine, Mark Reed, who I used to collaborate with creatively died in 2018. Over the years, we discussed, traded, and collaborated on art. Some of our collaborations became realized, some were unfinished, some were just talked about. We both used to enjoy the art format Faux Postage, also known as Artistamps or Artist Postage Stamps. This is an art form derived from Dadaism and Mail Art in which artists make up their own imaginary postage stamps to comment on the human condition through the concepts of correspondence and networking. It’s a playful format we both enjoyed in and out of active participation in the Mail Art community. For Back to Our Roots I’ve made four Faux Postage designs based on some unfinished stamp designs of Mark’s which used elements of some of my designs, for which he obtained my permission to use about 22 years ago. I have made one design with the price of postage at that time, one with today’s postage rate and a couple of values in-between. This is to symbolize that whether we were actively collaborating or not, during all the time I knew him his influence on my work was felt, and his influence will continue to be felt and warmly remembered by me as long as I am alive, in art and in life.”
The emotions and ideas in these pieces are intense and not entirely processed. The three art journals displayed below are works in progress that I use as creative expression and self-care to help me digest all kinds of things about life, both good and bad. Visitors to the show are welcome to page through them.
I have been working on a mini web site to go along with these journals to explain what is behind selected pages in these journals. It’s crudely formatted for mobile viewing so that visitors to the show can scan a QR code and read my commentary. It is readable on a desktop web browser too, though formatted in a bit of an eccentric manner there since I rushed it to get it ready for the show. Like the journals, it’s in progress and might be in progress for some time, who knows what the future will bring. I’m surprised at how much I have to say and how much is pouring out of me. To see what I have published so far, see the link below.
The gallery was broken into, vandalized and some of the artwork vandalized. The artists whose work was affected have been notified so they can make repairs. They expect to have the show up and running again by the end of the week.
In Mass Communication class this past fall, I wrote about the following propaganda techniques in my paper “How do we decide which media sources we can trust?” – Name Calling, Glittering Generalities, Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, Band Wagon, Impersonation, Emotion, Polarization, Conspiracy, Discredit and Trolling. I found some really interesting information about trolling that I saved in the extra links section below my paper for further study later. Recently in Media and Culture class, we watched a 60 Minutes video report titled “Brain Hacking” which inspired me to do a little experiment on social media the next day.
I saw a meme shared by a friend on Facebook that contained a false but somewhat plausible sounding claim about current political events. I shared it in my Facebook feed, which is public because I use it for marketing as well as other purposes, to see what kind of reaction I would get. I and others made some comments below it that I plan to investigate more and write up in a more polished way later. For now, one of the most important things I observed was that the meme drew comments from people I’ve been Facebook friends with for years (and friends in real life in some cases) who never respond to my more typical, much higher quality content. I can speculate on many reasons why this was so, some of which I may be able to prove and some I may not. One thing I can definitively assert however is the effect of the trolling on this blog, a separate channel from Facebook but with lots of cross-links back and forth. I posted the trolling meme on November 20, 2019 and here is a screenshot I took this morning of my blog stats.
With more research I hope to understand more about how trolling works, but I think it’s pretty clear why so many people do it – it gets attention!
In my current Media and Culture class, one of our recent assignments was to find and analyze examples of a successful political ad and and unsuccessful political ad. I found something really great – a successful political ad about political ads, very interesting for that reason alone, which was also a Facebook trolling experiment perpetrated by a presidential campaign.
Even though “trolling” is a word with negative connotations, I think this is a very successful example and in a way could be considered “good” propaganda as I consider my own trolling test to be. In both cases we tried to be somewhat ethical while trolling by eventually coming clean about what we were doing in order to raise awareness. Regardless of which candidate one supports, I think all can benefit from seeing and analyzing the Warren ad. In order to truly be able to interpret media messages it is a good media literacy skill to be aware of the ad policy on the channel on which you are viewing the content. It’s a hot topic right now in the news as channels scramble to modify their ad policies to bring about the election results they want, appease users who fear “fake news” and trolls, and still get a slice of that fat advertising pie (according to Bloomberg over a billion in 2016 just for the dominant presidential candidates).
