In a previous post, I wrote about the recent trend of Femvertising; using Feminist messages in advertisements to help sell your products. Dove have done it, Pantene have done it and even Always have done it.
Always’ recent #LikeAGirl campaign took a brand and a product that no one would usually talk about and created something that went viral. By taking a closer look at this campaign we can learn a lot about consumer behaviour.
Decision Making Starts With An Emotional Response
Studies by the likes of Shiv & Fedorikhin (1999) suggest that, at the most simple level, most decision making processes are initiated by an automatic, emotional response to stimuli, which is then followed by a more deliberate and controlled cognitive response. That is, customers are triggered emotionally and then then begin to rationally consider whether they want to buy the product and what they think of it.
As Boyer et al (2015, p.102) summarised, ‘unless there is a reason for consumers to pay attention, they simply don’t’, therefore generating enough interest to trigger this response is essential.
The #LikeAGirl campaign deviates considerably from the usual style of female hygiene ads (which usually show stereotypical images of women inter-cut with shots of liquid being splashed on sanitary towels) and creates a strong, immediate emotional response in the viewer. Every woman can relate to wanting to feel confident and happy, so it is highly likely a secondary cognitive response will be triggered in the consumer.
Following this, the next time the consumer experiences a related stimuli, for example walking down that aisle in a shop, the cognitive process is triggered again and they are more likely to consider purchasing the Always brand.
Consumers Know What They Want
Studies have found that consumers can recognise and differentiate between their wants, which are influenced primarily by their emotions, and their needs, which are influenced primarily by cognitive decision making.
In this respect, Always is an interesting example because through their #LikeAGirl campaign they managed to help convert a good that you need for a practical purpose, which you’d normally only base your choice on a rational evaluation of your needs, into a good that
you want because it elicits an emotional response in you as a consumer.
That is, they turned their consumers’ decision making process from a purely cognitive process, into an emotional one. This is the first step in generating an emotional relationship between the consumer and your brand which evokes consumer loyalty.
Let’s look at it a slightly different way. Every marketer should recognise Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (below). Using this as a framework, you could argue that the #LikeAGirl campaign also changed the positioning of the product by adjusting the motivation people have for buying the product and the type of needs it fulfills. Most female hygiene and sanitary products would fulfil a practical need and would therefore be likely to fall into the safety & security level. However, when the brand and therefore its products, become directly associated with messages of female empowerment, getting women to feel strong, confident and happy, then the product’s positioning begins to shift and fulfil other needs which fall into the self-esteem level.
This is somewhat unusual because the usual marketing strategy would be to recognise a customer’s need and convince them your product fulfils that for them. But in this case, Always isn’t overtly telling the consumer that they offer a quality product, although it is to be assumed. However, they are saying that their product and brand offers something more than the others; they’re helping women gain confidence in themselves at a time when they would otherwise be likely to feel vulnerable. This gives them a unique selling point and places them at an advantage to their competitors.
Using Covert Advertising Techniques and Conspicuous Consumption
Always cleverly makes use of covert advertising techniques to subtly influence consumer behaviour. They moved away from the standard adverts which simply state why their product is good and why you should buy it because these kind of adverts don’t have any social currency, especially for a brand like Always.
The majority of women probably don’t want to make a big deal out of telling people really personal information; I doubt anyone is going to go up to a big group of friends and announce ‘Hey, I know from experience how super-absorbent these pantyliners are!’ the majority of those people probably won’t want to hear it.
Word-of-mouth recommendations are essential for brands; as Boyer at al (2015, p.104) explain, ‘Personal sources legitimize the products for consumers… consumers will be far more likely to believe and accept the endorsement of a product from someone who is perceived to have nothing to gain from offering the endorsement than from someone who does’. By maximising the number of people talking positively about your product or brand, a company can generate increased interest in their product which will, ideally, increase sales.
Another way people get brand recommendations is through conspicuous consumption; people watch what other people are using and take their recommendations from there. However, it’s almost impossible to know what type of female hygiene products another people is using without asking.
Today social media, the internet and society’s love of technology makes opinion sharing and WOM product endorsements easier and more prolific than ever and it makes sense that Always wanted to get involved in this; their products didn’t just have to be quiet recommendations given from one friend to another or from mother to daughter any more. They wanted the opportunity for all women to be comfortable and happy talking about Always products, to turn consumption conspicuous and the #LikeAGirl campaign was their way of doing this.
Always’ video for the campaign was created so that while it hooks the viewer immediately, it’s not clear that it is an advert until the very end when the brand’s logo flashes on the screen for the last 20 seconds. Even then it’s not trying to sell anything specific, it’s just a subtle reminder that they made the video. This creates the subconscious emotional connection in the viewers mind between feeling empowered and the Always brand. It is, arguably, a fantastic example of covert advertising.
Boyer at al’s 2015 research found that while covert adverts can be effective, the consumer doesn’t want to feel like they’ve been lied to – if this happens they will be less effective than a regular advertisement. So, if Always had started suddenly saying overtly ‘so buy X product to feel like this’ at the end, it probably would have generated feelings of mistrust in the viewer and not been as effective.
But, they didn’t actually mention any specific products in this case, and it could be argued that this makes the video easier to share because more people can relate to it. Sharing a video about feeling good about yourself is something that will be useful to others and possibly make you look good to your friends, family or online followers, whereas, sharing a video that’s specifically about female hygiene products may not have the same appeal and not as many people would be comfortable sharing it.
Making It Social
By centering the whole campaign around a hashtag and social media, as well as actively encouraging viewers to share the video and message around with their friends and family, meant it had a huge social influence on potential consumers. The concept of viral marketing and online sharing links to Chatterjee’s (2007) ideas about forced or voluntary exposure to advertisements. When viewing ads online some are forced on the viewer, for example pop-up ads or the ads at the start of Youtube videos. Others are seen voluntarily, for example by following a brand on Facebook or searching for their advert on Youtube.
Chatterjee’s research found that ‘the interruption of browsing activity by large forced exposure ads leads to negative brand attitudes immediately after ad exposure compared to voluntary exposure ads’ (2007, p.304), therefore suggesting that voluntary exposure to ads creates the most positive response in consumers which is why viral campaigns such as this are so successful.
Viral campaigns like #LikeAGirl which are not overt advertisements may, in some ways, been seen forced ads because they can appear on your social
media news feeds without your expressed permission. However, they are still there slightly voluntarily because they will most likely have been shared by a friend, family or person you choose to follow, alternatively, often people choose to search for these videos to view and share voluntarily themselves.
A Quick Conclusion…
So, this has been a pretty long post but it’s a pretty interesting campaign which was hugely successful. It can teach us loads about consumer behaviour, what people want and how to appeal to them. I’d say the main points to take away are:
- Before a consumer will pay attention they need a reason – an emotional trigger can help with this
- Emotional connections with your brand can increase a consumers’ loyalty to the brand
- Customers know what they want and know what they need but if you can turn a practical product that fulfils a basic need into a product they want, which fulfils a higher need, like self-actualisation or self-esteem, then you’ll put yourself in a unique position
- Covert advertising can be super-effective, just remember not to deceive or mislead your consumer
- People trust the opinions of their friends over the claims of a business so gaining positive word of mouth is a must
- You can’t ignore digital and social marketing – everything is online now and it’s the easiest way to share your message so embrace it!
Thanks for taking the time to read all this and if you have any thoughts I’d love to hear them down in the comments, or drop me a tweet @Rachel0ates