The Story Behind Honest Company’s First-Ever Brand Campaign

Founder and chief creative officer Jessica Alba talks timing, campaign strategy, collaborating with Will.i.am on music, and more.

Since founding The Honest Company in 2011, Jessica Alba has grown the start-up business exponentially, but she’s also established a brand image that looms much larger than its actual company size and marketshare. Just in the last year, they’ve experienced lawsuits, billion-dollar acquisition reports, and high-profile product recalls, as well as a spot on Celebrity Apprentice, and regular coverage across both fashion, beauty and business media. But despite its strong brand growth, the company has never actually had a traditional marketing campaign. Until now.

“Honest Moments” is The Honest Company’s first-ever brand campaign, and it was created entirely in-house. From real-life birth videos, to wrangling the various temperaments of toddlerhood, even soliciting videos from the brand’s consumer community, and starring some non-actor employees, it gives a stylish, but intimate vibe to illustrating the life of a modern parent.

“It’s definitely genuine, it’s personal, these are real stories,” says Alba. “I’m not a corporation, I’m a person. So when we look to how we differ from our competitors, first of all, we’re tiny compared to them. The market value of our competitors is hundreds of billions of dollars. We’re not even close. But what we can do is be true to ourselves, speak directly to the customer. We know the customer because we are the customer. Doing the work in-house makes it that much more us, and it feels right, and it’s something no creative agency could come up with because no one knows us better than we do.”

Honest Company senior vice-president of creative Liz Elert says it’s been a natural progression for the brand to be at a point that it was ready for a broader marketing campaign. “It’s been building to this, helping us understand who our customers are, what they’re looking to us for, and bringing them into the spotlight,” says Elert. “We really looked at the heart of our customers and how the story began for Honest. Jessica started this company when she was pregnant with her first child, and felt she wanted to provide safe products for everyone. So this campaign is about reaching out to our customers about the moments in their lives, in particular going from being an individual to having another life to care for.”

Elert says that the core idea actually came from one of the company’s creative teams, a copywriter and art director, who were trying to solve a smaller problem around a specific product. “They told me the idea and I thought it was incredible,” says Elert. The company shot 14 spots, over three days in two locations. “We brought in birth mothers for this film, and we filmed what their response was to that before and after, and it echoed what this company is about. It’s an overwhelming emotional time, and we wanted to bring that to life. There are other moments that can be as emotional as giving birth, to funny like a toddler’s first steps, or trying to sneak out of your child’s bedroom so you don’t wake them up. It’s a never-ending campaign because life is full of these moments.”

The campaign’s original music was composed by Will.i.am thanks to some fortuitous timing. He and Alba were working on the show Planet of the Apps, and Alba wanted to get his thoughts on the new spots and campaign.

Will.i.am and Jessica Alba

“He said he loved the raw nature of the big brand ad, but he thinks like a marketer, and thought it would be great if it was all wrapped into one cohesive story,” says Alba. “He said we needed to evoke an emotion that’s more complicated than happiness, that’s joy. I was just blown away. Obviously, I know him as a person, but to hear him talk about branding, dissecting the marketing strategy, and how you can be thoughtful in your approach. It’s something I’ve never had experience with before, and he has, so I was very grateful for him to be giving me his insight.”

For his part, Will says working on the campaign helped him flex some creative muscles that needed to be limbered up.

“We’d been doing this show, and while we were on set she showed me the spots, and I really loved them. She asked for some advice on the music, and I said I’d do it. She said, ‘But I have more than one spot.’ and I said, so what? I have more than one studio,” says Will.iam. “I said she should try to make a family of music for it. The temp music she had in place was a bit random, so I said if you can create a body of work, so it felt like a capsule collection, I’d love to come at it from that perspective. It was easy to do because my calendar was blocked off to do the TV show, so when we’d finish shooting, I’d work on it with that rare free time. Then she said they didn’t have a lot of money. And I said, I don’t do things like this for money, I do it for feelings, for brushing up on my skills. We’re family, we’re working together, let’s create.”

Alba says that while she’s learned a lot of valuable lessons since launching the company, one thing that became crystal clear in creating this campaign in-house was the importance of the company’s culture. “I learned just how scrappy our team is, how much we lean on each other,” she says. “When I first set out to build a company, I always focused on the customer and the product, and whether the customer was getting the product and experience they needed to get. And now the most important thing feels like having the right team around you, that people feel fulfilled and fed, and valued. That’s an incredibly important part of having a company with goals to change the world.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor and writer with Co.Create. He's a former staffer at Advertising Age, Creativity and Canadian Business magazine.

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