How do you revitalize a 50-plus-year-old brand?

How do you revitalize a 50-plus-year-old brand? By  focusing the brand’s marketing efforts on its core purpose—a purpose that is both benefit-driven and inspirational—and using that purpose to build essential one-to-one personal connections with consumers. Procter & Gamble’s (P&G’s) Secret brand, launched in 1956, has dominated the women’s antiperspirant deodorant category for many years. Secret maintains its leadership position as one of many products in what is typically considered a low in volvement product category. Underarm deodorant isn’t traditionally the type of product consumers think about engaging with in an ongoing, meaningful way. However, Secret has demonstrated that delivering the product benefit is important to establish trust and build engagement. This type of engagement often results in amplifying the brand’s marketing investment, or paid media. Since 2009, Secret’s purpose has been at the center of its marketing efforts, resulting in tremendous growth and brand advocacy among consumers. PRODUCT BACKGROUND Secret was the first deodorant marketed exclusively to women. In the 1960s and 1970s, Secret’s growth was supported by a recurring series of ads featuring a husband and wife dealing with issues of the day, such as having children and returning to work afterward. “It was all about empowering women to make the right choices for themselves and to embrace those choices fearlessly,” according to Kevin Hochman, marketing director for skin and personal care at P&G North America at the time. However, in 2004–2005, brand executives felt the theme was getting dated, so Secret backed off from that positioning. “We walked away,” Hochman says. “We thought, women are empowered, and maybe this isn’t so relevant. That was a mistake. Of course the idea was still relevant; we just hadn’t modernized it in a contemporary way.” Secret made a deliberate decision to go back to its roots. THE ROAD TO PURPOSE Secret started to experience slower growth in 2008 due to a down economy. The launch of a super-premium line of antiperspirant, Secret Clinical Strength, helped increase sales and market share, but competitors soon followed suit with similar products. Meanwhile, top P&G management began infusing the idea of purpose-driven marketing throughout the organization. The companywide vision focused on building brands through lifelong, one-to-one personal connections that ultimately build relationships and fulfill the company’s purpose to “touch and improve more lives of more consumers more completely.” With this in mind, Secret brand management realized it needed to get clear on defining who Secret was, why Secret existed, and what Secret’s purpose was. The brand needed a reason for its consumers to care and wanted to give them a reason to share. Through the leadership and efforts of its senior brand management and partner agencies, including MEplusYOU (formerly imc2 ), Leo Burnett Co., SMG, Marina Maher Communications, and consultancy group BrightHouse, the Secret brand team began to establish the brand’s purpose and convey it across all marketing touch points in ways that resonated with target consumers’ core values and beliefs. “It becomes about more than selling deodorant, or promoting functional benefits, and more about rallying around something higher-order,” says Hochman. The Secret team started by defining the brand’s core beliefs: “We believe in the equality of the genders and that all people should be able to pursue their goals without fear. We believe that by acting courageously, supporting others, empathizing with their challenges and finding innovative solutions, we can help women be more fearless.” Armed with Secret’s core belief, the team developed a purpose statement that is grounded in the product benefit and allowed for fearlessness when you’re not sweating: “Helping women of all ages to be more fearless.” “Just a few years ago, the majority of marketers’ activities and expenditures occurred across unidirectional media channels that could only talk at consumers. This limited the role marketing could play in developing relationships between brands and people,” says Ian Wolfman, principal and chief marketing officer of MEplusYOU. “Today, new media, in combination with mature media, allows marketers to play a more sophisticated role in facilitating deep, trusting relationships between brands and people as we simultaneously drive strong transactional activity. Brands like Secret realize that taking a stand on values it shares with consumers is the key to translating a brand’s purpose into meaningful relationships and profit.” The brand carefully constructed an ecosystem of tactical marketing “ignitions.” Each of these ignitions focused on sparking the interest of like-minded consumers and were designed to flex and surge with the needs of the brand. The brand’s purpose served as the basis for each ignition in order to engage consumers across all channels (online and offline). With Facebook as the hub, Secret brand management used the website, print advertising, public relations, creative and social media, and appropriate paid and organic search programs to complete each ignition. DRIVING CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT AND SALES GROWTH THROUGH IGNITIONS Secret brand management focused on activating brand purpose around the timeless idea of being more fearless and freshened it up with contemporary topics and pop culture. This effort included several ignitions. Two of these are Let Her Jump and Mean Stinks. Let Her Jump The first time Secret struck gold by focusing on purpose was through Let Her Jump, an effort to sanction women’s ski jumping as an official Olympic sport. The Let Her Jump ignition was a companion piece to work P&G was already doing for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Secret launched Let Her Jump with a small online media buy and a Facebook Page that included an inspirational video, petition, and Facebook Fan Page. The inspiring video encouraged viewers to visit (a custom fan page within Facebook), where they could lead the charge to get women’s ski jumping included in the 2014 Winter Olympics. In 2011, the International Olympic Committee approved women’s ski jumping for the 2014 Winter Games. Let Her Jump was one of many elements that, in the spirit of a