The original Warren ad led off with a shocking statement to get attention. After explaining the purpose of lying in the ad, the copy then makes accusations that would take research to prove or disprove which I’m not going to attempt here, but would probably be believed or dismissed by many depending on how the audience has been primed. The photo of Trump and Zuckerberg shaking hands will likely get an emotional reaction out of a lot of people. Even though a handshake is a standard beginning and end to a business meeting, the photo suggests they are partners. I don’t know if the photo was purposely chosen to show eye contact between Mr. Zuckerberg and President Trump with the President appearing to be speaking and Mr. Zuckerberg listening, but it could be interpreted as trying to show the smaller, slighter, younger Zuckerberg as being under Trump’s thrall.
Was the Warren ad effective? When I did research trying to find information about this ad, I learned that it inspired commentary and articles on NPR, CNET, CNBC, The New York Times and others. The media coverage I’m sure is something the campaign wants since their stated goal is to raise awareness of Facebook’s current advertising policy. Based on a quick glance at Warren’s Twitter feed, the amount of likes and shares this ad instigated was a very good result compared to normal results. The call to action at the end is a common feature of many good ads – it lets viewers do something right away if they are so moved.
There is a Facebook Ad Library that allows you to view current and past ads, even ones you were not otherwise shown because you were not the target audience. It’s interesting to see what each campaign is running! Also if you do searches about a candidate (for example “Donald Trump”) vs. those that are paid for by the Candidate’s own committee (for example ” Trump Make America Great Again Committee”), you can get very different results. Try it!
The photo in the troll ad reminds me of the Webster University Journal article we discussed toward the beginning of the class about Senator Josh Hawley and the Confucius Institute. A lot of photos could have been chosen to use in that article. It’s interesting that most of the other articles I found have photos of activities at Confucius Institutes, Chinese people or Chinese culture, or some kind of protest. But the Journal article has a photo that could be considered kind of loaded, especially when you consider it in conjunction with the article’s contents. Why do you think a photo from Cape Girardeau was chosen instead of one from the St. Louis area when Webster University and the Confucius Institute it hosts are in St. Louis County? Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they are available. Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they convey a latent message. Do you think there are latent messages in these two photos?
Why was there no mention made that there was a Senate hearing on the issue with a member of the FBI giving testimony about why the agency was concerned?
Why was no mention made of other politicians from both major parties writing similar letters to colleges in their states? Some of the other Universities’ actions were mentioned, but not what prompted them. Why is that?
“Over the last several years, members of Congress, U.S. government officials, and academics have raised a number of concerns about Confucius Institutes, including about academic freedom, contractual agreements, transparency, hiring practices, and self-censorship. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Foreign Relations Committees all held broad hearings that discussed China at which Senators heard from experts on U.S.-China relations, academic freedom advocates, and law enforcement officials. Additionally, members of Congress from several states issued public letters to U.S. schools with Confucius Institutes urging them to reconsider their arrangement with Hanban.”
I am very much in favor of cultural exchange and the learning languages of other cultures. I think the more we and other nations understand each other the better off we will all be. I don’t know whether the Webster University Chancellor made the right decision or not because I don’t know enough about the legal and financial arrangements to judge. I could not detect anything false in the Webster Journal article, but on the other hand I don’t think there was enough information in it to understand the actual issue. I am pretty sure I know what the Journal wanted me to think about it though. I think my analysis is an example of how we have to read all news stories to be informed and not just manipulated.
WARNING: Contains spoilers for Season 3 Episodes 2 and 3! Yes I know the show is about historic events but some of them are obscure enough that some audience members might not be aware of them before watching… Also there are some liberties taken with history here and there to make a better story. Private conversations are dramatized on screen for which there are no records. This goes for every historical drama that I have ever taken the time to analyze, so I think it’s important to use them as entertainment and to generate interest in a historical topic that you want to learn more about, but be cautious about using them as sources of facts. Actual documentaries can be manipulated quite a bit as well. Both forms can be marvelous entertainment however. As a visual artist, I think practically every shot in The Crown is a work of art and the period costumes and sets alone are worth the time to watch. For example it’s kind of disappointing to find out that in real life Princess Margaret wore a pink dress with a modest neckline to the White House and not a low-cut bright red and white floral, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Enjoy!
