A New Cycle
ADWEEK|September 11, 2017

WHIRLPOOL’S WASHING MACHINES CAMPAIGN GAVE STUDENTS A FRESH START.

David Gianatasio

In the fall of 2015, Whirlpool launched a pilot program in Fairfield, Calif., and St. Louis that put a whole new spin on the concept of wearables.

We’re not talking about internet-connected garments. Rather, the technology powering “Care Counts” consisted of conventional washing machines and dryers, donated by the client to initially 17 schools. The goal: provide students with clean clothes in order to boost their confidence, reduce truancy, and increase kids’ desire to connect with their peers and teachers in classrooms every day.

Research suggests that students are 20 percent more likely to skip classes when they don’t have clean clothes. “We discovered stories of teachers doing laundry for disadvantaged students,” says Kristine Kobe, vp, account director at DigitasLBi, which helped develop the initiative. “We knew we could provide a solution that could have an immediate impact.”

By the end of the academic year—and 2,000 loads of laundry later—attendance showed a marked improvement, with more than 90 percent of the pilot program’s participating kids spending about six more days in class compared to 2014-15. Their grades improved, too, as did peer interactions and involvement in extracurricular programs.

Last fall, the initiative expanded into schools across Baltimore; Benton Harbor, Mich.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Nashville, Tenn. Launches for 2017 include Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New Orleans.

“Care Counts” cleaned up at Cannes, scoring a Grand Prix in Creative Data and a gold Lion in PR Data & Measurement Research. It also earned trophies at The One Show, D&AD and Effies. Now, the initiative wins Isaac Awards for Research Invention and Data Invention, both in the Best Practices category, along with the Gravity Award, Adweek’s top honor for creative innovation.

Experts give “Care Counts” high marks for its seamless representation of Whirlpool’s brand proposition and impact on an often-overlooked problem. “Many brands have figured out that consumers, especially younger ones, are more likely to be loyal to products that ‘give back’ in some way,” says Michael Solomon, a marketing professor at Saint Joseph’s University. “They are falling over each other trying to hitch their stars to some cause that will check the box. Too often, these efforts, while laudable, miss the mark because they are not authentic.” 

In contrast, “Care Counts” provides a model for how brands can leverage social marketing in a meaningful way because it “directly ties Whirlpool’s core competency to the cause-related deliverable,” Solomon says. “The company illustrates how an imaginative use of its core products results in measurable good.”

From an image-building standpoint, the program tallied almost 350 million earned media impressions and more than 12 million video views across Facebook and YouTube. All this attention yielded a nearly 220 percent increase in social sentiment and a palpable lift in purchase intent.

In a broader sense, the campaign and its attendant media coverage highlight “a social issue that more privileged parents might be completely unaware of,” says Tom Megginson, an industry blogger for Osocio and creative director at socialissues agency Acart Communications. This will hopefully drive public and private support beyond the program itself, he says.

“We originally set out to impact attendance rates. But what we saw was that the program impacted so much more,” notes Whirlpool senior brand manager Chelsey Lindstrom. “The power of these simple acts—cooking, cleaning and washing— are bigger than us all. When we all care, every day, we believe we can change the world.”

EVENT/EXPERIENCE INVENTION 

Colenso BBDO | DB Export, Beer Bottle Sand

With sand used in everything from construction to pharmaceuticals, beaches are being depleted at an alarming rate. To address the problem in New Zealand and build buzz for its brew, DB Export dispatched a machine to local bars that lets drinkers instantly crush used bottles into a sand substitute for industrial applications. The machines got plenty of play on social and mainstream media, helping DB enjoy volume growth in a category that declined 6 percent. “At the heart of DB Export’s DNA there’s a motivation to get stuff done,” says agency business director Brodie Reid, “and at the heart of our drinkers’ DNA there’s a desire to do good in the world. So, merging the two together helped create a higher purpose that people can rally behind.”

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT INVENTION | BRAND PERFORMANCE INVENTION 

JWT N.Y. | Northwell Health, The Fin

Here’s a stroke of IP genius from J. Walter Thompson and Northwell Health. It’s called the Fin, a prosthetic that lets amputees quickly and easily transition from walking to swimming. Created to showcase Northwell’s passion for innovation and commitment to serving veterans, agency and client spent five months developing a 3-D printed prototype made of carbon fiber enhanced nylon. This was done in consultation with ex-Marine Dan Lasko, who lost his left leg 13 years ago in Afghanistan. Lasko put the Fin through its paces, and his feedback led to various technical tweaks. He also served as pitchman, appearing in JWT’s promotional push, which encompassed digital content, social posts and PR. Next up: “Clinical trials where we will refine the Fin with the help of six service members,” says Northwell chief marketing and communications officer Ramon Soto. “We are also talking with veterans organizations, the VA and development partners to build the right manufacturing and distribution model.” One key take-away, per Boston University marketing professor Judy Austin, is: “Don’t look before you leap. For audacious undertakings like this one, the prospect of failure is a constant,” but shared focus and determination can ultimately pay off.

MARKETING INVENTION 

CP+B | Domino’s, Wedding Registry

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