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This pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone, causing people to become more intolerant. One bad and insensitive content idea can ruin any brand’s image built over time. Consumer behaviour changed drastically during this period and it became inevitable for brands to turn around their planned content calendars completely and make it more relatable and topical to this period.

For Johnson & Johnson’s sanitary napkin brand Stayfree, a brand needs to really adapt to the circumstances, acknowledge the new reality and show much more empathy than ever through its content initiatives because there is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty with people spending more time indoors than ever before.

Manoj Gadgil

Manoj Gadgil, Vice-President, Marketing, J&J, Consumer Division, believes that in these unprecedented times, brands must create compassionate and positive content that is purposeful and engaging.

“We have seen a lot of changes in consumer behaviour in the past two months with changing needs and mindsets. In times like these, it’s not just about product benefits but also about telling the consumer that they are not in this all alone and that we are in this together. Going the extra mile to assure consumers that the brand is accessible and is there to help them in times of need, is important as well,” he added.

It seems that everyone is jumping on to the purpose-led marketing bandwagon to look more sensitive, helpful to the needy and be compassionate during the Covid-19 period. There are several hashtags floating on social media, many UGC challenges being created only to drive the message that a brand is truly purpose-led. Suddenly becoming purposeful won’t work, but being cause-driven at the core in the long run can work wonders for brands.

Therefore, many times, purpose-led content strategies are often questioned if they can fetch ROI in terms of business. Or it is merely a tool to build brand affinity and awareness? Can purpose-led content initiatives also help sell the product?

Gadgil said purpose pays — for people, planet and business. He said, “Research shows that 40% of consumers want to choose a brand that has a clear purpose. And they are willing to pay 58% more for these purposeful brands. More importantly, purpose-driven brands or campaigns that aim at creating a social change have a significant impact on consumer preferences.  Hence, having a consistent and well-defined purpose will definitely have a significant positive effect on the overall brand imagery and add to equity. A strong brand built on the foundation of a strong purpose will always deliver on the business objectives.”

 With nearly two million girls experiencing their first period during the lockdown, Stayfree recently launched the campaign #ItsJustAPeriod to encourage families to talk more openly about periods and support them in this journey.

A look at the campaign film:

The campaign is built on the insight that period is a topic that is often considered uncomfortable to talk about openly, especially in families. Through this initiative, the brand wants to help create a comfortable space for girls in their families to share their concerns regarding their period without hesitation.

According to the reports, about 15 million girls enter the menarche cycle every year in India, yet more than 70% of them have no knowledge of menstruation before their periods. When they turn to their mothers for information, a lot of them are shushed. The research reports also state that 70%+ mothers in India think periods are dirty. They often turn to their teachers and friends for information – the access to which is restricted during the lockdown because they can’t go to school and at home, conversations around periods in the presence of male members is not considered appropriate.

“Through our content initiative ‘It’s Just A Period’, we want to encourage families to change the way they approach the period conversation. We want to break the stigma, normalise the conversation around periods and thereby help create a supportive environment for young girls at home, so that they can approach their family regarding their concerns about menstruation with ease.  Stayfree believes that no girl should hesitate to approach their family members during their first period and we hope that this campaign motivates families to keep their daughters and sisters well-informed and make her feel that she is not alone in her new journey,” Gadgil said.

The brand did not limit itself to just creating a film around the issue but also tied up with Menstrupedia, a platform that creates “people-friendly” period content through animated comics to help viewers learn and teach about menstruation.

As part of the partnership, Stayfree is sharing self-help guides for family members to engage with daughters and sisters, and talk about menstruation. This guide covers various softer aspects like choosing the right time to talk, how to prepare for the conversation, how to create a period-friendly environment for the daughter, etc.

For Stayfree, the focus has been to communicate often and in the right places across media platforms – and using both content marketing and traditional advertising has helped the brand reach its consumers efficiently to deliver the brand messages.

Gadgil added, “It is up to the marketer to leverage them to meet the larger goal of the brand. For purpose-led brands such as Stayfree, sensitisation and awareness across the consumer ecosystem is crucial. Hence, a strategic mix of marketing mediums helps in the optimal leverage of all content assets.”

A strong believer in influencer marketing, for the ‘It’s Just A Period’ campaign Stayfree collaborated with influencers and its brand ambassador PV Sindhu to reach out to the wider audience, specifically parents beyond its primary target group,  to create awareness around the importance of creating a ‘period-friendly’ environment at home, and urging followers to normalise the conversation around periods.

“There is no doubt that today, with the right influencer, a brand can reach and communicate with its target audience in the fastest possible way. We have received a highly positive response within just five days of launching and the campaign is further gaining overwhelming reach and engagement with our audience to date.  Such encouraging feedback from our audience and consumers is building our trust in utilising influencer marketing to communicate important causes,” said Gadgil.

According to Gadgil, creating content marketing campaigns is not a challenge in the category as much as zeroing on the right insight that stays true to the core idea. Gadgil said, “While creating content is not a significant concern, the challenge for brands in this category, is how to rightly and timely communicate the content to the target audience while keeping the diversity of the market and local sensitivities in mind.”

He said, “Given that there are so many myths and taboos associated with this category and so many girls have had negative period experiences, it is critical to get the balance right in terms of the overall messaging. It is a highly personal, intimate category that requires one to stay really close to the consumer, understand her dreams, aspirations, what is really holding her back from achieving them and what role can the brand play in her journey towards her pursuit of achieving her dreams.”

Stayfree is behind some of the major campaigns in India that even turned into social movements. The brand is behind the  #ProjectFreePeriod campaign, wherein it countered the taboo associated with periods and helped sex workers make the most of their period days by learning sustainable skills. Stayfree partnered with Prerana, a Mumbai-based NGO that works with women in the sex trade, to launch the campaign and created three-day training capsules to teach these women eight new vocational skills. The initiative called for volunteers and received an overwhelming response from people across the country. The campaign also won a Silver Health and Wellness Lion at the Cannes Lions 2018.  

During the lockdown period, Stayfree launched the ‘#StayHomeKeepMoving’ initiative. The campaign encouraged women to do what they love, even if it is at home. The message was brought alive by PV Sindhu. Through self-shot videos on social media, the sports star, Olympian and youth icon shared insightful snippets into her personal life, on how she spent her day with activities that kept her motivated, connected and fit.”