Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A little girl talk or when a brand tries to 'protect' its user group....

The Always brand's "Like a girl" series has tried over the years to be progressive and creating dialogue about some of the innermost fears young (and getting younger) pre-menstrual and early menstruating young girls face. They have addressed issues like: fear of failure, social limitations, girl power etc.etc.

Meant to be inspiring and uplifting and encouraging their most recent effort addresses the sad statistics of: 50% of girls feel paralyzed by fear of failure during puberty and 75% of girls agree that social media contributes to girls' fear of failing during puberty.

I worked on Always for years in the Canadian market. Feminine hygene is one of the toughest packaged goods categories. And most creatives shy away from it because it is so demanding in some respects yet limiting in others.

What Always fails to talk about is the drastic shift in the age a girl now becomes pubescent. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the age a girl's body starts to change has plummeted to less than 13. A huge shift from the beginning of the twentieth century where the age an average American girl began her period was 16 to 17. This shift is attributed to the epidemic of overweight children and a greater exposure to pollution, which does bad things to developing bodies and accelerates the timing of a girl's first menstruation.

What doesn't keep pace is her thinking/reasoning and emotional maturity. We are talking about little girls trapped in bodies that are maturing far far too quickly. These are young adult bodies with little girl brains and emotions.

Is it any wonder then these young girls exhibit such extremes emotionally and mentally and feel completely at odds with themselves and who they are?

And if you are still not even a 'tween' (usually 11 to 12 yrs.)  but ten years old emotionally and intellectually,  you still want to do little girl things, you still need to do little girl things.
And they should be treated and encouraged to still be the little girls they still are.

Consequently, this is where Always falls down.

Instead of acknowledging the two extremes happening with these young girls their campaigns never go there.  They use slick monologues with older young girls as the actors. The messages are plentiful with positive platitudes but the main subliminal message is constant: buy us as your first product for protection.

The bigger, riskier challenge would be to take the high road and speak to these little girls as little girls and to let that be ok. To not push them. To not treat them as older than they really are or wiser than they really are or hipper than they really are or cooler or more sophisticated than they really are.

Instead, the slick, sophisticated messaging is ultimately about having to grow up fast.

Marketing to girls age ten, eight, seven as if they now are expected to act and behave like they're thirteen, fourteen, sixteen (and in kid years those are gigantic leaps in themselves) in maturity level has become the norm....as advertisers constantly pound these kids with products, fake social lifestyles and premature aspirations way beyond their understanding and abilities. Kids have no say in this.
They accept this messaging blindly because honestly it's what's presented to them.

So marketers like P&G's Always are posing as champions of feminine empowerment when in reality they don't really address the true nature of what these little girls are feeling or thinking. In fact they skip that part altogether and jump right on the bandwagon of the cool and aspirational along with everybody else. Because at the end of the day P&G is selling a product, just like everybody else.

And Always knows the only way to grow their brand is to get them while they're young.