Huggies finds a place for hugs during social distancing

The diaper brand keeps its positioning relevant, building affinity with moms who feel disconnected from other family members.

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Huggies has spent five years building its brand around hugs, but it’s still finding a way for the power of an embrace to connect with new parents in a time when close contact between loved ones has been severely limited.

The brand’s latest campaign shows how social distancing has brought mothers and their newborns closer together than ever, but at the same time, have forced families apart – such as grandparents, who had to meet their grandchildren at a distance in driveways. But the creative also shows the joyful moment a grandmother finally gets the chance to give her grandson the “ultimate hug,” now that they are able to do visits inside the home.

Huggies has found itself in a unique challenge during the pandemic, as its brand positioning has been all about celebrating the power of hugs. Most notably, since 2015, Huggies has run the “No Baby Unhugged” program, supplying NICUs in Canadian hospitals with grants to help them open “hugging centres,” highlighting the health and emotional benefits newborns receive from skin-to-skin contact.

Alicia Cameron, brand manager for Huggies at Kimberly-Clark, says this is something that has “literally informed everything” the brand does, from marketing to product design.

“But now we’re living in this world where the thing that we are all about is something that we can’t do right now,” she says. “We are unable to hug. We are not supposed to get together. Aside from people that live in one household, for a time, we weren’t supposed to be getting together with anyone. To not address that tension and challenge in that situation with our consumers, we were just leaving a massive [opportunity] to connect and engage in a way that was potentially so authentic and true to us.”

Diapers have, obviously, been an essential item during the pandemic, so sales in the category have remained stable in the last six months (even experiencing a slight surge in the spring during panty-stocking). But many CPG and household goods companies have been contending with the fact that consumers have been buying more based on price and availability, so they have been focusing investment on giving shoppers a reason to trust their brands and drive increased preference.

For Huggies, the brand saw that new mothers and families have been cautious throughout the pandemic in getting together with their elderly parents, as they’re more vulnerable to COVID-19. Cameron says the ultimate goal of the campaign is to build brand affinity with new families by relating to the biggest emotional challenges they have been facing during this time.

“Being a mom is already hard. And now, you’ve had to limit your exposure to yourself, your baby, your friends, family and support network,” she says. “If we are able to reach mom by showing her, ‘Hey, we get you. We know that this is a really hard time. We’re here with you,’ that’s how we’ll connect.” Though there isn’t a diaper in the spot, Cameron says the intimate tone and equity Huggies has built around the shot of a baby being held will make the connection to the brand very clear.

Ogilvy Canada led creative for the campaign, with Mindshare on the media buy, which includes national TV, paid digital and social.