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Using video content as the centrepiece of a brand building campaign

17 December 2021

Video content can be an ideal way to demonstrate a charity’s message and values, as well as being a perfect centrepiece to any new brand strategy. That’s why we chose to put video at the heart of our plans to celebrate a very special day for us and our audience and to establish our new brand strategy to the public.

Every year 11 October marks International Day of the Girl – one of the most important days in the Plan International UK calendar. This year it was also the day that we chose to unveil our Heavy Gown video. This was the result of fresh thinking around how to use the awareness day to tell our brand story in a modern and unexpected way, and within the challenging context of Covid still restricting global travel and content collection, and with limited budgets and timescales.

Here’s how The Heavy Gown came about and what we learnt along the way…

The brief

International Day of the Girl is an annual event that was first established after a campaign by Plan International to increase awareness of gender inequality. Each year #DayOfTheGirl is an opportunity to celebrate the voices of powerful girls around the world and raise awareness of gender inequality and the issues girls still face, including access to education, health imbalances, discrimination and violence.

For previous #DayOfTheGirl campaigns we’ve run parliamentary events, influencing campaigns and fundraising asks. But having launched a new brand proposition and strategy our objective in 2021 was simple (on paper!): to celebrate the power and strength of girls, and increase awareness of Plan International UK, establishing our position as a leader and champion of girls’ rights and equality globally.

But we needed digital content that not only resonated with our target audience to drive awareness and engagement online, but also gave us a messaging platform for connected and ongoing communications in different channels – from earned media and events, to corporate partners and programme development.

Our brief was for a dynamic and digital-ready concept that could be activated across owned, earned and paid channels. Something that would create a powerful statement of our core purpose and values. Working to this brief the agency we had appointed, Cubaka helped us refine and develop that hero concept into The Heavy Gown.

The power of a compelling story

Everyday girls all over the world are told who they should be, what they should look like, how they should act and what they can achieve. From career options to their bodies, these gender stereotypes condition how girls feel, behave and see themselves and how they are treated by those around them. They reinforce a girl’s ‘place’ in society and limit her opportunities.

We have hundreds of existing stories, from the UK and all over the world, of how gender stereotypes affect girls so we knew focusing on this theme would resonate with our audience.

Working alongside our policy, programme and comms colleagues globally and in the UK, we produced a suite of stories and quotes on the stereotypes girls had told us they had experienced and had impacted them. These informed the video’s script and storyboard development. Every message we shared in the film and the supporting storytelling was based on a real-life quote or case study. We also commissioned new polling to back up these stories and create a strong angle for press and media – creating new headline stats showing 68% of girls in the UK still feel held back by outdated gender stereotypes.

The resulting film – The Heavy Gown – represents the ‘lessons’ girls are taught as they grow up, using a graduation gown embroidered with the stereotypical, negative phrases they might hear in their lifetimes. Lessons like ‘education is wasted on girls.’ ‘She’s not strong enough.’ ‘That’s not very ladylike.’

Through powerful choreography and costume design, we see our protagonist tearing off the layers of the gown weighing her down, until she’s free to move without them holding her back. And we encourage audiences to stand with us and #PullTheThread on gender stereotypes that limit girls’ potential.

Building a comms plan

With this new hero video as the centrepiece of our campaign, we developed a media plan to optimise this – launching with teaser content across owned and paid social media, creating multiple edits of the film in formats specific to different social channels, and creating variants with different thematic focuses.

Through a range of supporting stills, quotes and case studies we also shared the personal stories of girls across the world who are smashing stereotypes in their communities, like Bernadette in Mali who is the coach of an all-female football team, and Winnie in Kenya who opted for an electronics course that is mostly dominated by men.

Relying on digital content alone would only ever take us so far in building our brand awareness, and the film provided a platform for other supporting activations and storytelling on gender stereotypes. This included placing articles in the media, creating connected activations and takeovers with our corporate partners, and using a bespoke website landing page to share exclusive behind the scenes footage, personal stories, and ways to get behind the campaign. Now we are even continuing to use the gown from the film as an asset to support our schools’ outreach work.

Top learnings

  • Great content can have a life well beyond the channel it’s designed for – this concept works for events, partner engagement, internal comms, and much more.
  • Measuring the success of a brand campaign remains challenging. But better integrated working with our fundraising colleagues, planning and aligning onward journeys from brand attraction opportunities like this one to future fundraising asks could help prove the lifetime ROI.
  • Don’t underestimate the energy and buzz great content can bring internally – it has reinvigorated staff and proved a useful creative tool to spark new thinking and ideas in teams right across the organisation.

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Banner Image: Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

Hannah Davies

Head of brand and digital engagement, Plan International UK

Hannah is Head of brand and digital engagement at Plan International UK and has worked in charity communications and marketing for over 15 years, including previous roles at UNICEF UK, Comic Relief and Laureus Sport for Good.