Interview with Ronaldo Art, CMO Marketing Head at Kimberly-Clark.
Marketing has profoundly changed. It did not happen overnight, and like all change, it happens gradually which makes it hard to spot. And since the change has not happened everywhere, it becomes even harder to spot. But still, it is true: Marketing has profoundly changed.
It used to be that a company would promote the benefit of their product or service and the customer would buy it.
Now a company needs to promote its purpose. And if the purpose is in line with the customer, then the customer will buy.
Or, as Ronaldo Art, CMO Marketing Head at Kimberly-Clark put it to me in a recent conversation: “The Purpose is the Message”.
That, of course, is a twist on Marshall McLuhan’s old “The medium is the message” from the 1960s.
Ronaldo, who describes himself as a person who is passionate about creativity, expanded on his thinking of what marketing should be in the 2020s.
“Today’s customers expect more of you as a company. They want to know what you stand for. And they want to make sure that what you stand for is aligned with what they stand for. No, not of course for every single product you buy and all the time, but more and more often, even for products where you would never think purpose mattered.”
I asked Ronaldo how this shift in the minds of the customers has changed how they work at Kimberly-Clark: “It has completely changed how we create our marketing.”
“It used to be about ‘how to communicate’ to the consumer. Now it’s about ‘How to connect’ with them.
It used to be ‘How do we get to the consumer?’. Now it’s about ‘How do we get them?’, as in, how do we really understand them?”
So, obviously, I asked Ronaldo for some examples of how this new way of thinking had affected their communication.
Ronaldo told me about how ads for menstrual pads used to be all about how the product worked, how safe it would make the woman feel, how effective it was at absorbing blood (or blue liquid…) and so on.
Now many ads are about menstrual dignity.
Menstruation is still seen by many as a stigma, and there is a depressingly large number of girls that skip school just because they have their period. Kimberly-Clark wants to change that. And then Ronaldo told me of a perfect example: A mother in Brazil had posted a video on Instagram of her young son finding a menstruation pad in the mother’s bag and asked: “Mum, what is this?”
The mother had replied: “It’s a woman’s thing, do not touch it!”
The son had then burst out: “Oh, no it’s a bomb!”
An innocent and funny video, but also a video showcasing how something very natural is still a stigma for many.
Seeing this video go viral in Brazil, Ronaldo and his team reached out to the woman privately on Instagram and offered some pads together with some examples of how she could talk to her son about menstruation. They did not communicate this to anyone, nor did not ask the woman to share this. They just did it because it was the right thing to do. The mother then decided to share the help she had received from Kimberly-Clark just because she wanted to, leading to Kimberly-Clark getting positive PR in the end.
Kimberly-Clark got exposure for showing that they care – because they actually did.
The purpose of Kimberly-Clark is “A Better Care for a Better World.” They might sell pads and toilet paper, but they really sell their purpose.
Their toilet brand Neve is not just about selling toilet paper; it’s about changing the dignity of the communities of Brazil that do not have access to proper toilets, and so on.
Communicating your purpose is bigger than product. It’s bigger than brand.
I asked Ronaldo to share with me some insights on how his creative process is now that he thinks in terms of communicating the purpose.
He said: “First of all: The mind is rational. But the heart is deeper. I still use my mind, of course, but I make more decisions based on what both the mind and the heart agree on.
Second: Research will give you the answer. You have to really be living with the communities that you want to reach. If you do not you will never know what really matters to them.
Third: When you are really engaging with your community of customers, how open are you to really see? Do you really – not just understand – but feel, who they are?”
I asked Ronaldo how to do that and he replied: “You have to be hands-on! You have to be there.”
Done right communicating from the core of your purpose can be extremely powerful. So remember the message for the times we are living in today: The Purpose is the Message.
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