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The #InsideOut Fashion Revolution Day movement – The link between sustainability communication, digital marketing, and journalism Alevizou, Panayiota J.
Henninger, Claudia E.
Eldgridge II, Scott A.
Purpose of Paper The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of hashtags on sustainability communication within marketing and journalism. The following section provides a brief background of the rational for this research.
The fashion industry has seen dramatic changes within the past decades as issues of sustainability have become increasingly important. The 1960s brought forward concerns about the impact fashion production has on the natural environment (Peattie, 1995;
McCormick, 2001; Brown, 2011; SustAinability, 2011); the 1980s and early 1990s were concerned with anti-fur campaigns, which led to a majority of fashion brands eliminating fur from their collections, ensuring “good animal welfare conditions” (BSR, 2012: 1). Renewed interest into the topic of sustainability within the fashion industry emerged during the 1990s due to media attention focusing on labour practices (Brown, 2011). In the 21st century, these labour practices still attract a lot of attention and negative press, with various news outlets reporting about factory accidents such as the Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh in which more than 1100 workers lost their lives (Parveen, 2014). The Rana Plaza incident was neither an isolated occurrence nor the first of its kind: in 2012 approximately 300 factory workers lost their lives in a burning factory in Pakistan (Ruhman et al., 2012) and further seven workers lost their lives in Bangladesh in 2013, shortly after Rana Plaza (Nelson, 2013). These accidents are often linked to an ever increasing “fashion appetite” (Sharma & Hall, 2010: 2) on the consumer side, with pricing (Skov, 2008) and turnover time of new fashion collections decreasing rapidly (Pasquinelli, 2012), manufacturers are pressured to keep up with the trend, which, in most cases, the supply chain has to bear.
Fashion Revolution Day (FRD) emerged as a movement in response to the Rana Plaza incident. The key purpose of the community interest company is to raise awareness of social issues within the fashion industry emphasising that “together we will use the power of fashion to catalyse change and reconnect the broken links in the supply chain” (FRD, n.d. a). FRD is associate with the ‘InsideOut’-hashtag, and social media users are encouraged to not only tag themselves in pictures wearing their garments inside out, but also to engage in discussions and ask questions of where and how their garments are produced (FRD, n.d. b). The first FRD event was announced on 24th April 2014. During this event, the hashtag ‘InsideOut’ was used in 15,000 tweets within only 24 hours (Tomchak, 2014). The movement still gains momentum with sustainable fashion ‘icons’ including, but not limited to Fashion Fairtrade Pioneer Carry Somers (Lee, 2014), Green Carpet Challenge Founder Livia Firth, and Retail Expert Mary Portas (FR, 2014) supporting the FRD campaign, utilising their celebrity status to raise awareness.
This research investigates the ‘InsideOut’-hashtag from a marketing and a journalism perspective. Focusing on the marketing point of view first, the hashtag ‘InsideOut’ can be seen as part of sustainability communication, as it raises awareness of a social cause.
Sustainability communication in itself is not a new phenomenon, however it still receives increased attention by both practitioners and academics (McDonagh & Prothero, 2014). Past studies within the field of sustainability communication have indicated that it is no longer enough to simply take action, but to communicate what actions have been taken to eliminate issues surrounding sustainable development to a wider audience (Killbourne, 1998;
McDonagh, 1998; Caruana & Crane, 2008; Salvioni & Bosetti, 2014). Digital marketing, and more specifically social media marketing, can be utilised to address the issue of a ‘wider audience’. Social media platforms, such as Twitter, allow for messages to not only be labelled, but also to be promoted for commenting and sharing through the use of hashtags (Huang et al., 2010). Although sustainability communications and digital media have gained importance within the past decades (Asur & Huberman, 2010; McDonagh & Prothero, 2014), “major marketing communication journals” (McDonagh & Prothero, 2014: 1197) have only paid limited attention to this area of research. Thus, this study seeks to extend current theory, by investigating the role of digital communication and more specifically social media marketing on sustainability communication. Moreover, research that has focused on social media platforms have predominantly looked at hashtags for their ‘relevance’ and ‘exposure’ (Lin et al., 2013), and thus, have not explicitly investigated hashtags from the point of view of acting as tools for enhancing sustainable communication. Rather than focusing only on these two aspects (relevance and exposure) this research extends the angle by looking at hashtags as tools that facilitate interaction. To explain, this research sees hashtags not only as ‘outbound tools’ that allow an organisation to label conversations, but also as ‘inbound tools’ that enable Twitter Users to engage, comment, and discuss topics of interest. In other words, the content of these tweeted hashtags gains increased importance within the marketing context.
