As a pioneer in its category, Kleenex has literally become synonymous with facial tissues. But the Kimberly-Clark brand doesn’t just want to be your defense against a leaky face. The brand is changing up its messaging with a tear-jerking campaign to strike a more emotional chord with its customers.

Beyond meeting those summer cold demands, Kleenex wants to be representative of a broader, more proactive “gesture of care,” said Eric Higgs, gm of Kleenex. The branding pivot is based on insights from a recent survey conducted by the company, which found 50 percent of people in the U.S. said that they have missed an opportunity to show someone they cared — a gap the $1 billion brand wants to fill to further cement its status as “a broader tool for a range of situations,” said Higgs.

The campaign, which will run through the fall, kicked off with a TV spot called “Time for Change” on June 8, featuring a little girl who is bullied and then reassured by a little boy. It also has a couple of documentary-style videos on Facebook and YouTube demonstrating how Kleenex helps people help others in “real-time moments of care.” As part of the campaign, a traveling billboard with encouraging messages spelled out will tour cities across the U.S., dispensing Kleenex pocket packs. There is also digital equivalent, in which people can share motivational messages via Kleenex.com.

“Kleenex could have easily gone sappy with a strategy like this, but the tone of this execution is perfect,” said Megan Hartman, strategy director at Red Peak Branding. “It’s a smart strategy for Kleenex, because it portrays the product as the hero in a way that’s touching and funny.”

The numbers suggest that caring is indeed contagious. Last month, Kleenex received a whopping 1.1 million interactions across its social channels, according to social analytics firm Socialbakers — six times its usual amount of engagement. The sentiment on Twitter has also been overwhelmingly positive, according to Crimson Hexagon, with 39 percent of Twitter conversations being positive.

The investment in pay-it-forward content, especially video on Facebook has also yielded positive results, with the number of fans’ posts on its page being double the usual average for the month of June. One of the videos titled “Unlikely Friends,” a tearjerker that documents the relationship between a disabled dog and its disabled owner, went viral, netting nearly 28 million views since being posted on June 24.

Unlikely Best FriendsA man finds companionship in a dog that faces the same struggles as he does. By giving him a chance, the two overcome life’s obstacles together. Kleenex.com/messagesofcare

Posted by Kleenex on Wednesday, June 24, 2015

For experts, this new messaging from Kleenex could turn out to be what “Real Beauty” was for Dove or “Priceless Cities” was for Mastercard.

“Kleenex has long been associated with emotion. We refer to movies and books that are tear-jerkers as worthy of Kleenex. This could potentially build on that territory for the brand,” said Larry Vincent, chief branding officer at UTA Brand Studio. “The challenge is staying with it. Kleenex has great brand recall and awareness. A short burst of ads won’t be enough to shift sales and brand behavior. They’ll need to commit and double down on the work they’ve already done.”

And that’s exactly what Kleenex has planned. The brand plans to continue to expand its footprint across Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, where it will continue to roll out more documentary videos in partnership with Facebook’s Creative Shop Studio. It is also roping in influencers whom it has enlisted to serve as role models of timely care during often overlooked moments.

“Marketing in a digital world is definitely a priority for us, and we will continue to find the best ways to connect, engage and serve our consumer base,” said Higgs.

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