Bold, brave and fearless brands expose themselves

Procter & Gamble and State Street execs share lessons learned from recent head-turning campaigns.

L-R: P&G's Damon Jones and U.S. Bank's Reba Dominski at PRDecoded
L-R: P&G's Damon Jones and U.S. Bank's Reba Dominski at PRDecoded

CHICAGO: Campaigns that brought positive and negative attention to the companies that spawned them include Gillette’s We Believe: The Best Men Can Be and State Street Global Advisors’ Fearless Girl statue. The executives behind the campaigns talked about lessons learned from them at PRDecoded.

Earlier this year, Gillette launched its campaign calling on men to change their behavior in light of the #MeToo movement. Damon Jones, VP of global communications and advocacy at Procter & Gamble, explained that Gillette’s campaign worked because when consumers saw it, they said, "Even if I don’t agree with it, it resonated and gave me reason to engage in a conversation."

The best campaigns P&G has seen corporately and with a number of its brands are grounded in authentic, meaningful and relevant consumer insights, Jones said at the PRWeek Conference in Chicago on Thursday.

"Spend as much time on the ‘why’ as the ‘what,’" he said. "Be able to articulate why a multibillion-dollar corporation is engaged in this. For us, we want conversation."

That leads to understanding which leads to behavior change which leads to action.

P&G holds its brand leaders accountable to make sure they can answer all of those questions before they launch any campaign.

"If you’re not clear what you’re doing and why you are doing it, consumers will sniff out that inauthenticity," said Jones.

Speaking on the same panel, Stephen Tisdalle, State Street Global Advisors’ CMO and senior managing director, said his team was prepared for what they were going to say if everything went wrong when his company placed the Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street. But the statue was a huge success.

"Fearless Girl was never about our firm," said Tisdalle. "It was about the way we invest and how we see long-term protection of people’s financial interests. That was the foundation of what we were communicating and we had to stay on point." 

A major takeaway for any company that does something bold and makes a big statement that ends up going viral is that they will also expose their own brand.

"People want to know if there is hypocrisy in your brand," Tisdalle said. "This was an aspiration and inspiration for what we want to become as a society and particularly as a publicly traded company. You will expose yourself when you do something bold, brave and fearless."

If the spotlight then turns to the company behind the campaign, he advised that the comms team needs to be disciplined about sticking to the message, the reason behind the campaign and what it is seeking to achieve.

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