Healing and helping

WARC has announced its shortlist for its Effective Use of Brand Purpose Award. One of the campaigns recognized is Vaseline’s US campaign, “The Vaseline Healing Project.” The campaign has been running for two years, but it remains instructive.

Vaseline had a lot of nostalgia associated with it but it had grown largely irrelevant to the modern consumer. Everyone remembers their parents having an iconic Vaseline Jelly jar sitting on the bathroom shelf, but in a way the brand had become too familiar. Sales were slumping and consumers had begun to lose sight of the brand’s key functional benefit – healing skin. This was especially true for Millennial women, who have a vast array of skin care products to choose from.

What the brand discovered is that Doctors Without Borders uses (literally) tons of Vaseline Jelly. In impoverished areas and where there are humanitarian crises, Vaseline Jelly is a simple, inexpensive tool for healing skin and preventing hard-to-treat infections.

From that insight emerged The Vaseline Healing Project. A portion of every purchase of Vaseline lotion or jelly helps provide Vaseline Jelly and other dermatological care products and medical supplies to people affected by poverty or emergencies. To date, the brand has reached 2.5 million people in 61 countries. The initiative has been supported by a multiplatform marketing campaign, including a powerful ad featuring Viola Davis.

The brand saw a 70% increase in the number of people who said Vaseline “works better than other brands” and sales jumped after the launch of the campaign, following an extended period of steady decline. 

Corporate social responsibility is very hard to do well.  So many brands are trying to “do good,” which is laudable, but (sad to say) it’s also important for a brand to get credit for these efforts and that can be challenging. Figuring out some big idea that your brand stands for – like “Healing” or Deutche Telekom’s “Sea Hero Quest,” which capitalizes on the importance of “Connection” – and extending that  broad idea in a novel way is one path to success.