Now, this is the last place you would expect a brand to play. Big emotions? In public? People losing control of the feelings? In public?
Something in the culture of marketing balks at this. Emotions in advertising were supposed to be upbeat, cheery, and peppy. That’s why we have been forced suffer all that "fun in the sun" advertising. Addled icons like The Doublemint Twins, the forced good humor of a family drive to Knott’s Landing, the spectacular gratitude that came from discovering just how much fun to operate a George Foreman grill, these were the emotional orthodoxies of the advertising world. Negative emotions were forbidden. The culture created by capitalism was thin and risible.
Plus, something in the culture of marketing balked at associating the brand with something it couldn’t "own." What marketers really wanted was the Unique Selling Proposition, the one functional utility the brand possessed over all others. People crying in public? Who could own this?
We can imagine the contest that took place within the agency (JWT, New York) and the brand (Kimberly-Clark). In the old days, "let it out" was an impossible marketing proposition and even today it remains a struggle. So hat’s off to the agency team and the marketing group. Hat’s off, specifically, to Walt Connelly, Toby Barlow as executive creative directors, Jim Carroll as art director; Richie Glickman as creative director/copywriter, all of JWT New York.
The fact that "let it out" appears in this campaign tells us that marketing is becoming a little more anthropological. Brands are listening to their publics more closely. They are taking in aspects of the human experience more broadly. They are playing back things that have a little more narrative or at least dramatic oomph. They are now prepared to send their brands up the value hierarchy. They are making themselves partners to larger, worthier undertakings than fun in the sun. (See for instance the work done by Done on the ideas we have about beauty and bodies.)
Here’s text I found on the letitout.com website.
Why do people keep things bottled up inside?
It makes no sense. Nothing good comes from that.
With that in mind, we invite and encourage you to let it out.
Let out your tears, your joy, your anger, your frustration, your laughter and even your snot.
Because you’ll feel better.
How do we know?
Because we recently went across America and watched all kinds of people let out all kinds of stuff.
Some of those moments ended up on tv.
Others are right here for your viewing pleasure.
So go ahead, check them out — then let it out™.
Ok, let’s stop right there. Apparently, KC has trademarked "let it out." And this is proof that the corporation and marketing still has a lot to learn. When you seek to make cultural meanings part of the brand proposition, you are a guest in someone’s house. The moment you start stuffing the silver into your pockets, that’s when we’re going to ask you to leave.
You can find the Let It Out website here.