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The Vaseline® Healing Project

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Insight 

In 2015, the Vaseline® business slid into decline. As sales plummeted across the globe, it had to make a change, fast. Facing its lowest brand equity scores ever, it was clear the consumer had lost a connection with the brand. Skin health, to this target group, was only skin-deep.  

Vaseline® had spent years trying to make skin health a priority by playing into the functional claims race which plagues women’s personal care. While scientifically superior, the claims were falling on deaf ears.  

What if Vaseline could be everywhere skin healing is urgently required?  

People living in humanitarian crises and extreme poverty live without access to basic necessities, and these vulnerable conditions give rise to problems that weren't expected. Skin conditions make up a high percentage of complications that front line health workers see. Conditions that a simple product like Vaseline could heal and prevent.  

This gave PHD the insight that the same tub of Vaseline that is in your own bathroom cabinet is making a difference healing skin in areas of crisis and disaster. Simple, daily interventions can have a significant impact.  

And consumers were open to hearing a new story from Vaseline. Through female millennial focus groups, the agency found she was optimistic, believing she could make an impact in the world, and holds brands accountable to the same standard. With a new product mission and an audience that would reappraise the brand if given the right reasons, Vaseline's new strategy was formed.   

Strategy 

The strategy was simple: stop talking about skin health and start healing it.  

PHD moved its communications from functional, top-of-mind awareness-driving, to building a purposeful emotional connection with this new generation of women.  

Enter the Vaseline® Healing Project, a global aid effort in partnership with humanitarian organisation, Direct Relief, to provide dermatological care and medical supplies to help heal the skin of five million people affected by poverty or disaster by 2020.  

The strategy centered on building a new connection to millennial women by telling real stories from around the world, where its products and training are making a very big difference in people’s lives. PHD used emotion-driving channels for these stories, which lead the awareness-driving efforts.  

Then, it retargeted the consumer with relevant product and promotion communications to drive purchase and sales, alongside media at point of purchase.  

This was a radical strategic shift for the brand during its most important sales season. It let product-led communications play the supporting role while the more emotive Vaseline® Healing Project initiative was the heroine. 

The agency was confident that this approach would encourage the reappraisal it sought, because the target women are keen backers of making a positive change in the world.  

Execution 

PHD united local and global PR, Brand, Media and Creative teams to bring The Vaseline® Healing Project to life in the US, South Africa, and India. It did it by sharing authentic stories of people impacted by the Project; nurses trained in South Africa, Syrian refugees in Jordan, and the rural poor in India. These are stories of sacrifice and disaster but most importantly, resilience, intertwined with the power of the Vaseline product.   

It maximised the power of Vaseline® Healing Project stories by prompting conversations through influencers. It used the voice of trusted local personalities to introduce these stories within a split-screen film that juxtapose the ordinary way which people use the product alongside the extraordinary difference it can make in the hands of dermatologists, aid worker and refugees on missions. This film was distributed in cinema, television, and online, as well as through immersive social content – channels and formats in which PHD could build that new connection to millennial women. 

The agency then made the association between the cause and the products through retargeting, end cards, and shopper media, plus a strong in store call to action ‘Buy One to Heal One,’ that let the consumer get involved in the positive difference it was setting to make across the globe.  

And finally, because PHD knew its consumers like to take action, it created an evergreen interactive kit-builder on Vaseline.com for people to build and donate relief kits to those in need. 

Results 

To date, it is on track to hit the goal of five million people reached, having helped heal the skin of over 2.3 million people. 

In the US, Vaseline achieved a brand awareness increase of +14% year on year, for a heritage brand.  

Total gross sales increased by 2.9%.  

Grew sales of core lotions by 2.6%, in a heavily promoted and declining category.  

Exposure to the Vaseline® Healing project increased the appeal of the brand by 70% and made her 1.6x more likely to recommend the brand to others. 

Media results:   
22 million views of the film on YouTube in 2016 
554,319 website visits in 2016 
231 million social media impressions. 

This new communications strategy worked. It found that those exposed to the Vaseline® Healing Project stories before a product message were more favorable to the brand. It championed a completely new communications strategy for Vaseline®, which leveraged channels that Millennials trust and love like social, influencers, and film to tell the Vaseline® Healing Project story, combined with precision targeted product-focused messaging to get her to purchase. 

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