Campaign Trail: Burt's Bees zooms in on human connection through lips

Campaign Trail: Burt's Bees zooms in on human connection through lips

Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.

Nothing allows us to communicate quite like our lips. In a new spot depicting a range of everyday scenarios, Burt's Bees zooms in on the many ways lips support human connection, illustrating how they help to convey love, joy and self-expression.

The lip care brand launched a campaign last week welcoming the reemergence of lips and authentic human connection as mask restrictions ease and faces are again revealed.

Made with creative agency Dentsumcgarrybowen, a 30-second spot shows lips making sounds, blowing bubbles, whispering secrets and kissing. A centerpiece spot, titled "Hello Again, Lips," debuted on Hulu last week, and will be accompanied by online video, social, and linear TV through September. In-store placements and other elements will begin in October to align with the colder seasons that make up peak season for lip care sales, the brand shared with Marketing Dive.

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Over the past year, many people have felt isolated from their family, friends and communities. Burt's Bees is now looking to remind folks to care for a vessel that helps them convey emotion as they rekindle those valuable connections.

"A year and a half of being stuck behind masks makes you realize how much we use our lips to connect with the world. Creatively, we talked a lot about the idea that lips are the gateway to all of life's greatest indulgences: eating, kissing, laughing, communicating," said Sophie Isherwood, group creative director at Dentsumcgarrybowen.

Revitalizing lip care

During the pandemic over the past year, lip care has dropped out of mind for many consumers as they donned masks and mostly avoided social gatherings. As with demand for products like gum, mints and deodorant, interest in buying lip balm has dropped since the onset of the global health crisis. Unseasonably warm weather as well as fewer opportunities to use lipstick, tinted balm or SPF protection translated to headwinds in both the lip care and face care segments within which Burt's Bees operates, executives said during a February earnings call. Year-over-year sales for the brand fell by double digits in the quarter ending March 31, 2021, according to parent company Clorox Co., which maintained strong sales overall from demand for cleaning products.

But now as the pandemic recovery turns a corner due to higher vaccination rates in the U.S., Burt's Bees is taking its first step toward reinvigorating sales and reminding consumers to care for their lips.

"Now more than ever, we want our audience to feel the range of emotions and moments of connection that comes to life through our lips. We want them to remember that their lips are unique and special and worth caring for, and know that Burt's Bees has something for every pair of lips," said Mitch O'Furey, associate director for Burt's Bees Lip Care.

The brand became a category leader shortly before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020, according to O'Furey, who noted that this stage of the pandemic now poses a unique opportunity for the brand to lean into marketing creative that celebrates the shared smiles and personal connection consumers have missed. Burt's Bees and its agency began developing "Hello Again, Lips" early in 2021 as vaccination rates appeared to accelerate, per O'Furey.

"We pulled up our media spend earlier in the year so that we could meet the emotion of this moment in time as masks come off and connections re-form," he said.

The campaign extends to March 2022, with new creative on deck tailored to relevant consumer moments, such as the holidays, and the range of ways people care for their lips during various seasons.

A layered approach

The new creative's emphasis on lips — shown through tight shots of laughter and puckering — is in line with Burt's Bees' broader marketing approach that often embraces smile-related imagery. In 2012, the brand employed an interactive out-of-home billboard to promote a new Intense Hydration skincare product. Hundreds of paper coupons layered the billboard, representing flaky skin. As passersby removed the coupons, a smooth surface underneath gradually appeared to signify renewed skin.

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This time around, the brand was intentional in its use of complementary color throughout "Hello Again, Lips," using hues inspired by real lips as a subtle design nod to Burt's Bees' link to providing lip care for all demographics.

While providing a utility for consumers is imperative for the brand, according to O'Furey, the simplicity of Burt's Bees' products allows for more creative flexibility and space to experiment.

"Because Burt's Bees [is] the category leader in lip balm, we had license to tell a very simple story about all the weird and wonderful ways we use our lips. While it's an idea that would have been relevant at any moment, it was particularly poignant in this one," Isherwood said. "We didn't want this to be a film that was just a series of close-ups of lips. It was important to capture emotion and a deeper, more textured narrative around human connection."