In Conversation with Ruth Haffenden from Boody

Natalie Dean-Weymark


January 24, 2024

This journal article is taken from Episode 2 of Compass Studio’s podcast series “In Conversation” hosted by Co-Founder and Director Natalie Dean-Weymark.

We spoke to Boody’s Global Brand and Marketing Manager, Ruth Haffenden, about the challenges of getting ads approved and how this sheds lights on how we perceive women's bodies in 2024.

Ruth Haffenden joined Boody in 2022, and has led some incredible campaigns in her role as Global Brand and Marketing Manager. For those unfamiliar with Boody - let this be your introduction. Boody is a a sustainable and environmentally friendly underwear brand committed to comfort, not just for you but the planet too. The brand is renowned for its simple designs, eco-friendly materials and sustainable manufacturing.

We sat down with Ruth on the latest episode of In Conversation to hear about the behind-the-scenes of the campaign that won customers’ hearts and challenged ad standards.If you want to know how she creates campaigns that really resonate with customers, deals with varying budgets, and where she turns to for inspiration - read on, or listen here 👇

Q: What’s your favourite campaign and why is it your favourite?

A: The "Make Yourself Comfortable" campaign is a standout for me. It marked a significant brand repositioning after our collaboration with Jane Goodall and establishing ourselves as the Official Underwear of the Planet. The campaign was a bold move towards sustainability, aiming to make women feel comfortable and beautiful in their own skin. The positive feedback we received was overwhelming and so great to see.

Q: What do you wish you knew at the start of the campaign? 

A: Knowing the extent of its positive reception would have been great. The campaign aimed to address the isolation women often feel in traditional underwear ads. The feedback, especially from those appreciating the representation of diverse bodies, prompted a wish for a larger campaign scale from the beginning.

Q: What do you think the recipe for success is in the purpose-led space?

A: There's no one-size-fits-all formula, but ensuring the purpose resonates with people is crucial. It should align with their values and interests. Additionally, transparently showcasing the purpose in action, aligning brand expression with brand experience, and recognizing that purpose alone may not make the sale are essential elements.

Q: In terms of a big marketing budget, what moves the needle the most?

A: I look at these brands with these huge marketing budgets and I think, does that stifle some creativity? If you could buy every channel you wanted to, would that be even more of a challenge? But for me, a big budget means big reach, you're buying reach. The frustration with having a small brand is, I've got an amazing product, I've got an amazing marketing campaign, and I cannot afford to tell enough people about it. If they knew about it, they'd love it, but I can't afford to tell them, unfortunately. For me, the big budgets mean reaching more channels, whether that's platforms like TV or billboard. There's definitely no easy budget to have. It doesn't make it easier just to have a big budget, just different planning.

Q: What's been your biggest external challenge?

A: For the Make Yourself Comfortable campaign, the biggest hurdle was ad standards. Getting side boobs onto a tram was the bane of my existence for a number of weeks and months. It wasn't using nudity in a way that was provocative or sexy for the sake of being sexy. It was very clearly telling a message, that the female body is a female body. It's not sexy. It's just a woman’s back with a bit of side boob. You’d be shocked to think what came back as sexy or not sexy. 

At least with JCDecaux and others you've got someone to have a conversation with, to edit the creative, crop it and go again. Whereas often with Meta and Google, you have to throw it out into the ether and the robot decides whether it's appropriate or not. I've learned a lot about what the robots and the real people deemed to be sexy versus not sexy.

Boody's "Make Yourself Comfortable Campaign" in the wild

Q: What inspires you in your current reading list?

A: "Radical Candor" by Kim Scott is at the top of my personal development stack, emphasizing the importance of effective feedback. Giving good feedback is the way to get to marketing outcomes faster. I think it's just astounding how we often fear giving and receiving feedback, when actually reframing feedback into this absolute gift is hugely beneficial. 

Additionally, "How To Listen" by Oscar Trimboli explores the transformative power of listening as a crucial skill in leadership. Teaching yourself how to not only listen to other people, but hear what they're saying and to hear the different contexts and read between the lines is amazing.

Q: What about voices? What's in your ears?

A: Sometimes we can get lost in a bit of an echo chamber of our own voices and so sometimes I tend to lean out of classic DTC marketing-y type podcasts because you can get caught up in what everyone else is doing. From a creative standpoint, I love Cindy Gallop, Maz Speaks and all of those fantastic females really doing amazing things for the feminist agenda. It's finding people that I think really resonate with the things that I want to achieve and the purpose I'm trying to drive forward at Boody, as well as trying to surround myself with more of those voices in my newsfeed and Spotify. 

I think the other critical piece is listening to world news too because I feel like Australia is also sometimes a bit of an echo chamber of what's important to us and it’s good to get a world context. Reading consumer titles is an interesting one as well. Mark Ritson talked about how every time he goes to the airport, he'll pick up magazines that he would never normally pick up such as ‘Fishing Today’ or something so out of category. He does this just to immerse himself in other ways of thinking and other things that are consuming other people's headspace.

Q: Lastly, how have you responded to the evolving content consumption landscape as a marketer?

A: "I think as long as I'm coming into every day, knowing that I might not be doing things the same way today that I was yesterday, then that's the only way to really be able to future proof your marketing plans. It's about never being closed minded to the fact that you're changing the way that you're doing things and constantly reappraising new channels, but also not chasing after something shiny because it is new. It's about keeping an eye on all of the channels, appraising each new one as it comes in, testing and learning, but also keeping that core foundation of channels that you know work."

Like what you read? Listen to the full episode podcast with Ruth Haffenden on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

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