“Stop. Innovate. Collaborate.” – How we can all learn from the success of This Girl Can

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The Outdoor Industries Association annual conference in Harrogate this March was two days of pure outdoor industry immersion, packed with opportunities to network and connect – but the true highlight was the chance to hear from communications genius Kate Bosomworth, Sport England board member and the brains behind This Girl Can.

Launched in 2015, This Girl Can is the most extraordinary communications campaign of our age. When Phase 1 launched in 2015, it broke all the usual rules of targeting and segmentation by using a single message to target every woman in the UK aged 14-40. Sounds impossible, yet the rest is history: by the time of Kate’s presentation in March, 2.8m women in the UK had been ‘activated’ by This Girl Can. As Phase 2 rolls out – widening the demographic still further to include women in their 50s and 60s – that number continues to grow.

From a marketing perspective, Kate’s presentation ranks amongst the most fascinating 45 minutes I’ve spent this year – here are four stand-out soundbites that struck a chord with me:

“Where there is less resource, the answer lies in innovation & collaboration”

It’s easy to think that great campaigns only come to those who have great budgets. But don’t give in so readily: if you don’t have money to burn, you’re not alone. The majority of the world is in the same boat, and where cash is short, ideas are currency. Use your brains; think your way around the roadblocks to identify where you have common ground or shared goals with the brands or individuals you want to work with – then go for it. Be bold; make connections; ask questions … and you may just surprise yourself with the results  …

“Follow the ‘red thread’ …”

In all of the research in the lead-up to the This Girl Can campaign, the ‘fear of judgement’ emerged as the ‘red thread’ that connected every woman, everywhere. The campaign was therefore built to tackle that fear head-on with its single bold message. The lesson to all of us: never forget to put customer insight at the heart of your decision making. If you get right under your customer’s skin and reach the nub of the desires or fears that drive them, your campaigns will always hit their mark.

“Storytelling will change the world”

Stop a minute and think: who are you? What are you all about? And what do you stand for? That’s your story, and when it comes to building relationships – with the brands you want to work with; the customers you want to sell to; the influencers you want to connect with – your story will make or break you. In today’s world of social media, ‘relatability’ matters: if people can feel the ‘truth’ of the story you tell, they will gravitate towards you and hey presto, you’ve got an audience. But if that story is missing, or hollow, or just doesn’t ring true, then you can share all the content in the world and it will be to no avail. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t conquered the highest peak or discovered penicillin – what matters is the common humanity that you share with the audience you command.

“Stop. Innovate. Collaborate”

When it comes to market share, “the days of land grabs are gone”, says Kate. Customers aren’t daft: you can’t steal them; you can’t deceive them; you can’t trick them into choosing apples in a world that values pears. The consumer marketplace is a complex space: look at the blurring lines between sport, outdoor, lifestyle, adventure, fashion, leisure – all industries in their own right; all consumed interchangeably by today’s modern customer who neither knows nor cares for the silos that exist behind the scenes.  You can choose to fight this trend of mix-and-match cross-pollination – or you can embrace it. Innovation and collaboration are the keys to building businesses that are futureproof and robust, says Kate. Seek out partnerships outside of your industry. Embrace open data. No brand is an island: interconnectivity is king. Be as smart as your customers are; keep changing as they change, and don’t be left behind.


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