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‘We didn’t wake up one day and say lets be purpose-driven’ – SK-II’s Kylene Campos

P&G's global marketing director on SK-II Kylene Campos spoke to Mumbrella's Ravi Balakrishnan on the sidelines of the company's 'We See Equal' summit on how the skincare brand came to embrace purpose

What was SK-II doing before the launch of the ‘Change Destiny’ campaign in 2015?

“The journey for SK-II was a shift from being very product-focused to taking on ‘Change Destiny’ as a purpose. The brand has always been rooted in the belief that change and transformation is possible. 

“But we didn’t wake up  one day and say ‘let’s be purpose-driven.’ It all stemmed from being consumer-obsessed; from the belief that we need to connect with people at a human and not just a product level.

“We went through a lot of consumer research. I met women across Asia and we began to uncover a big source of tension: the pressure to be married and conform to certain social stereotypes. It was so prevalent, that we realised we cannot be a human brand and not address this issue.”

How has the idea been interpreted in different markets?

“The pressure to be married and to be a ‘perfect woman’ is universal. It exists in the US, Japan, China and Singapore.

“We focused very deeply on an extreme expression of the tension in China, which is further amplified in the marriage market. But it has a wide appeal across different countries.

“‘Expiry Date’ was an attempt to talk about the issue much more broadly across Japan, Korea and China.

“We have evolved the campaign in ‘Meet Me Halfway’ to talk about this pressure at the time when it is most intense: Chinese New Year. That was a little more specifically relevant to the Chinese culture and community.”

You have observed earlier that a single intervention is not going to solve the problem. How do you walk the line between driving the idea and working out the most appropriate time for a different rendition or refresh?

“That’s something we struggle with. We ask ourselves that all the time. The creatives and ourselves tend to get bored with the same insight and idea – faster than the consumers. There’s always a temptation to say ‘we have done it already; it’s time to move to another issue’.

“But what has actually kept us focused is the knowledge that this is a really big issue. It is over-simplistic to think one video or even three are going to solve the situation. The challenge we have imposed on ourselves as marketers is how do we bring the same thought and consistency of focus to life in fresh ways?

“We have been able to do that with different nuances of marriage pressure applied to the different campaigns. The more quickly we deviate from a core idea, the more defocused the brand becomes.”

Apart from this purpose driven communication plank, what does the more workaday advertising on SK-II look like? Do you still rely on features and benefits driven advertising?

“We still have product communication. I think it is important to appeal to the heart. That’s where ‘Change Destiny’ falls. But it is also important to appeal to the mind, since, at the end of the day, its an over $100 product.

“So how do we go beyond the typical in a world full of media fragmentation, advertising frustration and annoyance?

“We are trying to make product advertising quite interesting. We’ve recently launched a series called the ‘Bare Skin Chat’ starring James Corden, Chloe Moretz, Naomi Watanabe…partnering comedians with influencers to have a honest-to-goodness chat on the product in an authentic way.

“We are using humour and entertainment as an opportunity to bring the story of the product benefits out in a more interesting way. And trying to break the mould of the past: the problem, the product, the demo and the solution.”

What are the brand’s strongest markets currently? Any plans to expand?

“The key markets for us are really within Asia: China, travel retail and Japan. We are looking to expand in the US as well. As for the rest of Asia, at this point, maybe not. The US is the next frontier.”

Have campaigns like ‘Change Destiny’ influenced the thinking around internal initiatives like We See Equal? How has that campaign evolved since you launched in 2017?

“We put the team together in 2016 and it has been a three year journey for us. There has been quite a lot of progress. There’s 50-50 representation across managers. Across functions, levels and senior leaders we are at 38% a big jump from where we were three years ago.

“It’s been quite a lot of progress but I don’t think we are there yet and we are under no delusion that the journey is over. Far from it.”

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