CASE STUDY: Always #LikeAGirl Campaign and Crafting Brand Narrative

Building a strong brand is critical to the survival of any business.

The brand serves as your organization’s skeletal backbone; it provides direction, orientation, and stability for all marketing decisions. It creates purpose, a core element in maintaining the attention and support of your consumers. Clear and consistent purpose establishes belief in your organization. Your customers will not have to second-guess where your values lie. Your logo will come to represent the deeper credibility and reliability of your brand.

But maintaining a strong brand requires an acute awareness of your changing audience and its needs.

In 2013, Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) Always brand realized it had lost the attention and emotional engagement of young girls and women in their early twenties. Always was losing its relevance on social media compared to competing brands. P&G commented,

For many years Always has had ‘confidence’ at its core, but expressed this only in functional terms (‘won’t let you down’)….We needed to extend the meaning of ‘confidence’ into emotional territory.

This reality catalyzed a critical turning point in the brand’s narrative. Partnering with Leo Burnett Chicago, London, and Toronto and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, P&G launched the ‘Like A Girl’ Campaign.

The original #LikeAGirl campaign video (caution: may make you cry) premiered in 2014 and within a year had roughly 85 million views. Through the campaign, Always shifted its focus from advertising product durability to female education and empowerment. Subsequently, Always established itself with a new relevance in the minds of the company’s younger generation of customers. By centralizing and challenging so common a phrase as “like a girl,” the campaign struck an important cultural cord.

According to an online study conducted by Always, the phrase “like a girl” holds positive connotations for only 19 percent of females.

Furthermore, fifty-six percent of girls lose confidence during puberty. Always wanted to address this. The company returned to its roots, to its foundational narrative of inspiring and equipping women with confidence. #LikeAGirl moved the company beyond the confidence provided by durable and reliable feminine hygiene products and settled more specifically on the crux of time when most girls experience the greatest decline in self-esteem. Seeing that their brand was adhering less to the emotional needs of their consumers, Always paused, re-evaluated, and dug into a phrase which reflected culture’s perpetuation of low female self-esteem during puberty.

Always returned to the company’s core narrative of female empowerment through education, safety, reliability and sustainability.

Within the first three months of the campaign, #LikeAGirl received more than 4.4 billion media impressions on platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter and since then has prompted over 290 million social impressions. In December 2014—even before the campaign aired as a 2015 Super Bowl commercial—a P&G study showed an estimated 70 percent of women and 60 percent of men claimed the #LikeAGirl video changed their perception of the phrase, “like a girl.”

A brand’s narrative must be about more than achieving sales targets and marketing metrics if it wants to remain relevant and effective in the minds of its consumers. Otherwise it will become a flat, artificially contrived narrative and the brand will cease to ignite meaning and emotional connection with its customers.

So, yes, the challenge for brands will always include consistent gauging of ever-changing consumer needs. But in order to do so an organization must simultaneously and constantly ask, “What narrative are we telling, what narrative does our brand perpetuate?” and pay sharp attention to their answer.

As Judy Johns, CCO and CEO of Leo Burnett Canada, stated, “Creatively we always want to have that relationship where great, meaningful work translates into good things for the brand as well.”

About the Author

Lindsay Isler

Lindsay is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a Bachelor’s in English Literature.