It’s a close shave

No matter how one analyzes Gillette’s controversial new campaign “Is this the best a man can get?” it’s fraught with uncertainties. And it most certainly has further divided an already divided country.

Truly the best a man can get?

First, though, a tip of the hat (or razor) to Gillette’s management for having the courage to double down on its purpose and values. But have they? Or is the campaign a mere ploy or stunt as some detractors claim whose only goal is to drive sales?

I think there are several factors to weigh when analyzing the Gillette campaign:

1) Is alienating a significant percentage of the male shaving market worth the risk of taking a stand and saying the right thing? We asked that very question of 50 CCOs and CMOs we interviewed in a joint research study with the Institute for Public Relations.

One CCO, who managed a global manufacturing company’s marketing spend, echoed the comments of most when he stated, “No matter what you say you WILL alienate a percentage of your stakeholders. I’d much prefer to go on record and double down on our purpose in the wake of a societal crisis than remain silent.”

2) Consistency: Nike’s outstanding campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick won countless awards and witnessed a serious uptick in sales. But, as bold as it was, Nike’s campaign was consistent with its track record (pun intended) of partnering with controversial, outspoken athletes. As a result, the campaign was authentic to the core. Gillette has no such track record and, as the WashPo article indicates, has long profiled macho men in previous campaigns. So, there’s no sense of continuity in my mind. The campaign was a complete 180 for the brand. I think that’s why, when the dust settles, Nike’s post-Kaepernick sales increase will far surpass that of Gillette’s.

3) There but for the grace of god go I. Suppose, just suppose, that Gillette management should be accused of a #MeToo scandal of their own?

That scenario played out in the months following BP’s launch of its “Beyond Petroleum” campaign, extolling their multiple contributions to the environment. Sure enough, a few months later, BP found itself at the epicenter of the Gulf oil spill disaster (and became the butt of endless late night talk show host jokes).

When they said, “think outside the barrel,” I don’t think they meant the Gulf Coast.

I do hope that, in Gillette’s case, HR has done its due diligence to ensure there aren’t any 15 or 20-year-old harassment claims against the current executive team. If such an event were to unfold, it would be beyond catastrophic and underscores the risks a brand takes when it creates it own societal crisis by taking a stand on a societal crisis.

We live in a brave new world littered with myriad societal minefields ranging from illegal immigration and mass school shootings to environmental roll-backs and, yes, #MeToo scandals.

Taking a stand in the immediate aftermath of a societal crisis is the right thing for a purpose-driven organization to do.

It remains to be seen if Gillette’s gamble to create a crisis within a crisis will play out the way they hope.



2 thoughts on “It’s a close shave

  1. This one provoked a lot of thought. At the end of the day I had a list of questions and inconsistent answers. Do I think Gillette should support #MeToo? Yes, unequivocally. This is new terrain and corporate America needs to step up even if that means draining its own swamp. Do I believe the ad highlighted ugly truths and heightened awareness? Yes I do. Would I have made the same decisions as a marketer? No. I think pro-social cause support must be done not as a creative brief in a TV spot, but authentically throughout the organization, allowing consumers to discover and appreciate the bona fide bottom to top effort. Did I like the ad? No. I thought it was pandering and exploitative, and because it was written and shot with such sophistication it made me wonder what they were asking of me – to act as a mature adult, or to buy razors. PSAs and ads are two different things and morally Gillette may have been wiser to choose the former. Last question – do I think the ad was effective? You betcha. In this age of digital attention deficit I never would have predicted a traditional TV spot to garner such polarizing yet meaningful discourse. No consumer brand can ever out do what Gillette has done here on the subject. They did not just cut through the clutter – Gillette cleaned off the slate. So. I don’t know if this will make me buy their razors more But I give credit where credit is due.

  2. Close but no bananas!

    For precisely the reasons you cite Gillette doesn’t have the cred to make this authentic. This seems a one-off to bump sales.

    If its position is enduring and it takes on other societal issues, then it can become credible.

    But until that happens, it’s close, but no bananas.