Ad campaign empowers customers to Always embrace acting “Like a Girl”

What does it really mean to run “like a girl?”

As some 48 million viewers of a recent ad campaign by Always Feminine Products have seen, when the question was posed to teenage girls, they responded by flapping their arms, making wobbly strides and showing strained facial expressions. Yet when younger girls got the question, running like a girl suddenly meant running as fast as you can.

Always struck a nerve with the release of their new campaign by challenging the all-too-common notion that doing something “like a girl” constitutes an insult. The video also helped focus awareness on a larger issue: Once girls enter puberty their self-confidence plummets. In fact, according to an Always study, more than half of girls experienced this drop in confidence at the start of puberty; confidence also takes a significant hit at the start of middle school.

Through this campaign Always has become more than a  feminine products company. They have become an advocate for female empowerment — for, as their video highlights, girls entering puberty and beyond, their target lifetime consumer, urgently need guidance and support in breaking through harmful gender stereotypes and building a strong, confident sense of self.

Always, and Pantene, with their recent #ShineStrong campaign, are prime examples of effective advocacy marketing — an ongoing dedication to aligning the deeply held interests of a company’s consumer base with the organization’s core business strategies.

By taking up the issue of female empowerment, both Always and Pantene are signaling their interest in helping customers grapple with one of their most fundamental concerns. As Dove Soap’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” proved, when you adopt a long-term focus on issues your customers really care about, the impact can be both social and financial.

This year marked the 10-year anniversary of Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, dubbed one of modern marketing’s most talked about success stories by the Huffington Post. As of June 2013, the Dove Real Beauty Sketches ad was the most watched online ad ever, with 163 million global views, according to Unilever. The ad also topped the Cannes YouTube Ad Leaderboard and won the 2013 Titanium Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Dove’s decade-long commitment to tackling issues critical to their consumer base has challenged — and arguably altered — society’s preconceived notions of beauty. Research on the campaign’s tenure conducted by Harvard psychologist Nancy Etcoff found that, today, more women than before are defining “beauty” according to a broad range of qualities extending beyond physical appearance.

What’s more, Real Beauty is helping to build Dove’s bottom line. In the 10 years since the campaign launched, Dove sales have increased from $2.5 billion to $4 billion, according to a PR case study conducted by News Generation.

Will Always’ campaign help change the stereotype of what it means to do something “like a girl?” Only time will tell. But in the meantime, we believe that all companies focused on serving girls and women have an opportunity to understand even better — and communicate even more forcefully — what it takes to build and sustain the critical sense of empowerment that can make such a difference in the lives of their customers. No question that the need is there — and the bottom line will show it.

Video Credit: Always #LikeAGirl via You Tube

As impact investing gains traction, many investors now seeking their opportunity

“A movement is afoot.” –The U.S. National Board on Impact Investing (NAB)

That’s how the NAB – a group of leading investors, academics and organizations focused on US domestic policy for impact investing – recently characterized today’s growing flood of capital toward investments that generate beneficial social and environmental impact as well as financial return. It’s an investing sea change, as investors deploy the global markets to help “scale solutions to some of our most urgent problems,” the NAB wrote in a new report.

The concept of impact investing isn’t new – in fact, the NAB traces its roots back to private and public sector efforts beginning as long ago as the 1950s. But the potential for private capital to affect the public good today is drawing more attention than ever. What’s more, evidence is growing that it’s far more than a movement only for the deep-pocketed or socially conscious, with even “mainstream” individual investors actively looking to invest for impact. The investment trend is almost certainly gaining force from rising public focus on the effects of climate change: Witness only the 250,000 people who thronged the streets of Manhattan on September 21 calling for action as the United Nations prepared to convene its own climate summit.

Yet, market data also suggest that though interest is palpable and growing, many investors are still struggling for a way in.

The market’s growth is undeniable: A survey of major fund managers and investors by JP Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), released earlier this year, found $46 billion in impact investments under management, up nearly 20% from the prior year. Impact investing as a genre remains modestly sized, relatively speaking; McKinsey estimates that such investments currently represent just 0.02% of the $210 trillion in global financial markets. Yet key players, among them the Monitor Group and the Rockefeller Foundation, believe the market could grow as much as 10 to 20 times within just a few years.

Principled support is helping drive the trend – a 2013 study by the World Economic Forum found that millennials consistently ranked impact performance as their primary investment criterion, ahead of return. At the same time – a 2010 survey of 4,000 investors by Hope Consulting found that just 12% had any experience with impact investments, even though almost half were interested in them. Similarly, in a survey (subscription required) of more than 1,200 investors we conducted with Allianz Global Investors, 85% said their advisor had yet to recommend an environment-related opportunity.

Advisors who answer the call can be confident that investing for impact can readily co-exist with a focus on return. Indeed, the World Economic Forum found that 79% of impact investors are targeting market rates of return. And a JP Morgan/GIIN survey of 125 large impact investors found that, for 91%, their investments were meeting or exceeding their financial expectations.

Impact investing is no flash in the pan – it is indeed a movement, with a sense of purpose, committed followers, and increasingly robust resources. Yet, according to the JP Morgan/GIIN study, impact investors cite “a shortage of high-quality investment opportunities with track record” as the market’s most limiting feature today. That suggests there’s a considerable opportunity to expand the market’s product set – and more widely communicate the genre’s powerful characteristics – for both managers who offer impact investments and advisors who can effectively counsel investors on how to use them. More and more, investors want to invest with impact front-and-center alongside other deeply felt goals – and it seems likely they’ll reward both providers and advisors who can show them the path.

–Jim Marren, President, Tiller, LLC