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Gillette’s ‘The Best Men Can Be’ – do consumers care about a brand’s social stance?

By on Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The facial fuzz fascists at Gillette (and parent company P&G) have released this ad (or, short film, as they describe it – though, to be fair, the semantics of what an ad is and isn’t when it can be released on social and chalk up millions of views before it’s so much as graced a TV screen is worth a look).

Having no doubt sat on progressive marketing concepts around its 30 year-old ‘the best a man can get’ catchphrase for a while now, while other brands take shots at it, they’ve landed on this – a social stance that amounts to ‘boys and men can be better’, directed by Kim Gehrig (who also directed Sport England’s celebrated ‘This Girl Can‘):

The sentiment is commendable, and based on logic borne out of statistics that demonstrate the issues men are overwhelmingly responsible for, not the worst approach. I think it’s well put together, and as I touched on, a timely way to make good use of their tagline.

In that vein, the best I have to say for this ‘short film’ is – good marketing forces you to have an opinion either way. This ad definitely does that, and it will have many that love it. I don’t disagree with much in it.

Deeper than that though, it’s another heavy-handed piece of content on which to meditate – do consumers need a political or social stance from brands? Do they care, and outside of noisy Twitter fans and ephemeral posturing, will this make anybody want to pick a Gillette razor off the shelf? Because as much as good marketing forces you to have an opinion, the best marketing drives sales. The bottom line is the bottom line.

Just as nobody is waiting for a brand’s thought leadership, I don’t think normal human beings are waiting up at night to hear a brand’s social stance.

And, just like everything that came before it, including the provocative efforts of erstwhile PR pucks Paddy Power and BrewDog, woke marketing is and will be proved to be a trend, especially when the especially not-woke higher-ups realise the emphasis is played out and there’s no money in it.

You can’t have it both ways. It’s easy to laugh at how the crybabies burning their trainers in response to Nike’s (well-timed, well-executed, but still a tad cloying and cynical all the same, especially given Nike’s questionable ethics) Colin Kaepernick tie-in won’t make a dent in the giant’s sales, but I’d similarly bet on this ad doing little to turn around Gillette’s declining sales – down 3% year on year on account of fewer people shaving, despite having a 65% share of the market.

That’s even if it does causes a small but vocal minority to dance their way to the supermarket.

The more likely result is, marketing types pull a muscle patting Gillette on the back for this, all the way through to awards season – which, come on, will have been a consideration here. It’s my humble opinion that this spot was created to be fawned over by people impressed by Gillette’s awareness of social issues, not to affect sales.

This is by no means a Dove Real Beauty moment as much as they might believe it is internally, because I don’t think it’s coming from the same place. Time and sales will of course tell, but I have a feeling my target market friends that don’t live inside the same bubble we do will shrug their shoulders at the effort.

Perhaps there’s a gap here, as the majority of brands do continue to ignore political and social sentiment; afraid to try and get it wrong (oh hi, Pepsi), for a brand to push back against all this wokeness and, a la Oasis’ 2015 ad efforts, try to be a bit more honest.

‘You know what? We don’t care about your politics. You do you. We sell razors. Want to buy razors? Ours are affordable and won’t Wolverine your face.’

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