Keeping it simple
I’ve followed the Sport England, This Girl Can, campaign since it launched and have been impressed by its simplicity from the start. The first thing they did right was to recognise that branding has a place but not all over everything.
Living in a world where we are constantly targeted by marketing messages people have become increasingly cynical, and when something is overtly branded we know to be aware that we are being ‘sold at’.
Unfortunately, this can be a difficult lesson to learn and many companies feel that they are missing a trick if they don’t have their brand on show, all of the time. The truth is that more often than not, less is more.
Don’t ask too much
Consumers have never been more intrinsically linked to the tricks of the trade and they are aware of the power that they have to influence a brand by advocacy or to crucify it through controversy.
Social media is a fantastic communication tool, we have never been able to share messages so quickly or with such a vast audience, but with it comes some pitfalls too.
The hurdles often become apparent when agencies try to be too clever. They expect too much from the consumer and in a culture where we click to purchase or swipe to like there is simply no way that the volume of people required to impress a client will engage.
What This Girl Can have done is simply ask that people share their image – if they want to. And that is the point. They aren’t suggesting you will get anything in return, they aren’t selling anything to you, per se, but they are changing behaviour and asking that if you want to you can get involved.
Keeping it real
There’s absolutely nothing new in creating campaigns that focus on real people. It’s been done before and it will be done again, it’s a good idea and it works. However, with this campaign, it takes keeping it real to a whole new level.
The idea that people would share their pictures when they know they don’t look their best and in many instances far from it would never be an objective that you would choose when developing a marketing campaign, but it’s worked.
There is something almost akin to a ‘sisterhood’ which has gained momentum through this campaign and what has made it stand out for me is that it hasn’t felt forced. It’s been very organic in the way it has picked up pace.
The tone of voice and messages have been perfect too. It hasn’t, like many sports-related campaigns, being about pushing yourself to the limit, setting goals or even encouraging you to try the latest exercise or equipment – it has been about being you; doing what you do; being proud of your efforts and knowing that if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. It makes it hard for you not to endorse it.
Being all things to all people
Many brands want to target a mass market, it’s a numbers game. They want to communicate with everyone and to use one message to do that. If you work in marketing you will know that getting this right is like finding a goose that lays golden eggs – it’s rare!
Not only does mass market require mass budgets (and admittedly you could argue £8m is a pretty good start) but it also needs to be so effective that everyone sees it, gets it, acts on it and shares it. This Girl Can does exactly that. It cleverly features a variety of women that most people can relate to. Some people may say that it ticks boxes – and perhaps that is true – but it’s worked.
The most recent TV advert has extended the audience from 14 – 40 to 14 – 60 year olds. Very few agencies would ever take a brief that suggested you target 14-60 year old women, cross demographic and geography, with a single campaign.
The typical problem with sports-related marketing is keeping the momentum. Something may work but once it’s done you can’t really repeat it without it becoming… well, repetitive, which in turn makes it boring.
The scheduling and roll out of This Girl Can has captured attention time and time again. The subtle shift in focus from advertising to activism was inspired. The process was so simple; use advertising and PR (along with an £8m budget) to capture the hearts and minds of women throughout the country, ask them to join in, give them the tools to get involved, create a community, leave them to it. Clearly, I’ve over simplified that, but it’s not far from what’s happened.
Don’t over commercialise
This goes back to selling at people. It’s not only consumers that don’t like this approach, when something is too commercial it makes it almost impossible to share with the media. That’s what advertising is for.
All you have to do is search the news pages online to see just how much coverage has been achieved with This Girl Can across national, regional and broadcast media along with more blogs than I care to mention – this one included!
Any agency would be popping corks if they could do the same and replicate these results every time they worked with a client – we’d also be retiring and moving to the Bahamas.
I mention above about giving people the tools to get involved and the This Girl Can app is so simple it takes around a minute to create your own poster, which you can then conveniently share across all of your social channels. Et voila you’re part of the community and before you know it you’re sharing their message and endorsing the brand.
It’s very, very rare that I get sucked into any marketing tactics but I’ve got to hold my hands up – I’m in. I have my own poster and I’m secretly quite proud of the fact that I can share it. I feel like I’m doing my bit. I’m part of a community of women who are content with getting active in their own way, at their own pace and in their own time.
What makes this message even more compelling is that it speaks to me; I can genuinely agree and associate directly with the philosophy of this campaign. I’ve just start to run (jog would probably be more fitting) and although I’m never going to be any kind of athlete, nor do I want to be, I’m enjoying it because I’m doing it my way.
My only suggestion and something that I found quite frustrating is that the headlines you can use are all formatted – so although there are a few to choose from they aren’t ‘yours’. I would have liked to have been given the option to add my own, but that’s just me.
Campaign of the decade
Working in marketing can be and often is tough. PR is just one facet of this but you have so many people to keep happy and it’s a balancing act. We often associate it to spinning plates. Not everything always goes as you want it to. It can be about test and measure.
When the consumer says no, and people simply refuse to engage with a campaign, we have to review the tactics we’ve used and take a long hard look at what went wrong. In doing this it also gives us the opportunity to review other brand activities – those that we feel have got it right.
Like many people in our industry, I call upon a few campaigns that over the years have got it right and I can say without any hesitation that This Girl Can will be going to the top of that list. I genuinely believe that it is the best campaign we have seen in the last decade and coming from someone who is typically difficult to please that’s saying something.
This campaign can and it has!