CINCINNATI - Girl power is in at Procter & Gamble Co.
The consumer-products giant has unleashed a torrent of social-media interactions with a series of new marketing efforts in which its brands engage consumers in conversations about female empowerment.
The latest hit is the Always “Like A Girl” campaign , in which the feminine hygiene brand hired award-winning documentary director Lauren Greenfield to explore an idea: When did doing something "like a girl" become an insult?
With 21 million You Tube views and 300,0000 Facebook shares in the week after its June 26 launch, Always' social-media campaign is approaching the rarified air of P&G’s mom-centric Olympic advertising campaigns in terms of its ability to get people to share and offer feedback. P&G says 99 percent of the feedback has been positive.
“We felt like we were onto something so powerful,” said Tonia Elrod, spokeswoman for the Always brand. “We’re all going on this journey together. Lets see how it unfolds.”
The Always campaign is the latest in a series of female-empowerment campaigns launched this year by multiple P&G brands, including Always, Covergirl, Pantene and Olay.
“Girls Can ,” a Covergirl campaign, has 5.6 million You Tube views since February. It reminds viewers that “with every barrier she breaks, the world gets a little more easy breezy for the next girl.”
Pantene’s “Shine Strong ” campaign, which depicts how the same behavior is described differently when it applies to men and women, clocked more than 50 million views since last November.
The latest “Shine Strong” installment, entitled “Not Sorry ,” has 3.4 million views since June 18. It provokes thought with the question: “Why are women always apologizing?”
Olay’s “Best Beautiful ” campaign launched in January with a commercial that urges women to “see the best version of you” when they look in the mirror. The ad and a series of “Best Beautiful stories” that feature skin cancer survivors combined for more than 5 million views on You Tube.
Even Duracell’s male-centric “Trust Your Power ” campaign got into the act in March, when it profiled Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy in a commercial that piled up more than 5.1 million You Tube views.
All of the campaigns fit within a broader advertising strategy articulated by Marc Pritchard, P&G’s global brand building officer, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity June 20. Pritchard showed the “Not Sorry” and “Amy Purdy” ads along with an Old Spice commercial that was not about female empowerment and then explained why they work.
“What powers each one of them is an idea people care about,” Pritchard said, “an idea that breaks out beyond a single platform and takes on a life of its own in social media, in the news media and in conversations being had on all kinds of platforms.”
Pritchard said all P&G marketers are now striving to find “a true human insight as the starting point for any campaign that touches people,” an idea people care about, an idea where the brand can be “an authentic part” of the conversation.
“Nobody really wants to talk about shampoo,” Pritchard said. “So what we need to do is find a way for the brand to join a conversation that is inherently talkable, shareable and interesting.”
P&G isn’t the only company using such techniques, according to a recent report at Jezebel.com . Revlon raises money to fight ovarian cancer through it’s “Look Good Feel Better” campaign. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty espouses that women should “see beauty as a source of confidence, not anxiety.” L’Oreal celebrates “Women of Worth” while Avon raises money for breast cancer research and victims of domestic violence.
“It’s still a really smart way to sell,” said Lesa Ukman, co-founder and chief insights officer at IEG, a Chicago –based consulting firm. “Some store brand is always going to be cheaper. So, if you can build loyalty and affinity around a bigger purpose, like helping girls feel better about themselves, then you’ve got more loyal customers. Every time you think there’s no more categories left or issues left, they come up with new ones.”
IEG helps companies craft sponsorship strategies that increase consumer loyalty by raising money for popular causes. IEG’s annual sponsorship report , published in May, said more than 100 U.S. companies spent in excess of $15 million in sponsorships in 2013. Pepsi Co. ranked first on IEG’s list with more than $350 million in sponsorship spending. P&G ranked 13th, with estimated spending between $85 million and $95 million.
“For P&G, I’m sure this is all about revenue and market share,” Ukman said. “But it kind of goes hand in hand with growing social currency. When retailers see that you’ve got a brand that’s being talked about, they’re more likely to buy increased cases and give it greater shelf space.”
Elrod said the Always brand team was trying to find the “true human insight” that Pritchard described at Cannes when it surveyed 1,300 American females during a consumer research
panel that took place in late May. That study concluded 56 percent of girls experience a drop in confidence at puberty and only 19 percent have a positive association for the phrase, “Like a girl.”
Hoping to act on those discoveries as quickly as possible, the brand hired Greenfield, who won a Sundance Film Festival Award for “The Queen of Versailles” in 2012. Greenfield’s three-minute video shows people struggling with the hurtful impact “Like a girl” could have on a young girl.
“Sounds like a bad thing. Sounds like you’re trying to humiliate someone,” one youngster surmises.
“The exciting part of this collaboration was that they encouraged me to do a real social experiment,” said Greenfield, in a quote supplied by P&G. “We had no idea what people would do when asked these questions. It was amazing and moving and surprising to hear their responses.”
P&G will look for new ways to engage consumers on the topic. Elrod describes it as “a long-term platform” for the brand.
Ukman said P&G is uniquely positioned to benefit from the female-empowerment theme because female consumers are the decision makers on so many of its products and a high percentage of its top executives and board members are women. As WCPO recently reported in a series of executive pay stories , five of P&G’s 11 directors are women, as are 28 percent of its highest-ranking executives.
"It’s enlightened intelligence,” Ukman said. “Why not talk to people your audience of buyers is coming from? Why not take a leadership position in terms of hiring as well. It just makes sense.”