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Brands stand up to be counted

Brands stand up to be counted
Friday 10 January, 2014

In the last 6-12 months I’ve noticed that more and more brands are finding great success by connecting their products and brand values to bigger societal issues.

For example, Pantene’s latest ad campaign Be Strong and Shine which tackles gender bias in the workplace, has gone viral with more than 28 million views and wide-spread media attention globally. Originally launched in the Philippines, the strong response to the ad was fuelled by endorsements from Facebook CFO, Sherly Sandberg. Based on the positive feedback, Proctor and Gamble decided to run it globally to maximise its reach.

Whilst the ad has been labelled as irksome by some for equating female empowerment with buying shampoo, Pantene, and other brands do stand to gain a great deal by being bold and connecting their stories to societal issues. In Pantene’s case, sexism is undeniably a topical and important issue in the mainstream media and Pantene have been strategic and brave enough to make a statement in a pertinent way.  

Equality and discrimination are most definitely tricky themes for brands to navigate and for some, too risky. Rather than avoid certain issues and topics completely brands can trial campaigns on a smaller, local scale with less investment similar to the initial phase of the Pantene ad.Then, depending on the reception they can increase and expand their activity.

Pantene is of course, not the first to challenge convention. Last year in the UK, Toys R Us agreed to ‘let toys be toys’ by ending gendered marketing in its stores. The brand was pressured by lobbyists to ‘stop limiting children's imaginations and interests by promoting some toys as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys’ and they did, generating a lot of positive recognition and loyal supporters.

Another example is the launch of Christian Louboutin’s ‘nude’ shoes for an entire palette of skin tones. To date, ‘nude’ has been used in fashion as synonymous with white skin and, therefore, excluding non-white women. As a leading shoe designer, this strategic move picked up a lot of media attention and will undoubtedly influence brand perception and trickle down the fashion food train (it’s about time too).

Each of these campaigns bank on the belief that people are more likely to support a brand which they identify with emotionally and morally.  Most importantly, knowing what stories and language will best resonate with your audience is a competitive edge.

 -Rachael McKenzie

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