P&G Uses Facebook to De-Mean Teen Girls
At this point, it’s hard to overestimate the amount of hand-wringing there’s been on the meanness on teenage girls, from cutesy Lindsay Lohan films to bleak, bullied-to-suicide
For Procter & Gamble, the problem provided an opportunity for Secret, a brand whose purpose is to make women more fearless. Working with imc², it moved from armpits to activism with a program called Mean Stinks.
The Facebook-based program has girls, 13 to 17, as its primary target. But it also reaches out to women 18 and older, their role models, in an effort to encourage an end to girl-to-girl meanness. The hope, of course, is that it would pay off in more sales, creating a brand affinity for Secret. The app includes an “Apology” section that provides a way to upload text and videos to make amends; “Good Graffiti,” a way for users to say something nice behind someone’s back; “Face Yourself,” which allows users to analyze their Facebook posts in an effort to gain self-awareness; and “Sticky Situations,” a place for users to pose questions they wanted Secret/Mean Stinks to address. Page tabs include crisis hotline information.
What’s so compelling about this program, says Kevin Hochman, marketing director for skin and personal care at P&G North America, is how true it is to the brand’s original essence. Back in the 1960s, Secret was positioned as a brand that empowered women to make big decisions, such as the decision to return to work after having a baby. “It was all about empowering women to make the right choices for them, and to embrace those choices fearlessly,” he says. Over the years, P&G backed away from that positioning, “thinking that women are empowered and maybe this isn’t as relevant as it once was. Of course, that idea was still relevant; we just hadn’t modernized it.”
That led P&G to focus on activating brand purpose around a timeless idea, but freshening it up with contemporary topics and pop culture, such as “Let Her Jump,” an effort to sanction women’s ski jumping as an official Olympic sport (it succeeded) as well as support for long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, 62, who attempted to swim from Cuba to Key West. Twice. Mean Stinks, Hochman says, is the logical next step.
While awareness of bullying is big, “the need for education is tremendous — people aren’t sure how to identify bullying, or what do to when it occurs,” he says. “So we created our Mean Stinks Facebook community as a resource where people can get information, seek advice, share their stories or offer apologies.”
The program is an unqualified hit with its target audience. “We secured 203,000 ‘likes’ in only one day, and 75,000 people have sent apologies or ‘good graffiti’ to their friends, while 28,000 coupons have been requested,” Hochman says. (Each coupon generates a $1 donation to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.) Secret Clinical Strength, the product most closely associated with the campaign, grew almost 20 percent in sales last fiscal year.
Hochman thinks it’s been so successful because consumers, even bullied 13-year-old girls, can sniff out authenticity. “Purpose must be inextricably linked to your marketing plans, not just a layer on the plan,” he says, “and your purpose is in your roots. Initially, Secret was eating around the cookie, so to speak, articulating our purpose as ‘confidence.’ It’s not confidence, it’s fearlessness.”
Finally, he says, “Brand purpose should pervade everything you do, including your team culture. My Secret team operates fearlessly, in service to our consumers, interacting with them in some way, shape or form every day. Believe in what you do, and live it every day; as leaders, empower your team to do the same.”