Pantene’s ‘Not Sorry’ campaign is memorable and daring, but it completely missed the mark for the female empowerment trend. Marketing commentators everywhere from feminist blogs to Time to The Telegraph have called it out as ‘garbage’.
Pantene’s attempt to grab a seat on the female empowerment train next to Dove and The Body Shop is a flat out failure. Where did it go wrong?
Misinterpreting The Trend
Empowerment is about knowing your worth and not apologising for who you are. ‘Not Sorry’ ought to have been right on the money.
But being told what to say isn’t empowering. Especially when the person putting words in your mouth is a shampoo.
Pantene has inadvertently intercepted itself by adding ‘saying sorry’ to the list of things for women to feel bad about. As a result, it comes off looking more like an oppressor than an activist.
Bad Brand Direction
When Dove created the trend with the ‘Campaign For Real Beauty’, their existing equity of gentleness and care helped to make the message sound authentic.
But Pantene is known for its synergy of beauty with technology. A typical campaign depicts a terrifyingly beautiful woman tying knots in her hair…
…or casually setting it on fire.
This powerful and intimidating image could have been a great basis for a female empowerment campaign. Unfortunately, Pantene abandoned smart, sexy, Amazonians for everyday obnoxiousness.
Pointing The Finger
Dove’s campaign was moving because it was universal. Everyone was invited to appreciate the real beauty of women.
Everyone knows the answer to this one.
Pantene’s ad made men the enemy by showing them as absent, blinkered and unemotional. This was not the way to appeal to women who love the men in their lives. No one wants to see their loved ones vilified on TV, especially in the name of hair care.
Broken Record Positioning
The empowerment trend took off because it represented an important shift that made women feeling good a priority over looking good.
But that was 10 years ago. Today, instead of being refreshing, it’s formulaic and predictable. Worse, the constant refrain of ‘you’re okay, really!’ has become more than passé. It’s patronising. It’s time to stop telling women that they’re okay and just start acting like they are.