News & Views

Brand Positive at Youth Marketing Summit 2015

by Contagious Contributor

Sean Pillot de Chenecey, founder of consumer insights, innovation research and brand development consultancy Captain Crikey, reflects on the 'brand positive' theme at this year's Youth Marketing Summit.

The idea of so-called ‘Participation Brands’, where socially responsible brand activity inspires consumer action and strengthens brand engagement, was a key theme at this year's Youth Marketing Summit in London.

Run in London by Voxburner (which is set to launch a New York summit in May), YMS saw speakers presenting ‘fun and entertaining’ activity from a range of brands that you’d immediately expect at such an event (including Spotify, Twitter, MTV, Mashable, Converse, Facebook, Apple, etc) along with some others that might not instantly spring to mind. And it was two of those other ‘serious ones’ that really stood out to me via their presentations of transformational, socially proactive work.

The first example of this ‘Brand Positive’ approach presented at YMS was the Syrian-crisis work conducted by Save the Children. Using a film created by Don’t Panic, its ‘#SaveSyriasChildren’ film on YouTube has been viewed by millions, and has demonstrably achieved the charity's aim of ‘influencing world leaders and key players’. The film raised the appalling issue that over 10,000 children have died during the Syrian conflict, with approximately 2,000 of those being under nine years old. Which, as statistics go, is about as dreadful as you can get.

The film was devastatingly impactful – no matter how many times you see it, it still delivers an amazingly powerful emotional reaction - and isn’t something that we’ve come to expect from mainstream charity communication. Especially, in this case, what one might assume is a ‘family charity’.

When it came to evaluating the branding activity created and consumers targeted etc, what were the lessons learnt? That by understanding ‘Generation C’ and using the right channels, they reframed what some might say are a ‘war weary’ audience, and did so by the inspired route of seeing the impact of the Syrian conflict through the eyes of a child.(Incidentally, the campaign won a stack of Cannes Lions, Clios, Campaign Big Awards etc).

Save the Children aims to continue targeting ‘Generation C’ – those who are empowered by technology, and driven by community. According to marketing director Ceri Richards 'the key identifiers for this group is that they’re a state of mind, not a demographic. With over 40% of them aged over 35 years, they strive for expression, define their social network, are constantly connected, and value relevance and originality.' But how to activate this group for Save the Children’s cause? 'By continuing to use the multiplying effect of their media channels and preferences' i.e. those including Mashable, Buzzfeed, Twitter, Facebook, reddit, the BBC, etc. Continuing this fine work is its next goal - to help end preventable child deaths via the #HealthcareNow campaign. One of key element of its ongoing #vlog4good communications activity to do this, is the new face of its YouTube channel, Chloe Dungate. 

Returning to the YMS conference, another great talk was delivered by Laura Jones, planning director of brand engagement agency Holler, about the brilliant #LikeAGirl work for Always. The task of communicating a low interest (and often embarrassing) category has traditionally resulted in all those terrible and clichéd ads featuring women laughing with joy while confidently roller-skating around Venice Beach. Throw in a few more random close-up images of bums in white jeans, alongside models parachuting, clubbing or surfing; with an even more random brand message tacked on (undermined yet further by a guaranteed cringingly abysmal soundtrack) and there you go. Job, most certainly, not done.

Back to reality, and focusing on a cultural / social insights pov based around female confidence, P&G’s agency team used solid research that girls' confidence drops at twice the rate of boys when they reach puberty. (Among many women, this confidence is never truly regained.) This key insight made Always' agencies (Leo Burnett / Holler) realise that this ‘drop in confidence’ was in fact, the real enemy.

And a truly globally-used phrase that kept cropping up re: that lack of confidence was the spitefully dismissive line of doing things ‘like a girl’, i.e. pathetically or ‘less than’ a boy. So there was the killer issue: lack of confidence contributes in large way to girls not reaching their full potential, and that lack of confidence was clearly linked (in cold business terms) with the brand category.

Cue the strategically brilliant idea of flipping that statement ‘like a girl’ 180 degrees, thus making it into something positive rather than a negative (in fact a clarion call for female empowerment) became the agency mission. The aim being to empower their current audience (18- to 25-year-old women) and inspire their future audience (10- to12-year-old girls) to combat their drop in confidence.

Hence a campaign that’s all about girls being ‘strong, powerful and downright amazing’, leveraging the incredible power of a video by (Sundance Film Festival award-winner) Lauren Greenfield where she invited various adults and kids to show what it look like to run, fight or throw like a girl. (Generally making really pathetic and stereotypical efforts to do so.) When pre-pubescent girls were asked to the same thing - and they then did them ‘properly’ - the impact was profound, and message blindingly obvious.

The result? Massively strengthened brand engagement, alongside some minor stats like 55+ million YouTube views, and P&G research showing that 76% of women plus 59% of men aged 16 to 24 years old said that the video changed their perception of the phrase 'Like a Girl'. (Following on from the 2014 launch, the campaign was recently broadcast around Super Bowl XLIX and a follow-up version was created for International Women’s Day 2015 around the IWD theme ‘Make it Happen’).

Both presentations ended with similar takeouts: that in order to truly engage with consumers, inspire them to action and achieve strong results, three key issues need to be considered:

1. Insight - in this case a globally unspoken truth to which everyone can connect.

2. Execution - the campaigns had to have a positive emotional response.
(When they are, stats show that people are 30% more likely to share).

3. Tools - show consumers what they can do next. (In both these cases this quite clearly – and genuinely - being the power to create change).
So, as these two great presentations showed, when in doubt…Brand Positive.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey is founder of Captain Crikey