Gillette: The Best A Brand Can Get?

So, as you’ve likely seen, Gillette have released a new ad with their “Purposeful Ideals” very much at the forefront.

In case you haven’t seen it:

The ad, which unsubtly challenges today’s idea of masculinity, has received a mixed response, depending on where you stand.

The Likes And Dislikes

From a wider public perspective, there has been a lot of anger. If you watch their ad on YouTube and take a look at the commentary, you can see that many have taken this personally. They’re angry at the audacity of a razor brand to be pointing the finger and accusing them of being chauvinistic relics.

At the time of writing, the ad has 700k likes and 1.2 Million dislikes.

From the more left-wing progressive and the advertising industry perspective; Gillette has gotten some great plaudits, including Mark Roalfe, chairman of VMLY&R, who said in an interview with Campaign; “They’re not shying away from a tricky subject and they’re continuing to give “The best a man can get” new meaning and purpose.”

This Is What You Asked For People

Before I get into picking the ad apart and giving my take on it, I want to talk about why I love what’s going on here.

I like to discuss the evolution of the human brand and their changing relationship with the consumer.

The digital transformation that gave the consumer a voice and gave rise to the power of the millennial, and the GenZ’s inheriting that power, has led us to where we are today.

The consumer for many years now has been vocal about asking brands to do more. Brands have been called out for their unethical behaviours and more recently are increasingly expected to take positions concerning environmental, societal or political issues.

Trust in political and religious leaders to lead the way for change is at an all time low, as highlighted by the Deloittes Millennial Survey 2018. 

We can’t forget though that it was the Millinnials and GenZ’s who asked for this. They’ve asked brands to take a stance on sensitive issues in order to move the bar higher for in our society where they believe it needs progression.

This Is A Great Debate

The reason why I like what’s going on here is the fact that this has divided opinion and sparked debate. This points to the fact that they are very timely in their arrival on the topic because opinion is split, meaning it’s time for discussion.

What’s happening here with Gillette, is that they’ve touched on an issue that is in transition. An issue that on the whole, people aren’t necessarily in agreement with where it should go.

Nike’s High Bar

Recently Nike released a politically charged fiercely debated ad which, addressing the sensitive issue of racial equality.

If you haven’t seen that one, here it is

I wrote about it at the time in this article “Arise The Modern Archetype”.

The ad, framed Colin Kaepernick as a hero standing up for what he believed in, racial equality, and in doing so, aligned the brand with those beliefs.

Though it was highly debated and drew cries for boycott’s from people burning their Nike trainers, in the end, it was a roaring success because Nike knew where the vast majority of their current customers and an even higher percentage of their future customers stood on the debate.

They knew that not all would agree, but they were happy to cut those ties for the millions of fans who would pledge loyalty to Nike for being the Hero in progressing an idea they strongly believed in.

Gillette v Nike

So what’s the difference with the Nike ad and the Gillette ad?

Well firstly let’s simplify Gillette’s idea. Taking a quote from their own ad “What they’re actually trying to say is”;

With regards to bullying, gender equality and sexual harassment our society needs the “Modern Progressive Man”, to lead the way for change.

When it’s put like that, you could say, that it’s a very strong message that most would get behind.

The problem and the reason that there is so much anger, is in the way they executed it. Gillette, squarely pointed the finger at men (their core audience) as the main problem and in doing so, evoked a lot of defensive responses. They also leveraged the #MeToo movement which was seen by many as marketing in it’s purest form.

A quick scroll through the YouTube comments under the ad, and you can see a lot of emotion in the comments, most of which are full of anger and disgust from people feeling accused by Gillette for being a man, or from people angry on their leveraging the #MeToo debate.

A Graceful, Stand Alone Idea

the modern archetype nike kaepernick

What Nike did differently was in how gracefully they executed on their idea. Nike’s idea was based on inclusion, acceptance and equality and tackled racial, gender and sexual equality.

They didn’t show white policemen beating black men. They didn’t directly accuse any group or people (least not their core market), did they didn’t use stereotypes as scapegoats and they didn’t try to leverage the Black Lives Matter hashtag.

What they expertly did, was align themselves to the beliefs of an athlete who delivered their message on their behalf. Kaepernick’s beliefs were widely shared with their existing market and their evolving future market.

More than that, they celebrated the courage of standing by your beliefs whatever they may be and whatever the cost and delivered the message through inspiration. They kept it about the idea and let that stand on its own.

When we compare that to Gillette. We can see that their idea wasn’t wrong, but their execution alienated many people and drew anger from the masses. They pointed the finger and generalised, they showed images of stereotypes, they leveraged a highly sensitive movement and they challenged the very group of people that are more likely to defend themselves aggressively. That’s not a stereotype, that the primitive makeup of man

Different Execution But Similar Direction

Having said all of this, they did have some similarities to Nike in what they are aiming to achieve. Their idea as I distilled earlier, was for the MODERN MAN, to lead the way in society with regards to bullying, gender equality and sexual harassment.

Remember, Gillette is a giant of a brand and although I believe they fumbled the ball on their execution, they didn’t commit to this campaign blindly. They’ve analysed the fallout and done their research, which would have included expert input in psychology.

If Nike was happy to cut the chord with customers that didn’t share their idea of equality, it’s because they know, based on societal changes that they will increasingly be in the minority.

It’s fair then to give Gillette the benefit of the doubt here. That they see their target audience is the “Modern Progressive Man”, who they believe will read between the lines here, who is evolving into the majority. Who won’t be offended because he’s more secure in himself, and who believes that modern masculinity is about being brave when it matters most, with change.

Pioneers Have Arrows In Their Backs

Are they right about their “Progressive” audience or will they too find their ad distasteful and disrespectful? Either way, they took a bigger risk than Nike did in their execution.

In the long run, this move could hurt the Gillette Brand it could foster loyalty from their evolving customer.

But Gillette, like Nike before them are the new breed of brand taking risks by weighing in on sensitive topics, which is what the modern consumer as a whole has asked for. They’re paving the way for other brands to follow which I believe will become the status quo.

They’re not jumping into these campaigns with their eyes closed. On the contrary, they’re listening, more than ever before, and are responding based on what they believe will help to build long-lasting human relationships, through shared beliefs and values.

Some brands will end up paying the price with arrows in their backs, while others will claim the hill for themselves and be rewarded for their bravery.

I for one am watching this unfold with huge interest because evolution in branding is happening before our very eyes.

2019-01-25T18:23:36+00:00 By |

About the Author:

Stephen is a passionate Brand Creator and Founder of Iconic Fox Brand Agency. With a background in both financial markets and design, he is well positioned on brand strategy and creative and is passionate about both. Stephen has been featured on Marketo, Hubspot, Inside Small Business, Creative Bloq and more for his expertise on brand strategy and creative.He's also a friendly chap so if there's something you want to know about brand, he'd be happy to get into it with you

Leave A Comment


We all connect with personalities,
not features or benefits
Follow the 4-Step Process to give your brand a personality with opinions and attitude that your audience will remember.