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How Procter & Gamble has repositioned three brands to make them more purpose-driven

By Magda Adamska / 8 March 2024 How Procter & Gamble has repositioned three brands to make them more purpose-driven

Some brand experts wholeheartedly believe in it, while others view it as just another marketing fad. Yet, one thing is certain: purpose-driven branding is not going anywhere anytime soon. Although a direct link between brand purpose and sales or profit has not yet been conclusively established (despite claims from some high-profile publications), the most brand-centric organizations in the world have committed significant resources to integrating this concept into their business strategies. Many global corporations have repositioned their brands to make them more purpose-driven, even though they have been successful without adhering to a higher purpose.

Unilever is often cited as the company most closely associated with purpose-driven marketing. However, in this post, we will examine how its major competitor, another FMCG giant, Procter & Gamble (P&G), approaches this topic.

P&G’s mission centres on the idea of “irresistible superiority”, which is largely based on the promise of delivering high-quality products. In recent years, despite its product-driven approach, the company has repositioned some of its consumer brands to be more purposeful. Always, Pantene and Olay are three examples of this shift.


Always’ brand strategy for many years focused on “embracing womanhood positively—from the very beginning of puberty through their adult lives”. However, the emotional benefit of boosting girls’ confidence was more rooted in the product’s nature and its functional benefits (primarily its absorbent qualities) rather than in a higher brand purpose. This changed in 2014, when Always’ positioning was brought to life in a more meaningful way through the award-winning “Like a Girl” campaign. The campaign aimed to demonstrate, via a recorded social experiment, how girls pre- and post-puberty interpret the expression “like a girl” differently and how the perception of this phrase becomes more negative as girls age.

Always has become for Procter & Gamble what Dove is to Unilever – the strongest female empowerment brand in the portfolio, on a mission to boost girls’ and women’s confidence. However, while Dove focuses on making women feel confident in their own skin, regardless of shape, color, or age, Always’ messaging goes beyond body confidence. It’s more about being who you want to be and not letting anything—particularly the fact that you are a girl—stand in your way.


Although Pantene’s positioning at functional level hasn’t changed much since the 1980s, the emotional benefits communicated by the brand have evolved. In the 1980s, Pantene’s brand promise primarily focused on the feeling of beauty and self-confidence. In the 1990s, the brand placed a stronger emphasis on “health” with the famous slogan, “Hair so healthy it shines”. In the 2000s, Pantene explored the impact of strong and healthy-looking hair on women’s self-esteem. Then, in the 2010s, it repositioned itself as a purpose-driven brand, advocating for the strength and empowerment of women and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Pantene’s current purpose-driven approach was initiated in 2013 with the launch of a video intended for the Philippine market, demonstrating how identical behaviours are perceived differently in men and women (e.g., men are seen as “persuasive” while women are viewed as “pushy”). It was later followed by the “Sorry, not sorry” campaign which addressed the tendency of women to apologise for actions that do not warrant an apology. The objective of these brand activations was to empower women to feel stronger and more self-confident (“Shine strong”). Since then, Pantene has implemented a number of initiatives that extend beyond traditional product advertising. These range from encouraging people to enjoy a great hair day to empowering women to feel good about their hair, regardless of its type and colour, and supporting LGBTQ+ individuals in “expressing their authentic selves”.


Olay’s core product proposition, similar to L’Oréal‘s “science of beauty”, is defined as “the science of ageless beauty”. Although science, research, innovation, and technology play crucial roles in Olay’s brand strategy, there is a stronger focus on the notion of “agelessness”. The concept of ageless beauty is rooted in the belief that women are no longer defined by their chronological age and that with the right lifestyle and skincare choices, they can achieve a look that is “ageless”, often implying a youthful appearance.

In 2018, Olay redefined its positioning, shifting its brand essence from “transformation that leaves skin beautifully ageless” to a more purpose-driven statement: “encouraging every woman to live fearlessly, starting with skin that’s ready to face anything”. In line with this refreshed approach, the brand launched a campaign aimed at empowering women to embrace their true selves and disregard criticisms for being “too strong”, “too outspoken”, “too ambitious”, or, conversely, “too emotional” or “too vulnerable”.

Always, Pantene and Olay are three brands that P&G has repositioned to be more purpose-driven, placing a stronger emphasis on communications designed to boost women’s confidence rather than solely focusing on promising great looks.

If you want to read the complete brand strategy case studies about these three P&G brands (and many more, including Ariel, Gillette, Old Spice, Pampers, Procter & Gamble and Tidejoin BrandStruck today.

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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.

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