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Marketing’s Changemakers: Brawny honors ‘sheroes’ for Women’s History Month

Vanessa Casillas, a bricklayer, is one of the women featured in Brawny's '#StrengthHasNoGender' campaign this year

Welcome to Marketing’s Changemakers, a series from The Drum that tells the stories of brands trying to change the world in ways both big and small. Here, Brawny’s brand building leader Nicole Cook discusses the latest installment of the brand’s '#StrengthHasNoGender' campaign.

Last year, the Brawny Man’s 43-year tenure as the face of the paper towel brand came to a halt when he was replaced with a woman on packaging for the whole of Women’s History Month. The move was part of the paper towel brand’s ongoing ‘#StrengthHasNoGender’ campaign, an initiative that aims to celebrates the strength and resilience of women.

The campaign initially kicked off in 2016 on International Women’s Day with a series of videos featuring women who’ve overcome adversity in professions typically dominated my men. One film told the story of Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, the first woman to lead the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. Another featured Maureen Stoecklein, a Michigan firefighter who has spent years in a profession where women only make up only 7% of the workforce.

Last year, the Georgia-Pacific brand continued the campaign during Women's History Month with another crop of videos, this time featuring four women who have excelled in STEM fields. In one of the videos, Vernice Armour discusses her experience as the first black female combat pilot in the US Armed Forces.

The video series also showcased the stories of an oral surgeon, a platform applications engineer at Intel, and a coder who developed a breast cancer diagnosis app called Cloud4Cancer.

This year, the ‘#StrengthHasNoGender’ platform has returned for the third year in a row to honor Women’s History Month. While Brawny is once again using the campaign to highlight the accomplishments of strong and resilient women across the country, it’s focusing this year’s efforts around celebrating “sheroes,” or women who exhibit courage and a penchant for helping others. The brand worked with creative network Tongal, PR firm Catalyst and agency of record Cutwater on content for this year's rollout.

The “sheroes” featured in this year’s campaign are SheLift founder Sarah Herron, Marine Corps veteran Rachael Wilson, and Chicago Women in the Trades board of directors member Vanessa Casillas. According to Cook, these women exemplify the qualities that Brawny is celebrating in this year’s campaign.

“They all come from very different careers and walks of life, but they all three are really working to help inspire others and give to others,” says Cook.

In a video featuring Casillas, she talks about the sexism she’s faced as a female bricklayer and why she volunteers at Chicago Women in Trades, an organization that helps provide support, advocacy and education to tradeswomen.

A second video features Herron explaining her motivations behind starting SheLift, an organization that encourages girls with disabilities to participate in outdoor sports. In a third short film, Wilson discusses why she began helping others via equine assisted therapy after she was discharged from the Marine Corps following a knee injury.

Brawny is hoping these videos will inspire others to share stories about the inspirational and courageous women in their own lives. Through its 'Who's Your Shero?' social effort, the brand is encouraging people to share an inspiring story on social media about a female hero they know of.

“A key thing we were focused on for evolving the campaign this year was really inviting more people into the conversation,” says Cook. “‘Who’s Your Shero?’ is really a call to consumers to make this more personal. We’re really looking for engagement with our consumers to help us amplify and build it.”

To bring some of these stories to life, Brawny has partnered with more than a dozen female artists and animators to create illustrations that will be shared on the brand’s digital channels.

"We’re going to do a little surprise and delight," Cook explains. "We have some female comics that we engaged with to actually develop a little comic for some stories. We’re making the campaign personal this year and trying to identify those interesting stories."

The artists have already created a number of short animated films for some of the brand’s influencer partners, like New York City Marathon winner Shalane Flanagan and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon.

In addition to the campaign's digital elements, the brand is once again replacing the Brawny Man on packaging throughout the month of March, except this time he’ll be substituted by three different women instead of one. Brawny is also donating $100,000 to Girls Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring girls to be strong, smart and bold.

While ‘#StrengthHasNoGender” is only a month-long campaign for the brand, Cook says it's one that’s resonated with its customers in the past, which is why Brawny has continued to build upon it each year. According to Cook, last year’s installment of the campaign resulted in 1.5m impressions for the brand and a lift of 50% at its select retail partners.

“It was truly a win from our perspective from what we were able to do,” she says. “We saw such a good reaction last year from our consumers that we believed it was a good thing to continue extending this. Women’s History Month is a great time to do this and to continue to celebrate strength in women, so we foresee continuing to do this for the next few years.”

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