Mean girls stink!

Strong enough for a man but made for a woman was Secret antiperspirant’s slogan for decades before its patriarchal bent finally rendered the line obsolete. From Leo Burnett, the tag served its mistress well, managing the tricky position of being both for ladies as well as for removing odors.

Thankfully, women are no longer secretive about desiring strength and power. On the contrary, empowered women are fashionable, sexy and ubiquitous. Frankly, the most masculine heroes in Hollywood right now are women. They kick hornet’s nests, vampire butts and anything else that gets in their way. You’ve come a long way baby!

But there’s a dark side to the fairer sex, usually manifesting itself during adolescence. Call it girl on girl meanness. While boys fight with their fists teen girls have a passion for mental cruelty. Humiliating a rival, creating awful rumors about the new girl, degrading the less attractive… these are very real problems and, with social media, are only getting worse. As the father of three little girls I am in complete denial.

But Secret isn’t. Again from Leo Burnett (with IMC2), the deodorant brand launched a provocative new campaign using girl power for good and not evil. Appropriately called “meanstinks,” the campaign uses social and mass media to convince young ladies to refrain from inter-gender hating and, moreover, to try a little kindness. A print ad shows graffiti on a high school girl’s locker. The Headline: Caitlin, your face looks like a pretty flower. The copy: Be nice behind someone’s back. Do it at In addition to being a good message, the ad itself is pretty sweet… maybe even awards show sweet. Facebook (often employed by teens to spread hate) is used for just the opposite reason: spreading goodwill among ‘friends.’

Even if “meanstinks” only turns around a few haters, it’s still a brilliant move – for womankind and for Secret. When fretful moms see what the brand is doing they cannot help but have a positive reaction, reinforcing the brand’s hard earned equity with them. If young women begin their relationship with Secret by virtue of this campaign that’s good for them… and the brand.

For more on this campaign, a post from one of its creators:

I’m a bit unclear on how Burnett and IMC2 collaborated. If anyone knows the particulars please inform the blog.


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