What Just Happened? The Best Gillette Can Get

18 January 2019

By the With Content Team

This week, the safety razor brand Gillette swept up a lot of media attention with their campaign against toxic masculinity. It goes without saying that the role of gender norms in the world of marketing has been a turbulent issue recently. The giant social weight attached to this topic makes conversation gravitate towards it, and marketers are eagerly listening. Gillette is an especially interesting case in point, however, because exactly what they are trying to achieve with this campaign is hard to decipher.

Nike’s 2018 “Believe in something” campaign followed the same type of trend. By taking a stance on Colin Kaepernick’s controversial decision to kneel during the US national anthem, Nike placed themselves at the centre of a highly talked-about international conversation. And when Greggs launched a vegan sausage roll the country was up in arms! What’s this all about? An analysis of Gillette should provide an answer.

To some, the answer is straightforward. Unsurprisingly, Piers Morgan thinks “The best men can be” campaign is simply the latest ploy to appeal to “PC-crazed” millennials. There is an element of truth to this. Without a doubt, Gillette wants millennials to care about their brand, but not because Generation Y are infatuated by so-called PC culture. The challenge to toxic masculinity should not be trivialised by this now predictable response.

Instead of taking a passive role, Gillette has recognised that contributing to the conversation about toxic masculinity adds social value to their brand. This is a very sharp move, because it taps into a broadly shared cultural interest among millennials – that is, the social value of an action. When a brand makes it known that it supports a particular issue through a campaign, the anticipated outcome is (hopefully) greater brand affinity. And, on the other hand, due to the controversial nature of social activism, whoever opposes the view you espouse will serve to propel your message even further with the subsequent public outrage, precisely as Piers Morgan has done this time round AND in the past.

A further question that needs attention, however, is whether Gillette’s new campaign aims solely to generate brand awareness, or whether they truly care. And if the answer is more the former than the latter – is this more damaging in the long run?

The “This Girl Can” campaign, launched in January 2015 has successfully increased female inclusion in sport. This is an example of a campaign with a very clear goal. With Gillette, however, things are not so clear. Gillette’s new target audience probably don’t have much need for razors. (I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are many 25-40-year olds with beards.) What this suggests is that Gillette are largely focused on doing future-proofing brand awareness above and beyond any greater social cause.

One thing is clear: the times they are a changin’. When messages become outdated it’s usually because society has changed, along with your own, your friends’ or parent’s views. For Gillette, it’s not out of the question to assume that, probably, it’s time it moved on from its three-decade old slogan too.