Campaign Deconstruction: Pantene Whipit

While checking your Facebook News Feed, you may have come across the Pantene #Whipit ad that has now officially ‘gone viral’.

In case you missed it, here it is again.

 About the Pantene Ad

Filmed as a TV Commercial for the Philippines market, the Pantene ad has caused a global sensation for its radical departure from conventional shampoo advertising.

Taking a leaf from Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, (which has been tremendously successful), Pantene confronts gender bias and sexism in the corporate workplace and encourages women to shine.

#Whipit Campaign Background

The inspiration for the campaign came from an October 2013 study that revealed that women were still experiencing double standards and gender bias “even in progressive Metro Manila” Rappler.com.

The ad features corporate females doing identical tasks (presentations, running meetings, crossing the road, working late at night) and being perceived differently (boss / bossy, dedicated / selfish).

Pantene partnered with active social news website, Rappler (in the Philippines). Rappler’s mission is to generate smart conversations through uncompromising journalism where “stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.”

The partnership resulted in a social marketing campaign tagged #Whipit in order to try and:

a) subvert these perceptions (Rappler), and

b) make some money selling product (Pantene).

Pantene with agency BBDO Guerrero Manila took a radical departure from the standard shampoo ad script, which often makes women feel disempowered because no shampoo really creates the preternatural shine (or the fabulous good looks and attractive glances) that the ads suggest.

Instead, BBDO and Pantene have taken an empowerment approach and focused on successful women (with good hair) in corporate situations.

The titles demonstrate the faulty perceptions about females in the workforce compared to men.

It has succeeded creating a relevant, albeit tenuous, link to its haircare products and value proposition of shiny hair. Shiny hair, shine as a person. Get it? [Hmm, sort of]. Quality of the product / inequality of the situation.

The ad ran for a month or two before a mention by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg saw it rocket to worldwide popularity.

“This is one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways,” Sandberg wrote on her official Facebook page.

There are critics. Some say the theme conflicts with the product itself.

Effectiveness

The results of the campaign are not available yet, as it still ricocheting through cyberspace.

It has generated thousands of tweets and nine million YouTube views.

Personally, I like the ad and for something that has only ever aired in the Philippines, it’s what I would call a ‘good spend’. I think it has generated smart conversations and created popular awareness about the differences in perceptions, including from and by women.

It also makes me think that Pantene really is a smarter product than others and reflects my self-concept, which is pretty critical when marketing things like this. Like jeans for twenty-somethings, it’s not about the denim, it’s about how you see yourself and how you want others to see you. In marketing parlance, we call it the ‘transformational appeal’ and it can be more effective than an ‘informational appeal’ as long as you can make it past the rationality hurdles.

That’s why I also like the ad from a marketing communications perspective, because it does what many brands try and fail to do well, which is successfully enter emotional and higher-order territory and favourably reflect the target market back to themselves.

Entering Emotional Territory

Apple was initially subversive (watch the famous Superbowl ad styled on Orwell’s 1984 here), now it’s creative and inspirational. Nike uses the ‘power of the individual’ (watch). Dove is ‘Real Beauty’ (this is beautiful).

Even though I find some of the quasi-spiritual underpinnings of certain fast moving consumer goods eye-rolling, they can be enormously powerful. Archetypes and storytelling; quests, ideals and journeys are universal and deeply felt.

They work because you can add have more nuts, thicker cream, a cheaper price, an easier payment system, but so can your competitors. There is no real differentiation and therefore no real loyalty. When you own emotional territory, it is very difficult for a competitor to displace this. You’re on a higher plane. You ‘connect’.

As Services businesses, it’s easier for us. There is always a deeper, laddered down benefit of what you do. Always. The hidden, but powerful value proposition may be security. Confidence. Assurance. Romance. Idealism. A means to express individual self-identity.

If you need help laddering down to your higher order benefit, send me an email.

Also what do you think of the Pantene #Whipit ad? Love it or loathe it?