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Activating Loyal Customers turns out is a lot like activating voters.

Activating Loyal Customers turns out is a lot like activating voters. In 2019, Neutrogena, a Johnson and Johnson company, found themselves in a battle for their bottom line. There was controversy about an element in their high SPF sunscreen, and if they didn’t put a plan in place to push back, one of their highest grossing products could be no longer available. It comes as no surprise that a company this large has many resources at their disposal, but none of the existing team had experience with short and urgent timelines. Kelly Gibson was brought on as a contract hire to audit the current efforts, identify the holes, offer solutions and execute a program to stop those groups opposing the sale of high SPF sunscreen.


Kelly Gibson is a political strategist with nearly two decades of experience running communications programs. That experience was just the right thing for Neutrogena. The company has a communications operation for the express purpose of selling their products, and over decades had created a loyal following that made sales great. What the existing team hadn’t realized is that same group of loyal customers, could be activated to fight for the future of high SPF sunscreen.


When Kelly Gibson came on board the state of Hawaii had already banned a certain collection of high SPF sunscreen because of one of the active ingredients. The city council of Key West Florida was next in line, followed by a handful of small municipalities and finally the state of Florida.


Kelly and her team got right to work. First step, identify the message that would most resonate. Thanks to a deep collection of research and data, it was easy to see that the instance of skin cancer in this country was on the rise, and high SPF sunscreen was important to so many vulnerable populations. And secondarily, parents wanted to the right to slather their kids in 100SPF on the beach. Both of these groups of customers were ripe for activism.


The steps, create universes and serve paid advertising to mobile devices informing this group of people that they may lose access to high SPF sunscreen, create a website that simply and clearly spelled out what was at stake, and create calls to action that were simply to execute but effective in the effort to stop these regulatory bodies from taking high SPF sunscreens off the market. In addition to the paid mobile device ads, there was a live dial program, connecting loyal customers with their city/county councilman, state rep/senator, and giving them a simple script to share their concerns.


In the end, Key West did prohibit the sale of high SPF sunscreens, but the following municipalities did not, and in the end, there wasn’t enough support to bring it to the state level.


Understanding communications through the lens of politics and issues is powerful. These comms programs are created on short timelines and integrate personal values in a way that corporate communications often do not. As the line between politics and everyday life gets blurrier, these skills become more important.









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