- Skin care brand Nivea launched a campaign called "Rethink Soft" with the goal of changing the connotation of the word "soft" from being synonymous with "weak" to being more associated with "kindness," per a press release.
- The effort is backed up by a company survey showing 61% of people think we "need more softness in the world today." However, 49% of those surveyed define the word "soft" as being "weak," and 59% say that referring to a person as being soft is a negative statement.
- As part of the campaign, every Nivea product purchased from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 will result in $1 being donated to Kindness.org, a research-led nonprofit dedicated to inspiring kindness and Nivea's partner on the campaign to educate and inspire people to choose kindness. The campaign includes a web page, a Rethink Soft digital anthem, short films highlighting real-life soft actions and personalized stories from influencers.
Having made its living over the last hundred years with products designed to help to keep skin soft, Nivea is considering the connotations surrounding its products and marketing, in addition to the tangible value. The strategy reflects how younger consumers choose products, with Gen Z — born 1995 to 2015 — more concerned with their mental and physical health than millennials or Gen Xers are, an attitude that influences how they shop, according to a study by consulting firm A.T. Kearney.
The campaign comes at a divisive time in American society, when many uncomfortable about the prevalence of heated rhetoric and feel helpless to do anything about. Like several other brands' recent marketing campaigns, Nivea appears to be trying to make an emotional connection with consumers by offering a tangible way for them to bring more kindness into the world. This summer, Mike's Hard Lemonade tried to help people cope with news fatigue and by blocking negative news.
In looking to redefine what soft means, Nivea also joins a growing number of brands pushing back against norms that could read as limiting today. Procter & Gamble's Gillette Kicked off the year with a campaign that examined toxic masculinity and challenged traditional signifiers of what constitutes a man, such as being outwardly aggressive.
However, younger consumers are also very attuned to whether brands' positions reflect their business values, with several marketers landing in hot water after their messaging was called out for a lack of authenticity or woke-washing.
In this light, recent reports that FCB, Nivea's ad agency of 100 years, will drop the brand as a client when its contract ends at the end of this year could hamper the impact of "Rethink Soft." FCB has moved to cut ties after a Nivea executive reportedly made homophobic remarks during a pitch for an ad that showed two men touching hands, according to The Drum.
Outside of its walls, Nivea has also faced controversy in consumer-facing marketing. In 2017, a Nivea video spot sparked outrage by promoting a Natural Fairness Cream as a way for dark-skinned African women to lighten their skin tone.