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Marketing Brand Purpose Brand Strategy

Lux uses a musical strategy to break gender stereotypes in China


By Amit Bapna | Editor-at-large

June 9, 2021 | 7 min read

The Drum finds out how Unilever's beauty brand Lux is championing a breakthrough in China against sexism and women stereotyping by putting music to good use.


Lux launches ‘Stronger’ music video to highlight sexism in China

Recently the award-winning American singer-songwriter Kelly Clarkson's hit single ‘Stronger’ was given a new life in the Chinese market and with a twist. The song was reinterpreted with new lyrics by Unilever’s beauty brand Lux – to bring the spotlight on the many instances of sexism being faced by women in China.

To make the musical message reach far and wide, popular Chinese actor and singer Dylan Xiong (also a member of popular Taiwanese boyband SpeXial) was onboarded for the video. The new lyrics comprise a crowd-sourced litany of judgements that women in China receive every day, such as materialistic, ‘flower vase’: pretty but empty, or scheming and manipulative.

The Drum speaks to the people behind this new-age musical piece of purpose-led marketing to find out why it has worked well on the charts.

Lux in China

The Unilever-owned beauty brand has been tackling sexist labels and encouraging women to rise above with its campaigns in China for more than two years now, shares the brand's global vice president Severine Vauleon.

However, the potential benefits of tapping the power of music and popular culture in making the reach much larger led them to take this route, marked by the partnership with Universal Music Group (UMG) China and the popular artist Dylan Xiong. The video went viral garnering more than 330 million views since its launch.

Unilever’s progressive belief system and the Lux world

The current campaign by Lux sits well in the ‘Positive Beauty vision’ unveiled by Unilever in March 2021, which is all about making gender portrayal more equitable, championing inclusivity and celebrating the diversity of beauty that exists across the world. The vision comprises three broad commitments, shares Nicolas Tran Dinh, global digital and PR lead for Lux.

  • Taking action through the Unilever brands to improve health and wellbeing, advance equity and inclusion, reaching 1 billion people per year by 2030.
  • Helping to protect and regenerate 1.5 million hectares of land, forests and oceans by 2030.
  • Supporting a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics by 2023.

Lux has a definite role in achieving Unilever’s ‘Positive Beauty’ vision and the current campaign has been launched to positively impact millions of women in China, to inspire them to see beauty as a source of strength rather than a source of judgement, adds Vauleon.

Putting the power of music to marketing for good

Interestingly, while Lux has done campaigns in China with the task of empowering women to smash sexist labels, the new layer added in this campaign is deploying music to give it the reach and scale with the UMG partnership. The song was performed live on China’s biggest music TV reality show, ‘Sisters Who Make Waves’, pushing the message to millions of viewers at once.

The latest campaign does mark a new approach to getting the brand message across, being the first time it has partnered with the music industry in this way. Vauleon adds that this helps the brand in its journey to find the most relevant and meaningful ways to connect and also inspire women – and men – to see beauty as a source of strength rather than a source of judgement.

The 'Unstoppable' video:

The tough part of bringing pop music and brand purpose together

Pop music and brand purpose, in the first look, seem like distant cousins and the link between them tenuous. Thus, the fact that a mass-appeal beauty brand like Lux has taken this route is rather interesting.

Haroon Qureshi, partner content, innovation and sponsorships at WPP-owned Mindshare, shares what the team wanted and also what they did not want the video to be.

“While we wanted to use music as a catalyst for change, to showcase how women feel when they’re judged, give them a voice, and pick a popular artist to deliver an empowering message, what we did not want was a cookie-cutter music video.”

An ad or a piece of branded content, both or neither?

An obvious question to be asked, for a creative rendition like this, is whether it is an ad campaign or a branded content work? As per Hinoti Joshi, Lux global business director at Wunderman Thompson, “it is neither an ad nor traditional branded content.”

Joshi says they made the song and music video seek-out content that consumers proactively search for, watch and share– that talks about the brand and its message in a well-crafted setting.

The campaign has been developed by the team keeping three key principles at the centre:

  • Authenticity (understanding consumer tension and cultural insights)
  • Credibility (collaboration with industry experts; Mindshare (media and content), Wunderman Thomson (creative) and Universal Music Group (music and artist label company) to bring their respective knowledge to create an unmissable idea)
  • Talkability (impactful music, engaging content/assets, innovative use of media communication channels including PR to promote the track)

Finally, the ‘Unstoppable’ campaign is part of a broader global Lux campaign using content, partnerships and activations to inspire and help women rise above everyday sexist judgements and express their beauty and femininity unapologetically, says Joshi.

The rulebook of the ‘Unstoppable’ campaign

Some key elements that went into the making of this music-meets-cause campaign (as shared by the team):

  • Social listening and the use of data to understand what real consumers are facing when it comes to everyday sexism and labelling.
  • Extensive research to select the base track (Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Stronger’) that is aligned to brand belief and relevant to the target audience.
  • Collaboration with Universal Music Group to bring on board a lyricist who embodies Lux’s purpose. Thus, Chen Zi Tong (Tifa Chen) was chosen as a lyricist for the track.
  • Finding the voice/singer that can deliver this anthem and have strong appeal and fan-following amongst Chinese consumers. A male artist (Dylan Xiong) was chosen deliberately to drive the point that men are important allies in the mission to support women in being unstoppable.
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