What’s a brand gotta do to feel some love again? Gillette wants to know.
Gillette has been losing market share to upstarts like Dollar Shave Club and other smaller brands. To compete, the brand has been cutting prices, but it has also recognized the need to find new ways to attract customers. Torpedoing its name into the center of a social movement might do the trick — especially if the movement revolves around an issue that the brand takes responsibility for reinforcing.
It’s no secret that the media and corporate brand messages are culprits of reinforcing cultural status quos and stereotypes that have contributed to social issues like sexism, bullying and sexual violence — and for decades, they got away with it. However, with campaigns like the #MeToo movement pushing sexual violence to the forefront of the national dialogue, corporate influences are getting harder to ignore, by businesses and the public alike.
One social issue starting to gain momentum is toxic masculinity. Rather than shying away from what some consider an uncomfortable topic, some brands are taking action. Harry’s Hims, Bonobos and Axe are working to present a more multifaceted view of masculinity in their marketing campaigns. They want to start reframing masculinity and reversing the damage done by decades of showcasing one-dimensional role models for men.
Now, Gillette wants to join the movement.
Gillette’s 1989 Super Bowl commercial debuted the brand’s signature tagline, “The Best A Man Can Get.” The ad showed off young adult men and their “successes”— attracting women, earning money and being athletic. The brand then continued to use this imagery in all ads to follow.
Three decades later, Gillette premieres a new campaign, centered around the #MeToo movement, and puts a fresh take on the old trademark.
The spot was created by the brand’s ad agency, Grey, and titled, “We Believe.”
It opens with audio of news about the #MeToo movement, bullying and toxic masculinity. The narrator turns the tagline into a question, and visual representations of bullying, old commercials reinforcing sexism and other behaviors of toxic masculinity flood the screen.
Then, the spot shifts focus onto the wave of media coverage of sexual assault and harassment. Viewers now watch as men take action and step into situations unfolding before them to prevent toxic behaviors from continuing. The ad highlights the proactive behavior that Gillette believes many men already take part in; however, the narrator argues, “But some is not enough. Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.” The spot concludes with Gillette announcing its intent to take action.
The ad was directed by Kim Gehrig, whose notable work includes Sport England’s “This Girl Can” series and “Viva La Vulva,” a female empowerment anthem for Swedish brand Libresse. She was selected to direct the spot due to the partnership between Gillette’s parent company, Procter & Gamble (P&G), and Free the Bid, a program dedicated to getting more female directors on advertisements.
The ad campaign is coupled with the launch of Gillette’s TheBestMenCanBe.org, a new brand site that provides more detail about the brand’s stance, backed by a commitment to donate at least $1 million annually the next three years to organizations designed to help men of all ages “achieve their personal best.” Boys & Girls Clubs of America is the initial recipient.
What they said:
“The best ideas are those capable of changing behaviors and sometimes even the way we live,” said Leo Burnett general creative director Juan García-Escudero. “If we can get people to do all they possibly can to see more of each other, we will have done something worthwhile.”
Lessons to be learned:
Publicity encompasses the good and the bad. — Almost immediately, Gillette’s campaign went viral. It received a wave of backlash, and many viewers stated their intent to boycott the brand. The ad caused such a stir that it flooded social media and appeared on a wave of news broadcasts. Many people praised the campaign, while many more criticized it — but all of the comments included #Gillette.
History has shown that while misfires could hurt brand reputations in the short term, they don’t usually result in long-term negative effects. In 2017, PepsiCo, Inc. was accused of trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement. The heavy criticism resulted in PepsiCo removing its commercial from YouTube and stopping the ad’s run on the TV, but there was no significant impact on sales.
It’s okay to change. — Rob Saunders, an account manager for Media Agency Group, believes that the strong reaction to Gillette’s campaign is due to the drastic change in tone from how the brand used to be promoted: It surprised people. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.
Gary Coombe, president of P&G Global Grooming, stated, “As the world’s largest marketer to men, we knew that joining the dialogue on ‘modern manhood’ would mean changing how we think about and portray men at every turn.”
Gillette acknowledges how it has contributed in the past to the reinforcement of toxic stereotypes and status quos in its promotional displays of one-dimensional men. Now, the brand is focused on moving forward with society and adapting to its transformations. Gillette intends to highlight men’s soft skills and portray more diversity in future ads.
Consider future audiences. — Dean Crutchfield, CEO of the branding firm Crutchfield + Partners, noted that Gillette’s campaign could appeal to Millennials, many of whom care about what companies stand for. “There’s a demand for this, for purpose, for brands to be tackling tough issues in the moment,” he said.
With Millennials set to outnumber the Baby Boomer population in America within the coming year, according to Pew Research Center, it could prove to be beneficial for brands to prioritize their marketing efforts toward this generation of consumers moving forward.