To broaden this study, we adopt a multidisciplinary perspective, linking aspects of sustainability communication with emerging scholarship in the field of journalism studies.
The second point of view focuses on #InsideOut from this perspective by looking at social media messaging, identifying how and whether the content of messages is further transmitted in traditional journalistic coverage, and through analysis maps the reception of sustainabilityrelated messages within traditional media coverage across the same time period. This will help identify whether new media actors remain reliant on transmission through traditional media outlets. Building on research into shifting and changing boundaries of news mediation (Eldridge, 2013), this aspect will also explore whether issue-driven messages are being identified through journalistic ideals and how that relates to changing concepts of journalistic identity (Eldridge, 2014).
Methodology This research utilizes an inductive, qualitative approach and systematically analyses 18,000 tweets. The publicly available data was collected over a three months period, between 21st July and 26th October 2014, using an open-source online script (TAGS 5.1). In order to gain a broader overview of current issues the script parameters were set to collect any tweets that contained #FashionToDieFor, #FashionRevolutionDay, and/or #InsideOut, all hashtags linked with the FRD (@Fashion_Rev). In order to gain an insight into how and what is communicated with the ‘InsideOut’-hashtag, the original data collection was constrained by eliminating any tweets written in character-script or contained no message.
Findings This dataset has been through initial analysis and is currently being analysed further. Thus far, observations highlight that the hashtags were utilised on a global scale, with tweets posted in English, German, French, Spanish, and Japanese. The preliminary analysis further indicates a strong engagement between @Fashion_Rev and various Twitter Users (TUs), an aspect of analysis that will be explored through network mapping.
Theoretical Implications This research seeks to contribute to research on social media usage around social responsibility causes through a case study approach that looks at the use of one specific issue, its related hashtags, and their use. By investigating why Twitter Users (TUs) engage with this topic, how these TUs respond to one another, and who these TUs are, this research aims to identify a social media strategy that enables fashion organizations that are concerned with issues surrounding social sustainability more effectively and further to understand how autonomous social mediation might be bypassing traditional media routes. Moreover, this research will expand understanding of whether some hashtags are standalone ‘statements’ or parts of a series of hashtags. The journalistic perspective also provides a unique conceptualization in that it provides an insight to whether social media is a driver of events and thus enables to reach audiences independent of traditional journalistic media actors.
As previously highlighted, sustainability communication is about spreading the word of sustainability, in this case social sustainability, to a wider audience (McDonagh & Prothero, 2014). The journalistic point of view provides a cutting edge to this research in that it allows the researchers to understand how these messages are perceived within and beyond traditional media. This research is unique in its nature as it combines an interdisciplinary approach and analyses a current topic from the perspective of marketing and journalism. In a world that is dominated by digital communication, one in which messages can go viral within seconds, it is vital to understand how and why some tweets are spreading faster than others, whilst furthermore investigating who these hashtags attract.
Practical Implications The network mapping will allow the researchers to gain an understanding of who the various Twitter Users (TUs) are that associate themselves with these specific hashtags. This in turns may enable the authors to provide guidance and feedback on the hashtags can be used efficiently, whilst at the same time understand any impact the uses of these hashtags may have on issues relating to branding.
Limitations Firstly, and most importantly the fact that data was collected three months after the first Fashion Revolution Day (FDR) event was executed. As highlighted previously, the hashtag ‘InsideOut’ managed to create 15,000 tweets with only 24 hours of its appearance. Whilst the hashtag trended globally number 1 on Twitter, the message behind FRD only slowly started to spread across boundaries outside the fashion world. Secondly, the preliminary analysis also highlighted that whilst all tweets contain either #FashionToDieFor, or #FashionRevolutionDay, or #InsideOut some posts are not related to the actual cause of Fashion Revolution Day. By continuously ‘cleaning’ the data and making sense of the tweets available, the current sample of 15,341 tweets (-15%) may decrease further.
Originality This research is unique in nature, as thus far, Fashion Revolution Day has not been analyzed from a marketing and journalism perspective combined. Moreover the ‘insideout’-hashtag is a relatively new occurrence, which has generated high interest with the fashion industry.
Keywords Fashion Revolution Day, Sustainability Communication, Digital Marketing, Sustainable Fashion, Social Media, Hashtag
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