Gillette’s new marketing campaign: a seriously bad shave

Men – how often do you think, “I must hold my fellow men accountable” when standing at the sink smearing shaving cream across your cheeks?

Same.

Gillette says you should be thinking that, though. It’s the latest to join the list of brands attempting to save the world – for Gillette this manifests as suggesting their target market should improve as human beings…

Very few brands can shift culture, yet so many try. Think Pepsi’s ‘Live For Now‘ or Heineken’s ‘Open Your World‘ – two campaigns with admirable intentions but both empty, patronising and, most importantly, off product. At least these two campaigns ticked the box of having their product in the advert. Gillette has even missed this one.

Even though Heineken’s campaign generated a positive reaction online, it means nothing if the tweeters aren’t going out and buying a Heineken. Where is the unique selling point articulated? It hasn’t been, because fundamentally these campaigns are not about the product, they’re attempting to be something more.

The ‘Best Men Can Be’ is currently suffering a painful backlash on social media, with many men threatening to boycott Gillette’s products and demanding an apology from owners Procter & Gamble.

Slightly hysterical reactions, but important nonetheless. Alongside sales, reactions must play a small part in judging campaign success. And judging from the immediate reaction to Gillette’s new campaign, it has succeeded in alienating much of their target market at a time when razor subscription services are slicing their heels.

Operating as a brand in a marketplace obsessed with targeting ‘Millennials’ and ‘Gen-Z’ is challenging. Excitable marketing managers may understandably spend too long inventing ways to satisfy their creativity.

If this is you, remember marketing rule no.1: don’t assume, do your research. If you think you’re being unusually clever, it’s usually a good indicator you’ve gone past the point of marketing your product successfully.

Attempts to refresh messaging and align with shifting cultural trends is not necessarily the wrong thing to do, it’s just very hard. However, there are some brands who manage it…

HOW TO DO WHAT GILLETTE DIDN’T

There are brands who combine culture and product well – Nike is the obvious choice. The sportswear giant has often successfully integrated a deeper message into their campaigns, sometimes at the expense of market segments, but always centred around the benefits of their products.

‘She Runs The Night’ is a great example of a campaign with lofty ideals backed up by first-class execution. Aimed at getting more women running, and more importantly in Nike clothing, the main advert was accompanied by social media strategy, public relations, visual merchandising, print and outdoor advertising, direct marketing, and exclusive Nike events.

The difference in tone is apparent. The inclusion of owned products is obvious. The call-to-action is real and relevant.

Nike built a 50,000-strong community within 4 months, 44% of event participants purchased Nike footwear with registration and 90% of runners surveyed intended to run the next year. The She Runs The Night campaign proved it’s possible to shift perceptions and sell your product at the same time.

Judging the two campaigns side by side, it becomes clear Nike’s has a clear route to a new revenue stream through subtle, inclusionary, empowering messages and a direct mention of owned products and the benefits they bring. With Gillette, it’s a real struggle to see how the Best Men Can Be campaign would make money.

Gillette has been the unfortunate victim of having people with the right intentions but the wrong ideas. To wheel out such a fundamental change in strategy with an advert that sounds like a telling off from your parents shows poor tactical understanding.

Why would you buy a Gillette razor? None of the reasons you’re currently thinking of are explained in this campaign.

Take the politics out of shaving, Gillette, and start again with your customer first.