Following is a paper I turned in yesterday for Media and Culture class, before grading.
Production Elements and Messages in The Television Series The Crown
The Netflix historical drama series The Crown tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign against a backdrop of historical events and personal relationships (The Crown). Reviewers consistently praise the high quality of the production (The Crown). I watched two back-to-back episodes of the current third season which featured stories of increasing seriousness and emotional impact to explore how production elements help to tell each story.
In S3 Ep2 “Margaretology”, editing greatly helps the narrative by beginning the episode with a flashback of the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret as young girls. They discuss how younger sister Margaret, though by law she cannot be Queen because she is not the first born, actually wants to do the job, has more confidence in her natural ability, and might actually be better at being Queen. They decide to find out if they can switch places. Next is a scene from the show’s present day in which Margaret and her husband discuss her life as it is contrasted with how it should have been. Then the opening credits begin. Later in the episode, Elizabeth decides that she needs Margaret’s help with diplomacy with the United States and Margaret has success in charming President Johnson at a White House dinner. Margaret asks Elizabeth to give her more duties. Although the Queen is tempted, she is persuaded by her husband Philip that it’s safer for the monarchy and the country to keep things the way they are. The episode ends with flashbacks to the child Margaret intercut with the present day Margaret at similar dressing tables, looking devastated, showing that her feelings of not being able to achieve what she viewed as her potential are old hurts that won’t go away (Margaretology).
“Aberfan”, S3 Ep3, is a much more serious episode. Instead of dealing with the disappointment of one character whose personality is sometimes abrasive and not always easy to empathize with (Margaretology), “Aberfan” tells the story of a horrific 1966 mining disaster that killed 144 people, including 116 children (Blakemore). Before the opening credits, there are scenes of the Welsh town Aberfan in the rain (Aberfan). The camera slowly rises over the rooftops to show a view of dark hills surmounted by a mining operation that dwarfs the community. Next there are more scenes of the village, showing children at the end of a school day, being dismissed, walking home and going about their normal evening activities with their families. Considerable screen time is spent on the children and this sustained coverage lets us know their importance (Silverblatt et al. 169). We are also shown a canary in a cage in one of the mining families’ homes. The canary could symbolize many things. The little bird’s sweet chirping recalls the chatter and singing of the innocent children. It has little control over its own fate because it is in a cage, possibly bringing to one’s mind a symbolic cage of being born into a way of life built on dangerous labor with limited opportunity to escape. Canaries also remind us that mining is a hazardous profession due to their traditional use in detecting deadly underground gases (Eschner).
It’s not only raining in Wales, it’s also raining at Buckingham Palace, where Queen Elizabeth II is looking over her planner and writing the heading “Friday” as she plans her next day. This is not the only instance in which the disaster occurring on a Friday is emphasized (Aberfan). The Christian faith of the people of the village and of the Monarch is prominent throughout the episode, and Christian viewers watching would be aware that Friday is the most somber day in the Christian week because by scripture and tradition Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday (Aglialoro). Before the teacher dismisses the children, he asks what tomorrow is. The first answer is Friday. The answer the teacher is looking for is that it is also the day when they are going to have an assembly for which they need to practice a song (Aberfan).
On the Friday morning, the tension keeps building when scenes of the disaster beginning to manifest are cross-cut with classroom scenes (Aberfan). Cross-cutting is a technique that shows events happening in different locations are occurring at the same time (Silverblatt et al. 171).
More than once during the episode we are shown the Queen’s arrangement of family photos in her sitting room, and she and the Prime Minister are each seen gazing at family photos as they contemplate events. Perhaps we are meant to remind ourselves that families are a near-universal part of human existence no matter what our life circumstances are. Even if we feel safe and secure in an imposing palace or a modest but cozy cottage, our loved ones can be taken from us at any time in ways we never expected (Aberfan).
