by Amanda Plachte
Jerry Seinfeld said it. Ham Porter said it. Even Jem from “To Kill a Mockingbird” said it. The phrase “like a girl” has been used with negative connotations for years and Procter & Gamble’s Always wants to change that.
Adweek author Roo Ciambrello writes in her article about the feminine products brand conducting a social experiment to help redefine the phrase. The research included interviews with girls ages 16 to 24 to learn what they think the phrase means and how its use makes them feel. The participants were asked to run like a girl, throw like a girl and fight like a girl. The result is a powerful ad that allows the viewer to experience the light bulb moments alongside those being filmed.
As a woman, I have experienced the negative use of “like a girl.” In fact, it is one of my biggest pet peeves; I cringe when I hear it. As a child I wore twirly dresses, I was active in sports through my teen years and I continue to set and achieve goals as an adult. I am a girl; so how can doing things “like a girl” be a bad thing? My favorite part of the ad is the following quote:
“Yes, I kick like a girl and I swim like a girl and I walk like a girl and I wake up in the morning like a girl — because I am a girl. And that is not something I should be ashamed of.”
A study conducted by Research Now, and sponsored by Always, found that around the age of puberty, girls tend to experience a drop in confidence, which may explain the varied responses in how different age groups view the phrase “like a girl.”
A Business Wire news release on the Procter & Gamble website explains the details. When older teenagers were asked to run, throw or fight “like a girl,” they fulfilled the negative stereotype by flailing their limbs to appear weak and ditsy. One of which is actually a marathon runner! When the younger kids were asked to do the same, they ran with confidence and threw strong punches.
“In my work as a documentarian, I have witnessed the confidence crisis among girls and the negative impact of stereotypes first-hand,” says award-winning documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield. “When the words ‘like a girl’ are used to mean something bad, it is profoundly disempowering.”
So, what is the PR angle?
I belive author Laura Ramos says it beautifully in her blog post about thought leadership. First she defines public relations:
Public relations (noun)
1. the actions of a corporation, government, individual, etc. in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
2. the art, technique or profession of promoting such goodwill
Then she follows up by saying, “Isn’t the publishing of audience-relevant, business-focused content an act of goodwill? Yes, but only if the marketers keep the selling out of the mix.”
I believe that is exactly what Always did. The company has established itself as a thought leader by being the first to reclaim a phrase that is damaging to its consumers. Plus, it managed to do so without attempting to sell a particular product.
What do we do now?
In Ramos’ blog post, she discusses a concept called IDEA – Identify, Develop, Engage and Assess. Always has been in the business of educating and supporting girls for over 30 years; the company knows its audience, it developed this awesome campaign and now it is time to engage.
Always is inviting girls and women everywhere to join the movement and share what they proudly do #LikeAGirl. Tweet, take a photograph, shoot a video or send a message to take a stand and show young people everywhere that doing things #LikeAGirl should never be used as an insult – that it means being strong, talented and downright amazing.