Bodyform Draws First Blood
Creating ads for feminine hygiene products can be challenging to say the least. It’s one of those areas that seems to have unwritten rules and etiquette that prevent marketers and designers from directly addressing an apparently awkward and taboo topic.
The latest sanitary pad commercial, created by London agency AMV BBDO, has certainly caused a media frenzy, perhaps even broken the mould. But is it really a true reflection of today’s modern women?
We have to admit that when we first saw Bodyform’s new ad we cringed a little. Yes, it’s real, it’s bloody and it’s brave. But this is what made us just a little queasy – perhaps we’re just not good with bleeding ballerina toes, sweaty bodies and gaping sporting injuries. However, in its context and what it stands for it’s fair to say Bodyform’s latest commercial, part of the company's Red.fit program is, dare we say it, ballsy and a refreshing break from the norm.
On the surface, it feels like we should be celebrating this ad as a fine example of female empowerment success. But does it really engage with and appeal to woman or is it simply an extreme swing of the pendulum: from stereotypical weak and giggly girl to super human Amazonian warriors. Is this any more achievable for women? Can we really define this as accessible?
In an attempt to change perception has it gone too far and created yet another image / type cast that us ‘average women’ can't recognise in ourselves or will never truly be able to live up to? After all, how often do we find ourselves performing sports to an extreme that results in bleeding wounds and bloodied noses? It most certainly doesn’t happen to us personally and definitely not on a monthly basis.
What’s clear from this campaign is that marketers are learning fast that it’s no longer enough to simply acknowledge women as powerhouse spenders. Connecting and engaging meaningfully with this influential audience can make or break their sales targets. What marketers are finally grasping is that authenticity, trust and advocacy are critical when engaging with women. That’s not to say this isn’t true when marketing to men it’s just that, as an industry, we have been guilty of patronising women with ‘shrink it and pink’ packaging and philosophies that don’t accurately represent the individuals we really are and instead lumps us all into one homogenised group.
The reality is marketers must understand women throughout the many dimensions of their lives and lifestyles if they are to create lasting relationships. A single, albeit outstanding advertisement, isn’t going to cut it long term. Now is the time for brands to rethink, not just their messaging, but their overall approach to business. This includes how they communicate and portray women, their products and packaging, the sales funnel and the overall ‘female focus’ of their business.
We fear that unless drastic changes take place at the heart of brands and their approach to women, lofty creative messages meant to inspire, unite, increase self-esteem or empower female consumers (like the latest Bodyform ad) will simply succeed in temporarily generating significant awareness. However, within a short window engagement is likely to return to pre-campaign levels and brands and marketers will find they are not that much further ahead of their competitors. And more importantly their female consumers have moved on to talking about the next groundbreaking piece of content.
Authenticity remains a real challenge for brands and is the crucial element to get right. Often this is easier said than done – but marketers who seek to build meaningful, genuine customer experiences will succeed in grabbing the attention of this influential market. This is where we feel Bodyform and many more have a long way to go. The message needs to follow through and be integrated throughout the entire brand and be reflected in the customer purchasing journey, shopping experience and on shelf.
Never underestimate the power of those few seconds when the consumer is faced with your products on shelf. For many shoppers this is the moment where your brand has to live up to its reputation and for us this is where Bodyform could be missing the mark.
It’s the packaging in particular that leads us to question if the latest advertising campaign and strategy has truly been entrenched throughout the business and embraced by senior decision makers. It still incorporates bold pink, turquoise and neon orange and green. And seems to almost religiously adhere to the old perspective (functional, non-conversational, non-emotive and overtly girly). Hardly reflective of the tough Amazonian type women with sporting grit that are demonstrated in its advertisement. In fact, we’d go so far as to say the packaging lacks the style and punch needed to adequately reflect the aspirational brand portrayed in the ad.
Packaging and product efficiencies are still a fundamentally concrete way to communicate with your target audience and often help express the overall positioning of your business. If (and in our opinion they should!) brands create radical campaigns that welcome consumers to a world of exciting new realities- flip the way women experience brands on its head and clearly ‘shout’ that old stereotypes no longer apply - then the message needs to be reflected not only in the advertising but in the product design and packaging.
This is because while great advertising can reach and engage your audience, it ultimately directs them to your product. If your packaging doesn’t feel part of the same conversation you risk creating a disconnect. Packaging and branding that mirrors your company values has the potential to promote not only your marketing and organisation message but elevate your product from just another commodity (something the feminine hygiene market grapples with on a daily basis).
The significance is clear, if you ensure your packaging emulates the core message you can make the leap from ordinary to something with unique character and promise. In the case of Bodyform this simple shift in approach would resonate far more and demonstrate a true commitment to embracing the strength and determination of women which they have so cleverly captured in the ad.
We strongly believe that branding can create an emotional resonance with the customer and in particular women who choose products and brands based on both emotional and pragmatic research and judgement.
Whether your target audience is male or female today’s consumers expect brands to align with and reflect their values, aspirations, goals and desires. They are natural investigators and will be the first to ‘call you out’ for what they perceive as disingenuous marketing or a divide between your message and your product on shelf. A token gesture will only alienate rather than engage them. If your communication is deeply connected to your company’s cultural beliefs and demonstrated at every consumer touch point it will resonate with your target audience and women in particular.
We think Bodyform is half way there and salute their efforts but warn that as an industry so much more needs to be done to create meaningful change.
Comment from Sam Ellison and Emma Jones, Founders of Redshoe Brand Design.
Category: Beauty/health , Tampons
Genre: Fashion & Beauty , Idents , Storytelling , Strategy/Insight