Color and Lighting
Margaret is consistently shown wearing livelier and more colorful fashions than her more conservative older sister in the “Margaretology” episode. As Margaret arrives at the White House, the facade of the building is well lit with warm light in contrast to gray Buckingham Palace, suggesting that the older, struggling country might find the hope and help it seeks from the prosperous younger nation. The light could also symbolize Margaret coming out into her natural if not traditional place in the spotlight at last (Margaretology). In a scene where Margaret asks the Queen for more public duties, the sisters are both wearing green as Elizabeth and Margaret get little digs in at each other about what they envy about each others’ lives (Margaretology), an example of exploiting associations that different colors have in our culture (Silverblatt et al. 171).
When Prime Minister Harold Wilson visits the Queen to tell her about her sister’s lively if not outrageous performance at the White House dinner, using humorously understated phrases such as “less than discreet” and “a little off-color”, they are in the Queen’s sitting room which as usual is softly lit with a color palette of muted grays and pastels. The Queen is expecting to hear bad news during this private conversation with her Prime Minister and the subdued atmosphere fits his hesitance and embarrassment as well as her reluctance to hear the inevitable. Gray tones can signify discomfort (Silverblatt et al. 172) and dim lighting can indicate something hidden (Silverblatt et al. 176). While Margaret is proud of her turn in the spotlight, the Queen and Prime Minister would prefer not to bring her behavior out into the open. The sitting room scenes are intercut with incidents from the previous evening’s dinner that had been relayed to the Prime Minister through the British Ambassador. The dinner party scenes are full of bright flowers in warm tones that complement Margaret’s coral-red and white-flowered dress as she wins over the first couple and their guests who follow the President’s lead in appreciating Margaret’s cruder type of charm. Margaret is even verbally compared to a color film as opposed to one in black and white as her husband reads to her a newspaper account of their earlier, socially successful visit to San Francisco (Margaretology).
In the episode “Aberfan”, at the beginning before the credits we see a wide view of the village with the coal tips and mining operations in the background. It’s early morning and the light from one of the cottages near the foot of the dark mass that threatens the town shines through the windows. The house looks like a nostalgic little model in a holiday display or toy train layout. Since this dwelling is close to the base of the coal tip, it’s possible that it represents one of the homes that got destroyed in the disaster. The light could symbolize the life that is about to be snuffed out like a little candle flame, consistent with several possible meanings of light including life and innocence (Silverblatt et al. 176). Later in the episode candles are prominent as lighting for emergency use, in the mortuary and in the chapel (Aberfan).
Lighting is used in dramatic ways throughout the whole episode. The dark hills and rainy, gray weather combine with the dimly lit interiors of the humble buildings in the village to create a suitably somber mood, appropriate for grief, mourning and death (Silverblatt et al. 176). Light is used constantly throughout the whole episode to enhance and what the viewer is seeing and feeling. Vehicle headlights, lamps, flashlights, spotlights, flashbulbs, the sun and beams of light all play a part in the composition of scenes. Prime Minister Wilson looks shocked at several points in the episode and flash bulbs going off in his face emphasize his distress even more (Aberfan).
At the end of the devastating funeral service for dozens of children, some beams of light barely get though the gray sky as the mourners sing a hymn. This light could represent several things. It could be the mourners comforted slightly by the thought of the children’s souls being lifted up to God. It could be comfort from God or the funeral assemblage or both, however feeble, giving a tiny bit of hope to the community that they can live through this catastrophe. During the funeral scene, we are shown close-ups of Philips face. Perhaps the light is Philip’s thoughts as he becomes enlightened on how best to advise the Queen on how to help the community heal.
Shapes and Connotative Images
There are occasions in the “Aberfan” episode where Elizabeth is contemplating what actions she should take while she is shown backlit in profile. This technique is perhaps intended to bring to mind the iconic image of the monarch on coins and stamps as she decides how to live up to the duty that her idealized image represents. Shape and light are again used together in the Aberfan cemetery. The graves of the children are arranged in a cross shape. We also see a cross in focus behind the Queen’s head when she prays alone in a chapel (Aberfan). Both the profile and the cross could also be considered connotative images that bring up associations in the intended audience (Silverblatt et al. 189).
