Always, Procter & Gamble, and Leo Burnett
Categories: Cultural Shift/Social Branding/Brand Evolution
The issue: 'Nobody will ever share anything that has the Always logo on it.' Who would want to be associated with periods? A great idea proved that you can make a feminine-hygiene brand more popular. But it was no easy task. Sanitary pads are a low-involvement category. Women don’t want to spend even a second thinking about it, as periods are already enough of a pain.
Communication has also traditionally been quite unengaging, with a focus on product performance and demos. For a long time Always led the category around the world, thanks to constant innovation and the superior performance of its products. With time, though, functional differentiation between brands narrowed. Competitors also started to engage young women at a more emotional level and to connect with them on social media. The result was that Always lost relevance with the 16- to 24-year-old age group. This was a big issue in a category where, research shows, women tend to stay very loyal once they find a brand they like. To reconnect with its young consumer base Always had to stand for more than just protection. Product communication simply would not do.
Moving away from product confidence
Confidence is at the core of the Always brand equity. We had always communicated it in a functional way, promising women to fix a physical problem, so that they could be more confident during their period. So confidence in the product led to self-confidence. Yet this logic was exactly what women were starting to reject. Confidence was an issue they were increasingly sensitive about, but a pad certainly could not solve it. If we were to stay within this territory, we had to move from a rational proposition to a much more emotional one. We explored confidence further and we discovered that puberty is a time affected by a real confidence crisis for girls, as shown by the graph below:
Girls’ self-esteem drops twice as much than boys’ during puberty. Moreover, women never regain the pre-puberty level of self-esteem. Understanding why this happens was key. Even reducing the drop a bit would mean allowing girls to start the ‘journey into womanhood’ from a better place.
Finding an enemy
Digging deeper into the causes of the drop in confidence we realised that gender stereotypes have a big impact on girls during puberty, as this is the time when they learn what it means to be a girl, and young womanhood comes to be defined by a set of rules, like beauty and submissiveness. Society constantly dwells on gender differences, sending out the message that leadership, power and strength are for men, not for women. And that boys should be raised not to be a girl, as if being female was ‘not good enough’. These stereotypes inevitably crystallise into girls’ self-perceptions and affect their behaviours.
We could change that.
The idea and creative work
Our creative insight was that gender stereotypes are so ingrained in our culture they are even part of the language. The expression ‘like a girl’, in fact, is often used as an insult to tease somebody who is weak, over-emotional or useless. And at a time when identities are already very fragile, it can have a devastating effect. To demonstrate this, we created a social experiment, holding a fake casting-call with young women and men, boys and girls. We asked them to do things 'like a girl', for example to run or fight like a girl. Women, boys and men behaved in a silly and self-deprecating way, acting out the insulting stereotype. But prepubescent girls reacted completely differently. They ran and fought as hard as they could, with confidence, pride and incredible self-belief. They had clearly not been influenced yet by the 'rules' that define womanhood; for them, doing something ‘like a girl’ meant doing it as best as they could.
Getting #LikeAGirl out in the world
We had a powerful insight that resonated universally, and one piece of content able to bring the whole story to life. Hence we decided to focus solely on the video, and maximise views and reach. To affect culture, we harnessed the power of social media. We chose YouTube as the main vehicle and ran the video as a pre-roll, accompanied by paid Facebook and Twitter posts, paid reach and influencer outreach.
To drive participation, we leveraged the hashtag #LikeAGirl as a call to action and asked women to tweet the amazing things they do ‘#LikeAGirl’. We also created a #LikeAGirl page, hosted on Always.com, to serve as a campaign hub. Furthermore, the campaign included PR/ER activation through e-influencers and top media. Finally, a 60 seconds version of the video aired during the 2015 Super Bowl
What we did and why?
For many years Always has had 'confidence' at its core, but expressed this only in functional terms ("won’t let you down"). While this trust remained important, it became insufficient to maintain relevance among younger women, increasingly drawn to brands that also engaged them emotionally. We needed to extend the meaning of 'confidence' into emotional territory. Our exploration led to the discovery that puberty is a time of confidence crisis in girls and that gender stereotyping through language plays a big role. This is exemplified by the use of the phrase ‘like a girl’ as an insult, implying that simply being female means whatever a young woman does is not good enough. So, we created a campaign that challenged the use of this poisonous and damaging expression, redefining it in a new, inspiring way, and using social media and PR to spread the message.
What was the cultural impact of this activity and why did the work matter?
The video has been viewed more than 90m times and shared by over 1m viewers. Men and women all over the world joined the brand to help reclaim ‘like a girl’ as a positive statement. During the campaign use of the #LikeAGirl hashtag skyrocketed on social media and also in the real world, including displays and programmes at schools and even chalkboards outside Manhattan coffee shops, all proudly stating to do things #LikeAGirl. Many celebrities took on the hashtag and lauded Always. Before the campaign, the expression ‘like a girl’ was mostly used in a derogatory way. Since the launch, it’s been attached to overwhelmingly positive sentiment, becoming a symbol of female empowerment around the globe. Even the UN acknowledged the power of #LikeAGirl: in March 2015 Always received an award for the impact it had on female empowerment around the world.
How we measured its success?
We had four key objectives: drive relevance with an emotional connection to Always; drive popularity through top of mind awareness; increase penetration; and create cultural change.
The #LikeAGirl campaign succeeded on all fronts. Positive sentiment reached 96% in just three months, with mentions of general praise and love for the message and the brand. Engagement on social media was very high and Always Twitter followers and YouTube Channel subscribers increased dramatically.
#LikeAGirl was watched more than 90m times and was the number two viral video globally. It also drove unprecedented earned-media coverage. Furthermore, purchase intent and brand preference increased significantly as a result of the campaign. Finally, millions of people, including many celebrities like Gloria Steinem and George Takei, joined Always in its mission to change the meaning of the expression ‘like a girl’, turning it into a symbol of female empowerment all over the world.
90m+ views; number two viral video globally1 .
1100+ earned-media placements and 4.4bn+ media impressions in the first three months.
Always Twitter followers tripled in the first three months; Always YouTube Channel subscribers grew 4339%
177,000 #LikeAGirl tweets in the first three months, including many celebrities.
Higher-than-average lift in brand preference; claimed purchase intent grew more than 50% among our target.
In a study conducted in December 2014, almost 70% of women and 60% of men claimed that "The video changed my perception of the phrase 'like a girl'".