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Five brands that made a social impact with their PR campaigns

Always like a girl

With advertising and commercials becoming increasingly easier to ignore, the challenge of getting consumers’ attention is greater than ever. Still, many brands have succeeded at engaging their audience by bringing to light a social issue.

The secret to their success? Getting their advertising teams to work with PR, legal, marketing, social media, and the like, thus ensuring they have the right tools in place to target, distribute, monitor, and measure the campaign.

Playing off controversy in PR campaigns

Some campaigns are designed to polarize viewers and create dialogue. Look at Nike’s recent ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, the football player who started the protest against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. Many – including President Trump – were offended by his (and other subsequent players’) behavior, feeling it was unpatriotic.

Yet Nike chose this revolutionary as the focus for a recent commercial. While it incited rage in those who had negative feelings toward Kaepernick’s actions and Nike’s support of them – with some going so far as to boycott or even burn Nike products – the campaign still was a success.

A little oddness goes a long way

The card game brand Cards Against Humanity also used controversy as a PR tool. To take a stand against President Trump’s move to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the brand launched a campaign called Cards Against Humanity Saves America.

While the campaign was tongue in cheek, it also had a clear message: We do not support the wall.

Cards Against Humanity has a history of zany PR campaigns. The company bought an island on a lake in Maine and named it Hawaii 2, “the okayest place on earth.” The brand gave it away as a gift for its “2014 Holiday Bullshit campaign” and sent 250,000 subscribers a license, a map, and a small Hawaii 2 flag. Now, Hawaii 2 is open for the public to visit.

Because Cards Against Humanity fans are a bit quirkier than your average Monopoly players, the brand has succeeded in developing these off-the-wall campaigns.

A gentle way to communicate a political stance

84 Lumber may not be spurring boycotts or product burning like Nike, but its Super Bowl commercial took a stance on the same topic as Cards Against Humanity: the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The commercial isn’t polarizing in its stance against the wall. Instead, it seeks to humanize the story: People suffer from poor living conditions in Mexico, and many seek a better life in the U.S.

With the tagline “The Will to Succeed Is Always Welcome Here,” 84 Lumber clearly but gently communicates its disapproval of the wall, and warms the hearts of those who share the brand’s beliefs.

Nike, Cards Against Humanity, and 84 Lumber took controversial topics and leveraged them to create brand awareness and foster dialogue, and, as a result, boost sales. All three brands were aware that these campaigns could result in the loss of customers, but they ended up being more successful for taking a risk.

PR as a tool to change the dialogue

Rather than polarizing their audience, other brands have used public relations campaigns to evoke emotions with consumers.

Always launched its #LikeaGirl campaign to bring awareness to the negative impact the phrase [doing something] “like a girl” has had on girls’ self-esteem. The campaign points to the fact that girls lose their self-esteem during puberty and the perpetuation of a phrase like this can have long-term damaging consequences.

In the end, the campaign turned the insult into a phrase of empowerment.

The audience for this commercial isn’t thinking about Always’ line of feminine hygiene products; they’re thinking of their own reaction to doing things like a girl. But when they walk into a drugstore to buy this type of product, which brand do you think they’ll choose, all things being equal? Likely the one that wants to raise up girls and women.

Connect with your audience in an authentic way

Several years ago, Dove launched its #ChooseBeautiful campaign to draw attention to the fact that women often don’t see themselves as beautiful. With the emphasis the fashion industry and the media place on being “thinner” and “younger,” many women struggle with their own self-image.

Dove has a history of campaigns centered around women loving themselves for who they are, a change from ads that feature emaciated-looking models who are meant to represent the “average woman.” Just like Always, Dove succeeds because it taps into the psyche of its audience and evokes a strong emotional reaction.

Always and Dove weren’t trying to overtly sell products with these marketing campaigns. Instead, they hoped to bring attention to perceptions women have about themselves, and to try to correct them.

A joint effort within the company

Successful campaigns like these aren’t the responsibilities of just advertising or marketing – public relations also has to be part of the conversation. By working with marketing, social media, advertising, and legal, the PR team can ensure that the campaign creates an appropriate message, that the brand is prepared for any potential backlash, and that the campaign is disseminated across all of the brand’s marketing channels.

Integrating the campaign across platforms – be it in a press release, shared on social media, announced on a blog, or communicated in an email – ensures it will reach the largest possible audience and achieve the desired results.

And that’s what we’re all looking for, isn’t it?

For more information on media monitoring, download The Ultimate Media Monitoring Buyer’s Guide.


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