Nitin Darbari on P&G’s new ‘Thank You Mom’ campaign and purpose-driven branding

P&G’s commercial director for Malaysia, Singapore and global development markets Vietnam Nitin Darbari talks to Mumbrella's Ravi Balakrishnan on the sidelines at the launch event for the latest iteration of P&G's long-running 'Thank You, Mom' campaign

Procter & Gamble launched the latest iteration of its ongoing ‘Thank You, Mom’ campaign in partnership with NTUC FairPrice at an event organised for Singapore’s Special Olympics athletes and their mothers.

Titled ‘Because Of You, I Can’, the campaign acknowledged the role of mothers as the first and greatest enabler of children. The film was created by Singapore-based Alexstudio.

Because Of You I Can

This Mother’s Day, we celebrate the unconditional love and support from our mothers to enable us to become the best version of ourselves. Join us in support of the Special Olympics athletes and their amazing mothers by sharing this video and tell us your own #BecauseOfYouICan moments!#ThankYouMom #BecauseOfYouICan #SpecialOlympicsSG #ProcterGamble #FairPrice

Posted by Special Olympics Singapore on Thursday, 25 April 2019

The launch event had a carnival atmosphere with fairground games, prizes and P&G’s NTUC Fairprice sales force dressed up as superheroes from Marvel.

On the sidelines, we  spoke to P&G’s commercial director for Malaysia, Singapore and global development markets Nitin Darbari to get a deeper insight into the campaign and purpose driven branding.

Nitin Darbari (fourth from the left) with the P&G team

How has ‘Thank You, Mom’ evolved and why did you zero in on ‘Because of You, I Can’ as a theme?

“The common thread is the idea of the role the mom plays in the development of the athletes. Each iteration has dealt with that theme in different ways. Globally, it started with the athlete’s village at the Olympics, where we had a lot of the moms join in.

“As we started the Singapore version, we focused on the Special Olympics and special needs children. The role their mothers play is over and beyond what is done by any other mom. It is essential the mom be recognised for the work she does and how she contributes to the child’s development.

“It has been a great partnership with NTUC as a retailer, contributing back to society. To arrive at this year’s theme, we did some work with the athletes and their moms. While there was a common thread among the athletes – the pressure of being different – moms saw their children as kids who could do something more.

“In many cases, they’ve overridden personal adversity. There are cases of moms going with the children for each of these sporting events, sitting there with them for five hours. The theme naturally emerged from there: ‘Because Of You, I Can’ – the mother as the person helping the athlete get there.”

There has been a fair amount of research that says advertising sets up unrealistic expectations for mothers, and that many women are put off by depictions that they feel they can never live up to. Has that affected the way you portray mothers?

“For me, every person and every mom is different. The intent is not to show perfection. But there’s always an aspiration that there is more that can be done.

“I don’t see this in the black and white of ‘perfect’ and ‘imperfect’. The journey – someone striving to do and be better in their own small way – is the idea behind the work we’ve done: whether it be ‘Like a Girl’ or Vicks’ ‘Touch of Care’ or this campaign.

“It is something universal that all of us can relate to; moms or not, single or married. That is the focus as opposed to perfection or imperfection.”

One of the comments we’ve heard about ‘Thank You, Mom’ ever since it launched was about the fathers being absent, when there are several cases where they’ve been very engaged with the sporting career of the children. How do you respond to this?

“We are trying to uplift one, but that does not mean we are trying to put down the other. ‘Thank You Everyone’ sounds a little generic. It does not have that emotional connect.

“And besides, it is not like those territories have not been explored: we have done ‘Go Ask Dad’ with Gillette.

“With this work in particular, we wanted to focus on someone who is a little more forgotten, who probably does not come out as often. The intent was to recognise that partnership and put them up versus put someone down. That has to be the spirit of every campaign.”

Typically,  purpose driven campaigns are for brands and not companies. What sort of a role does a purpose driven plank like ‘Thank You, Mom’ play within the overarching communication strategy for P&G?

“The idea of moms was something we imbibed as a corporate to figure a way to make a unique P&G contribution to the Olympics. We felt many of our brands could straddle the space and bring a viewpoint in a different way.

“Whether inside or outside, P&G truly walks the talk on this. From an internal point of view, the idea of ‘We See Equal’ (a gender equality campaign by P&G launched in 2017) supports several ideas and movements: whether it be making sure we have enough diversity at every level, or programmes that support the idea of any gender as equal; or communities we’ve created where people can freely interact with each other.

“And every brand has its own take on purpose. For Vicks, which I personally worked on, ‘Touch of Care’ was first created around the idea of a transgendered lady who adopted a girl as her own and ever since, it has been exploring atypical ideas of parenting.

“Outside and inside, it is high time brands show their purpose since consumers and communities expect it of us. We’ve always had that but are becoming bigger and bolder on how it is being expressed.”

Purpose driven communication has had its share of critics who accuse it of everything from being insincere and opportunistic, to something that does not really move the dial on sales. What would you say to the critics?

“Just seeing the number of smiles at events like this, tells me we are onto something. The smiles, and our employees volunteering with those kids – it all makes one feel this is different from what I do on a daily basis.

“If it is all just talk, then it is insincere. I don’t think that’s something we’ve stood for as a company.

“We have had employees volunteering to build houses; we’ve had them campaigning in support of movements. We have partnered with women entrepreneurs to take their business ideas forward.

“I have always believed we took a deeper look since our purpose was not just words on paper but something we have truly espoused. The starting point is very practical: it is what people stay with the company for. It is something where I feel I make a difference daily.

“The second reason is our consumers expect it of us. Increasingly, brands need to have an opinion. It always used to be said in advertising: ‘don’t be boring’. If you don’t have an opinion you are boring; plain vanilla.

“Sometimes we get it right, other times we don’t. Much like our consumers, we are on a journey. But we fervently believe we are a force for good. We create awareness of themes and ideas that generate discussion and move society forward, one way or the other.

“There will always be sceptics but at least there are conversations – even if they are sceptical conversations. Having our brands in those conversations is good for business, brands and the community we are in.

“The third reason is it has moved sales in many of the campaigns I’ve been involved with. I can vouch for it being good for business.”


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