A CMO's Insights: Your Brand Can Save The World (Part 2)

InterviewWithFormerGeneralMillsCMO.jpgExpanding upon our previous MaccaPR Q&A exploring how marketers can launch campaigns that champion social issues, we continue the discussion with former General Mills CMO Mark Addicks. Here, we share more of Mark's insights from our IABC/Maccabee event, “Can Your Brand Save the World?” Among the campaigns discussed below: Dove’s “Real Beauty,” Always’ “Like a Girl” and the Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels.” So grab a bowl of General Mills’ Haagen-Dazs ice cream, stir up some Hamburger Helper and dish up a second helping of expert CMO advice:

Mark, let’s talk about women’s empowerment campaigns like Always' ‘Like A Girl.’ The metrics were astonishing: 3/4 of girls surveyed said that the term ‘like a girl’ no longer felt like an insult to them. Not to mention Always scoring 4.5 billion media impressions and 85 million views on YouTube.

“‘Like a Girl’ was an incredibly insightful campaign. Mothers are one of the most interesting consumer groups, as they’re always talking about their daughters and the dynamics as those girls hit puberty. I’ve heard this before during our Yoplait work — mothers talk about when a girl's confidence goes away and how they can’t get through to their daughters. So girls that age are vulnerable. By elevating the message and saying the Always brand stands for something bigger than just the product — yes, it’s risky, but it was a breakthrough attention-getter for the brand.”

Why did the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign work so well, for so long? They extended the original launch with Dove’s follow-ups: “Sketches,” “Evolution,” “Onslaught,” and more. 

“I love that campaign; they swung really big. What’s intriguing is — Dove originally went through its PR firm Edelman, not its ad agency, to create 'Real Beauty.' Edelman surveyed more than 3,000 women in 10 countries, and found that only two percent of the women considered themselves to be beautiful. Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ started in 2004, so it’s 12 years old. What’s inspiring is that Dove did not get tired of the campaign. Instead, the brand reintroduced it each year in new, creative ways to express the powerful truth of the campaign — that beauty should be about confidence, not anxiety. Dove made consumers rethink a category — soap and lotion — that’s generally pretty boring and sparks low involvement.”

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Moving to a neglected demographic, there are 53 million Americans with a disability, but little in marketing acknowledges them. What did you think of Swiffer’s TV spot depicting the Rukavina family: an African-American wife with a white husband who had lost an arm, in an ad that also challenges gender roles in cleaning house. AdWeek called the Swiffer spot the most inclusive ad ever. 

“I love that Swiffer ad. It’s courageous. The concept could have gone south, yet it was told in a very authentic way. They cast real people, so it fits who the Rukavinas really are.”

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Which begs the question: How important is it to cast real people in a campaign, rather than actors? In the Cheerios TV spots, General Mills cast actors, yet they had a very real, intimate feel.

“That casting decision depends upon what your creative is, but consider — everything starts with the consumer. In the current political sphere, people don’t trust institutions. People feel they are on their own. That they’re just a number. And with the adoption of technology, we’ve lost a bit of our humanity. So consumers crave authenticity, and this Swiffer ad feels authentic.”

You told me you really admire R/GA’s “Love Has No Labels’ campaign from the Ad Council, where couples visible only as X-rays surprise an audience with unexpected diversity. “Labels” is beyond successful — 160 million YouTube views. It has every group behind that screen: a Rabbi and an Imam. Two lesbians and two gay men. A young woman with Down syndrome. Black and white, Hispanic and Asian. It recognizes virtually every protected class in America and it is breathtaking.

“The idea of 'Love Has No Labels' came from Wendy Clark, formerly a marketing executive with Coca-Cola, who now heads DDB in New York. When you watch this “Labels” video, you know the story they’re telling, but they have such an unusual way of telling it. What’s behind the screen? It’s hidden, and that makes it interesting. You don’t know who the people are, and then they come out. It takes a great human truth — that we’re all the same inside — but it doesn’t preach. The campaign is about self-discovery. As a viewer, it rewards you."

To launch a brand campaign like Dove, Cheerios or Esurance did, marketers have to earn the approval from risk-averse management. How can we get an outside-the-box social values campaign OK’d and funded?

“Great question. Getting approvals can be a hard slog. Marketers can bring to management examples of campaigns that are similar to show them, 'look what this did for their business.' You know, in business, you want to repeat what’s worked before. It’s a huge impulse. Yet we must engage with the public, whose brains are wired to notice what’s different. So you have a conundrum. Businesspeople want to know if that campaign worked the last time they did it, and has that strategy worked for another company? The answer is: yes, that same campaign has worked before, but it probably won’t work at the same level if you repeat it.”

Where do you get inspiration for a values-driven campaign like Under Armour's “I Will What I Want” or Chevrolet's “The New Us”?

“You go back into the history of your brand. Everything old is new again in marketing, you just have to reinterpret it. Here’s an example: Back in the 1960s, communities gathered together for spaghetti dinners to raise funds for schools; families coming from far away to join together over spaghetti. Then it fell out of favor.

Now, think about where marketing is now. It’s all local, local, local — so that old spaghetti dinner event could probably work again. But it would have to have social media components, ways to share, and be transformed into a movement. Today, that spaghetti dinner would probably be reinterpreted — it would be gluten free! At General Mills, what did we do to drive sales for Yoplait Greek yogurt? We did a “Pepsi Challenge” against Chobani! Look to the past, and reinterpret it forward.”

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You’ve gone on record as saying that marketers are missing out on marketing opportunities, with entire demographics being ignored. How so?

“You want your brand to be sewn into the fabric of people’s lives — it’s not just about targeting Millennials or LGBT communities. One untapped market out there is faith-based people. Millions of Americans go to church every Sunday and then have dinner together after services. Who owns that? Nobody. That could inspire a great brand values campaign. My advice is: Don’t get lost in what’s trendy. How could your brand make their Sunday dinner better? That audience is desperate for some brand to do that for them.”

So church-going faithful is one market, and gay and lesbian, Hispanic, African-American and empowered women are other markets. How do you reach out to diverse audiences without alienating others?

“It’s all in how your brand presents a high-level, aspirational marketing idea in a way that’s not preachy, but inclusive. If you were secular and didn’t go to church and you don’t do anything on Sunday but read the New York Times — you would still agree that Sunday is the day of the week to slow down and engage with family. We talk. We share. I’d argue that there are even consumers who are living alone who will say that message makes sense to them. Of course, you don’t do a campaign that says, 'If you don’t go to church, you’re not part of our message.' We’re living in a society where about half of the population is single, but they would still want human connections, family and friends. Your brand can bring that connectedness to them!”

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Image Sources: Corcoran Images / Huffington Post / AdWeek / Glam Hungry Mom

About the Author

Paul Maccabee

Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

Topics:  Brand Strategy, PR Perspectives

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