Matthew Keegan
May 26, 2022

Lux’s global brand VP on why the brand is calling out sexism

Severine Vauleon on the Unilever brand’s new ‘Shut Up Sexism’ campaign, and having a cause-driven strategy pay off—particularly in China.

Severine Vauleon
Severine Vauleon

Following on from last year’s campaign 'In her shoes', that attempted to teach men what it's like to walk in a woman's shoes, Unilever brand Lux and Wunderman Thompson Singapore are again tackling sexist attitudes in a new campaign called ‘Shut Up, Sexism’.

Launched in April, the campaign is aimed at highlighting how sexist attitudes are encouraged by the fact that most major AI home assistants and voice assistants have a default female voice (92.4% on smartphones). And unfortunately, only too often these assistants are spoken to disrespectfully. The film (see below) shows female-voiced virtual assistants giving witty clap backs to sexist comments and discouraging harmful behaviours.

Severine Vauleon, global brand vice president for Lux, explains why they've chosen to raise awareness about this issue.

How did you the idea for this campaign come about?

The idea came from Wunderman Thompson and from the insight that most major AI virtual home assistants have female names and voices by default; and that they’re programmed to respond submissively even when faced with users’ sexist insults like ‘you’re dumb’ or ‘you’re ugly’.

To create the campaign, LUX collaborated with women from all walks of life to create witty comebacks to the most common sexist insults thrown at the virtual voice assistants. The campaign used real-life people (including families and couples) who shared experiences which were similar to the sexist behaviour towards virtual assistants and whose own assistants were trained to deliver these lines.

The clapback routines are easily installed in any virtual assistant and available to everyone globally. The initiative is launched through a video campaign and a collaboration with one of the most influential women: actor and celebrity Yasmine Sabri, who has 18.4 million followers on Instagram.

What do you hope to bring about with this campaign?

We want to highlight casual sexism directed towards women at home. The next time someone insults a virtual assistant, she will answer back—helping call out sexist behaviour and toxic language. We hope to encourage more debate, discussion, and education around this topic to ensure sexist or abusive behaviour will not happen in the first place.

How did Lux land on sexism as an issue to tackle?

At the core, Lux serves women. Our communications and ads are rooted in insights relevant to our developing and emerging audiences. Campaigns like 'In her shoes' and 'Shut Up, Sexism' are injustices that are easily understood and felt by our consumers—and Asia is no exception. Our global 2020 Nielsen study confirmed this.

We surveyed six markets: China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, the Middle East, and South Africa. We discovered that women face up to 17 types of judgements on a regular basis, 70% of which are appearance related.

'In her shoes' and 'Shut Up, Sexism' are part of Lux’s continued mission to raise awareness about everyday sexism through our advertising commitments. It is part of our broader global campaign to inspire 50 million ladies by 2025 to express themselves without fear of everyday sexist judgments. Our campaigns will help raise perpetrators' awareness of how their actions affect women, empowering them to be allies in this fight rather than adversaries.

Is cause marketing important to Lux in terms of its future marketing strategy and direction?

With more consumers than ever rewarding brands that act on the social and environmental issues they care about, we believe that our vision to tackle casual sexism will make us a stronger, more successful business. And we know brands who are more purposeful grew more than two-times faster.

Lux has embarked on the purpose journey relatively more recently than some of our sister brands, but in the last three years, we have seen this approach pay off very well in the country where we have taken this approach most consistently. Such as our number one market, China, where we have really seen the power of integrating purpose into our product advertising.

One of the most prevalent forms of sexism in that market is the culture of giving women demeaning labels such as ‘vase’ for a beautiful but ‘empty airhead’ woman. So for the last three years, our core advertising has centred around how our long-lasting fragrance can help power women with the strength to smash those labels and be unstoppable. To complement this, in 2021, we used music and mobile advertising to create the topically relevant pop anthem ‘Unstoppable’ and distributed it through an integrated marketing campaign.

Has pursuing a purpose-driven journey paid off?

We know that measurable brand purpose grows measurable brand power. And brand power, in turn, drives market share and growth. This approach has paid off well. Today, in China, we are the number one beauty brand in skin cleansing, the number two brand in overall skin cleansing after hygiene brand Safeguard, and the #1 shower gel brand in ecommerce. We have grown at a double-digit compound annual growth for 10 years in China, and our brand power share has increased almost 100 basis points, reaching the second position since we started this approach.

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