If you haven’t seen it already, Gillette’s recently released advert championing an end to toxic masculinity (below) has caused quite a stir. In the 48 hours since release, everyone from Piers Morgan to Mark Ritson has weighed in on it.If you haven’t seen it already, Gillette’s recently released advert championing an end to toxic masculinity (below) has caused quite a stir. In the 48 hours since release, everyone from Piers Morgan to Mark Ritson has weighed in on it.
Rather than adding to the knee-jerk reactions, we tasked members of the TVE team to have a think about it overnight and come back to us with their thoughts on how it will impact the brand. It seems the advert polarised the office as much as the internet.
“It’s unclear whether it is intended as a public service announcement against the ills of man or an advertisement for the brand. Seemingly both.” says Senior US Consultant Charlie Rodman, going on to say “Acknowledging their own ills in pushing stereotypical masculinity – which is finally experiencing a meaningful redefinition – over the years is a positive mea culpa for the brand… Perfection is a tall ask, and overall this deserves to track well. However, we consumers are hyper critical”
Alex Beattie in our UK office takes a similar, but more pessimistic view; “Strategically there is a glimmer of a hint that this was a good idea, given the ‘Best a man can get’ strapline, but beyond that the credible link to product or indeed brand are in this case non-existent.”, however in his eyes it’s the creative execution which puts the nail in the coffin.
“Tonally it’s way off and regardless of good intentions, no one wants brands to infer that they might be a bad person. Too often big consumer brands are getting purpose badly wrong (see Pepsi) and to do so is to risk alienating your target consumer and damaging long held equity. And is that a price really worth paying?”
However, Sam Barton disagrees. “Is it a purpose if it doesn’t cost you? Nike’s Kaepernick campaign cost them a lot but endeared them enough with a new audience. It’s a conversation to be had, but it’s whether they got the tone and execution right. It is a polarising view to the successful and generally well received Axe / Lynx repositioning which is continuing to gain traction in the market. There’s a fine line between being preachy and making a point… particularly given their large share of the men’s shaving market”
Lucy Morgan-Hobbs takes an equally measured view. “It’s not bad that Gillette are getting behind a cause they think should be talked about; some people are saying this is being overdone in the brand world and it makes everything feel a bit cheap and untrue because at the end of the day their goal is to sell products. I disagree because I think it’s great that they’re starting a conversation and that if any brand wants to start a meaningful conversation they should go ahead because brands can drive change in the marketplace.”
However, for Lucy the campaign loses strength in its activation. “I think the execution missed the mark. Whilst I don’t agree that anyone should feel angry after seeing the ad because the issues are important and are already part of the public conversation; I can see how the advert comes off as pretty accusatory and Gillette aren’t taking enough responsibility for the fact that their brand and tag line has been promoting a singular type of masculinity/maleness since the 1980s.”
Gillette’s is an easy misstep for any brand to make; too often marketing managers think their brand plays a far larger role in consumers life than it does. We all clearly understand that Toxic Masculinity is an issue (even if some consumers would disagree), but a shaving company may not be the best spokesperson for such a cause, just because (half) their audience is men.
Emeline Mettavant added: “P&G has been very successful in sociomercial campaigns since Like a Girl and Share the Load; they were tackling social issues, but did so by conveying a very
inspirational message, through insight reframing and positive storytelling, and made the brand an authority inspiring positive change. The Gillette campaign is very different in its first 45 seconds: the tone is accusatory, mildly exasperated, and Gillette urges consumers instead of inspiring them to change. These 45 seconds were completely unnecessary and ruined it all.”
The discussion around Gillette is a nuanced issue being debated in black and white terms in 140 characters or less, which Gillette deliberately provoked. But amongst the noise, we see some clear signals of the tensions around the role brands play in consumers lives. Should they dictate a lifestyle or enable it? Should they step in where the government drops the ball, or leave politics to those elected? Is it crass to make more money by promoting a cause or noble to dedicate ad spend towards it?
These are tensions that will continue to evolve as brands and consumers do. However what will remain the same is the need to navigate them sensitively, backed by the voice of real consumers and in a way that counts on, rather than contradicts, existing perceptions.