The ‘three-legged stool’ for campaign success

CASSIES judge and Edelman Canada president and CEO Lisa Kimmel on the importance of standing for something.


Ahead of the CASSIES this Thursday night, strategy is featuring a series of articles penned by those involved in the annual creative effectiveness award show. Be sure to have a look at the shortlisted campaigns and last year’s winners.

By Lisa Kimmel

While there’s no magic bullet to ensure campaign success, it’s becoming increasingly clear that some of the most effective brand campaigns today embody three essential elements – they are inherently earned-centric, social by design, and have a strong purpose at their core. While the shortlist for the CASSIES was truly impressive this year, here’s a closer look at how two brand campaigns in particular – Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk and P&G’s #LikeAGirl – hit the mark for me on the “three-legged stool” of campaign success.

An earned-centric approach

The most successful programs earn the trust and attention of your audience – be it media, consumers or other stakeholders.  This motivates them to report on, talk about and share your brand story, leading to a virtuous cycle of conversations.   

With “Let’s Talk,” now in its sixth year, Bell continues to promote an important conversation about mental health, a topic that has historically been taboo. Importantly, even though everyone knows that Bell is the instigator of the conversation, Bell has earned the trust of Canadians by making the conversation about the issue, rather than the brand.  As a result, Bell is inextricably linked to mental health awareness in this country, and the initiative has grown into a movement that reaches far beyond a single day of conversations.

Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble leveraged the powerful insight that more than half of girls claim to experience a drop in confidence at puberty for its “#LikeAGirl” initiative, turning the “like a girl” stereotype into a message of empowerment. As with Bell, the message wasn’t about the brand – it was about taking a stand for something and starting a movement that truly resonated with the target audience for Always. This too has become a multi-year campaign, providing even further opportunities to continue the conversation – and in turn, build brand trust.

Inherently social by design

Campaigns that are social by design approach storytelling by putting people – and the social networks they use – at the heart of the creative process.

“Let’s Talk” – with its core call to action to talk, text or tweet to donate to mental health initiatives – has built conversation into the heart of a fundraising campaign, raising more than $6 million to-date for mental health initiatives.  By leveraging the stories of everyday Canadians as well as celebrity ambassadors across multiple social platforms, Bell has fostered real, meaningful conversations around mental health, which, in turn, has resulted in more awareness (a Bell-commissioned study by Nielsen in 2015 found that 81% of Canadians were more aware of mental health issues than prior to the campaign’s start.)

“#LikeAGirl” is also far more than a hashtag – although that hashtag was certainly key in sparking a rallying cry to reverse the negative meaning of the phrase. The campaign lived primarily online, and its very essence invited participation and conversation by encouraging people to share that they were proud to do things “like a girl.”

Purpose as the key differentiator

Purposeful campaigns deliver not only on consumer needs, but on societal ones too.  In fact, purpose, or the “third leg of the stool” as I like to call it, is in my opinion perhaps the biggest key differentiator of all. Why? Because increasingly, consumers expect brands to stand for something, and not just sell “stuff.”  This goes far beyond simply donating money to a cause; consumers want brands to quite literally effect change and create movements, like these two campaigns and several of the CASSIES submissions did.

These expectations are also backed up by the results from Innovation and the Earned Brand – Edelman’s new global consumer study that surveyed 10,000 consumers in 10 countries about their attitudes toward brand innovation. The study found that while consumers want brands to innovate, they must do so while bearing in mind societal benefits. In fact, nine in 10 consumers agreed that brand innovation needs to impact society in one or more of the following ways: improve it (69%); push our thinking as a society (63%); and/or let us be one step ahead of other countries (66%).

Overall, it’s clear that, in addition to creating great stories that earn the trust of consumers, spurring them to share them within their social channels, brands must extend their relationships beyond the consumer to society at large. We’ve seen time and again that when consumers are inspired by a brand’s mission, they become the missionaries – resulting in a win not only for brands, but for society too.

LisaLisa Kimmel is a CASSIES jury member and president & CEO of Edelman Canada.