living brand purpose, helped fuel growth over the previous year. In addition to the video being viewed more than 700,000 times, 57 percent of visitors said this initiative improved brand perception, and Secret saw a double-digit purchase intent increase among women and teens. “This [ignition] was the first time we could pinpoint that activating against purpose generated a huge sales lift,” Hochman said. “We saw the Clinical Sport [stock keeping units] up 85 percent during the [2010] Olympics. We changed the world for the better. In a small way, yes, but a deodorant brand influencing pop culture is very exciting when you can then directly attribute it to business results.” As an added bonus, the Let Her Jump program won the coveted Forrester Groundswell Award in 2010. The award recognizes excellence in achieving business and organizational goals with social technology applications and is awarded to some of the best social media programs in the world. The success of Let Her Jump helped pave the way for investment in another ignition. After proving that purpose-driven work leads to profitable growth for the brand, the team was ready to tackle one of the biggest fears young girls face—bullying. While Let Her Jump was tied to a distinct event in time, the team was excited at the prospect of rallying behind something that could live on and continue to do good in the world. Mean Stinks The Secret brand waged a battle for niceness through its Mean Stinks program, the next and biggest step in Secret’s fearless movement. Through media monitoring and social listening, the Secret team determined that bullying was a critical issue facing many teen girls—which led to the creation of the Mean Stinks ignition. Mean Stink
s, launched in early 2011, focused on ending girl-to-girl meanness, encouraging girls to grow up to be fearless, while providing a safe hub for conversation and creating brand affinity for Secret. Through the Secret Mean Stinks movement, Secret brought a positive message to high school hallways, leading the charge to end the mean streak by showing teen girls that petty isn’t pretty. Raising awareness of  bullying is big, but “the need for education is tremendous—people aren’t sure how to identify bullying, or what to do when it occurs,” says Hochman. “And what’s so compelling about the Mean Stinks program is how true it is to the brand’s original essence.” The Secret team launched a Facebook media buy for Secret Mean Stinks to create awareness of the program, asking fans (primarily teen girls aged 13–24 and role models aged 25+) to share their stories. The Mean Stinks Facebook Wall was flooded with thousands of public apologies and heartfelt messages of empathy and encouragement. And as Secret continued to make a difference, women celebrities joined to take a stand, offering “nice advice” to girls through the Mean Stinks Facebook app and iAd. In a single day, Secret gained over 200,000 Facebook fans— bringing its total number of fans to over a million, while its Mean Stinks Page gained over 20,000 new fans. Within the first two weeks, visitors accessed the Mean Stinks Facebook app more than 250,000 times and Secret became the second-fastest-growing Facebook Page globally for one week. This ignition also helped contribute to 10 percent overall sales growth for the entire fiscal year, 11.5 percent in the six-month period during which Mean Stinks was launched. In the summer of 2011, Secret and Apple joined forces to create an iAd experience that tackled the issue for girls on the device that’s most personal—their iPhone. The ignition received unusually high engagement levels and led to many “firsts” for Secret: ● First brand to create and share customized wallpapers via iPhone and iPod touch devices, which led to an “average time spent” rate that was 16 percent higher than average. ● First brand to use transition banners on the iAd Network, which resulted in exceeding benchmarks for banner “Tap through Rates” (50 percent higher than average for iAd). ● First brand to drive donations for a cause through the iAd, which resulted in donations to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. In the first 10 days after launch, 23,000 consumers engaged with the Secret iAd, with more than eight page views per visit and an average of 80 seconds spent on the ad. WHAT’S NEXT FOR SECRET Secret executives saw success behind the purpose activation the year after it was established, but they noticed it wasn’t truly part of the brand’s DNA or fully integrated into every marketing element. “[At first] we had a lot of grandiose ideas, but they added layers to our existing plan. Dollars were tight, and the purpose ideas started getting cut. Old Spice was ahead of us, and I wondered what they were doing differently,” says Hochman. “By [working with our agency partners], we finally were able to ensure that [the ignitions] weren’t just elements of our plans; they WERE our plan,” Hochman says. “The way the Secret team operates now compared with four years ago—it’s like day and night.” Hochman says the brand has more ideas that include educating, generating awareness, and empowering people to take meaningful action. Secret is recognized as being best in its class, something the brand is happy to tout. “But [success] isn’t a Secretonly thing . . . it’s a priority for all of our brands. And when people are living the brand, they’re more excited to come to work. It’s much more enabling and inspiring,” Hochman says. And to continue in this success, Hochman suggests remembering that a brand’s purpose is inextricably linked to the overall plan, it pervades everything about the business—including team culture—and it’s in the company’s roots. Hochman emphasizes the importance of transparency, something he believes Secret will continue to win out on in the future. “Today, information is free and plentiful. If there’s a lack of sincerity, consumers know it.”34 Questions 1 What is “purpose-driven marketing” from a product and brand management perspective at Procter & Gamble? 2 How does “purpose-driven” marketing for Secret deodorant relate to the hierarchy of needs concept detailed in Chapter 4? 3 What dimensions of the consumer-based brand equity pyramid have the Secret brand team focused on with its “Let Her Jump” and “Mean Stinks” ignitions?

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