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How #KissAndMakeup Misses The Mark On Solving Cyber Bullying

A makeup company's hashtag campaign has good intentions, but fails to create real change.

How #KissAndMakeup Misses The Mark On Solving Cyber Bullying

If only it was that easy to #kissandmakeup to stop cyber bullying

Cyber-bullying is a serious issue that’s on the rise in our ever digital, photo loving, social networking world. So kudos to Tarte Cosmetics for launching the #kissandmakeup campaign to fight cyber-bullying, especially after witnessing some disturbing trends on its own Instagram account.

But just because Tarte took a stand and did something about it doesn’t mean the campaign hit the mark. The intention and sincerity behind it is great. The execution leaves me wishing they did a couple of key things differently.

First, let’s talk about the name and campaign action. Tarte created #kissandmakeup through a partnership with the anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution, encouraging people to post selfies of their hands "kissed" with lipstick to show their support for victims of cyber-bullying. For Tarte, I’m sure finding a creative expression (Kiss and Make-up) for the campaign that has both product tie-in (lipstick) and a make-up reference (their category) was a huge win. The problem lies with the fact that the name won’t do the issue of cyber-bullying any favors. The expression "kiss and make-up" trivializes the relationship between victims and bullies, as if getting over the pain and what’s at the root of the problem will be solved with a kiss. This is a perfect example of a well-meaning company undermining the seriousness of the issue by being too cute, too clever, and too self-referential.

The second problem with the campaign is around the level of depth in terms of follow on action. The campaign doesn’t encourage a deeper conversation or drive people to real tools to help combat and cope with bullying. And they were so close. The campaign partner, Bystander Revolution, has resources and tools to better cope with cyber-bullying, but there’s no ‘call to action’ to go to their website and download these resources. At best, their handle @bystanderrevolution appears in some, not all, of the posts. But how would people know what to do with that?

Despite these two elements that could have made the campaign stronger and deeper, it is getting some traction, with over 15,000 #kissandmakeup selfies since Valentine’s Day, including celebs like Chloë Grace Moretz. It has also provided the space on social for people to self-express, sharing their own stories of being victims of bullying, and that’s fantastic. But like the lipstick on everyone’s hand, this is just touching the surface. So while I know it’s a lot to ask of a social media cause campaign to think through the deeper social impact implications, I really wish they had gone there.

If the goal is to put a stop to cyber-bullying, then what are the conditions or actions that will help us move towards that goal? What could Tarte do from a structural perspective to create education/spaces in which bullying isn’t tolerated? What kind of policies need to be enforced? And how could their campaign be the start of real and sustained behavior change?

I am all in favor of kissing and making up when the conditions are right. We should all practice greater tolerance, acceptance, and empathy in our lives. But when it comes to the violence of cyber bullying, a kiss just doesn’t feel right.

This post is part of a series in which Phillip Haid, the cofounder and CEO of PUBLIC offers his thoughts on the best and worst of today's cause marketing.

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