Scale and Relative Position
Scale is used effectively in “Margaretology” when Margaret sees by her sister’s attitude that the answer to her request to have more of a public role is no. There is a picnic taking place on a hill in front of a castle. Margaret’s position as well as the camera’s is downhill from the picnic, suggesting she is dominated by the institutions that control all their lives and is forever subordinate to her sister. In a flashback when the young Margaret is being scolded for daring to ask courtier Alan Lascelles (Alan Lascelles) if she and her sister could change places, Lascelles is shot from approximately her eye level so he looks exceedingly stern and intimidating while the young Margaret is comparatively powerless (Margaretology).
In “Aberfan”, the ominous mountain of coal is repeatedly shown looming over the village and the people, emphasizing their vulnerability (Aberfan).
Angles and Movement
In the beginning stages of the Aberfan disaster, the tension is enhanced by diagonal shots of ore cart tracks, lift cables and structures. The mountainside itself forms a diagonal angle as the coal slurry starts to slip down and toward the town (Aberfan). Diagonal lines and movement are associated with the triangle shape which is more active and unstable than squares and 90 degree angles (Silverblatt et al. 178-179).
In the pivotal, wordless slow-motion scene where Margaret experiences profound disappointment in “Margaretology”, even though there is a festive picnic in progress, all that can be heard in the soundtrack is wistful music and the faint sound of blowing leaves. Elizabeth and Philip walk past her, leaving her behind in actuality as well as symbolically (Margaretology). The combination of unnatural movement and unnatural sound help give focus to what the character is experiencing internally (Silverblatt et al. 184, 198).
“Aberfan” begins ominously with the sounds of rain, thunder and threatening mechanical noises. The noises continue subtly through a scene of children in a classroom. There are sequences of children practicing singing for a school assembly. The purity and sweetness of those sounds is in contrast to the menace that looms over them, accompanied by poignant background music. It’s significant that the children are practicing a song containing the lyrics “All things bright and beautiful”, reminding us that they are pre-eminent among the bright and beautiful things that are about to be lost (Aberfan).
In the palace, the Queen is shown writing in her planner while thunder is in the background, suggesting that she will somehow be affected by what is about to happen even in her solid, imposing residence (Aberfan).
When the Prime Minister speaks to the bereaved community, the sounds of cameras are conspicuously loud. We also hear prominent shutter clicks when the Queen dabs her eye with a tissue, reminding us that we are witnessing an important moment. The Queen was moved by Philip’s account of the mourner’s singing instead of using their anger and grief as fuel for a disturbance. She listens to a recording of the hymn at the end of the episode and finally is able to shed a tear (Aberfan).
Manifest and Latent Messages
In these two episodes of The Crown, most of the concepts are examples of manifest messages, clear and obvious to the viewer (Silverblatt et al. 11). I did find a couple of possible latent messages, that is meanings that are hinted at or unintentional (Silverblatt et al. 11). In “Margaretology”, it’s not stated out loud by anyone that Princess Margaret might have hit it off with President Johnson mainly because their personalities were similar and it’s likely she would not be able to repeat her diplomatic success in other situations with more genteel people (Updergrove). If one was not already familiar with Johnson’s reputation, some hints were given earlier by showing Johnson doing things like having a meeting while urinating and making crude remarks. The viewer can connect the dots and add to the clearly stated reasons why the Queen and her consort are hesitant to take more chances (Margaretology).
As the Queen exits an Aberfan home where she has expressed personal condolences to selected representatives of the community, she is photographed dabbing at her eye with a tissue. Near the end of the episode the Queen confesses to Prime Minister Wilson that she was not really crying and feels “deficient” because she is not able to cry at sad events like others do. The manifest message is that the Queen feels shame that her photographed suggestion of crying was not real and that the mourners deserved better. In preceding parts of the episode, there are many discussions among various players about how to manage public outrage over the disaster for the benefit of one political party or another, the Coal Board, the Monarchy, or the establishment in general. Since both the Prime Minister and the Queen are portrayed as at least somewhat principled and not solely acting in self-interest, a possible latent message is that the Queen felt obligated to fake the scene in order to create photographs that would both comfort the bereaved and help protect institutions that she is charged with preserving (Aberfan).
The creators of The Crown take already compelling subject matter and increase the emotional impact of this drama series considerably by indulging in careful and thoughtful detail in the production.
“Aberfan.” The Crown, written by Peter Morgan, directed by Benjamin Caron, Netflix, 2019.