Besides, you know, the importance of being a better human
If you’ve had internet issues in the last three days, it may be due to the fact that Procter & Gamble’s Gillette brand came pretty close to breaking the whole thing Sunday when it kicked off its newest campaign with the now viral “We Believe” spot. Fortune contributor David Meyer said the ad makes Nike’s Colin Kaepernick statement look “coy.” Conservative commentator Piers Morgan called it “an ugly, vindictive two-minute homage to everything that’s bad about men and masculinity.” So what the heck is all the hoopla about?
See for yourself on YouTube, but here’s the gist: Gillette addresses toxic masculinity in a spot that directly refers to the #MeToo movement and calls out behaviors like sexual harassment, mansplaining, bullying and the overall “boys will be boys” mentality. Of course, it’s all done as a rallying cry for men to hold each other accountable and – this is where the brand rings loud and clear – challenge the notions of “the best a man can get.”
Enter broken internet reference from earlier
The “We Believe” spot has wracked up more than 11 million YouTube views in just three days with approximately 260,000 likes and 645,000 dislikes at the time of this post. So yeah, people are watching and, boy, do they have opinions. Just check the ol’ Twitterverse where fun hashtags like #BoycottGillette and #GetWokeGoBroke are trending. Here are a couple you won’t want to miss:
It’s easy (and admittedly a little fun) to get lost in the Twitter storm. But let’s back it up and look at this spot purely from a branding perspective. Here are three things to remember:
1. The message is on brand – quite literally
The campaign is a branding shift born from reinventing Gillette’s 30-year tagline. The brand is using its own language to move from “The Best a Man Can Get” to “The Best a Man Can Be,” i.e. to evolve from a company that delivers high-quality products to a brand with a purpose that relates to its core demographic. It’s a strategic move, and a risky one, but it’s hard to argue that it is off brand – especially with the open and direct messaging on the campaign’s landing page addressing this change.
2. The brand is backing its message – with money
The spot and Gillette’s social posts all lead back to a landing page that explains the brand isn’t all talk. It pledges to change the types of images and words it uses in its future advertisements and communications to better represent men. But it doesn’t stop there. Gillette also commits to donating $1 million a year for three years to nonprofits that help men and boys, beginning with the Boys & Girls Club of America.
3. The social media is… just okay
The brand dropped the full 1:48 spot on its social media platforms on Sunday, changed its cover images to reflect the campaign and introduced #TheBestMenCanBe as a campaign hashtag. Yet, for the most part, Gillette has been quiet on social since. Someone has been responding to positive tweets, thanking people for their support, but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of responding to the oodles of people bashing the brand (and how!). Sure, one could argue that you don’t want to feed the trolls, but it really is a best practice for brands to reply to the good and the bad online, as long as they keep responses simple and helpful and never engage in actual argument. Essentially, Gillette should have someone glued to a laptop, replying to everyone in these first crucial days following the campaign’s release. Imagine how much more effective this concept of “the Best a Man Can Be” could be if we saw the brand responding in a way that matched the ideals it’s supporting. And, maybe, some additional content?
Bonus! What we’d love to see
The brand’s campaign landing page states, “From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette.” We’re hoping this pledge will include a rich, meaningful content strategy complete with blogs, videos, infographics and a podcast that work together in smart and empathetic ways to tell the stories of real men with diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, lifestyles and interests. In other words, here’s hoping that this is a genuine effort and not just a campaign with a $3 million courtesy donation (Gillette does rake in $6 billion in annual sales after all) and an expiration date.
Of course the question is: will it work?
Nike’s “coy” little statement ad paid off – somewhere in the realm of $6 billion. Will Gillette share similar success for speaking up? The American Psychological Association (APA) did recently acknowledge “traditional” masculinity as psychologically damaging to boys, issuing 36 pages of guidelines on the matter. And research does show that more than 9 out of 10 Millennials will switch brands if a brand supports a cause they believe in… so you can sort of see how Gillette’s campaign could hit its mark in a big way. But only time will tell.
I tried to stay as neutral as possible, but sometimes you just have to let your Feminist flag fly (that’s a saying, right?). One final thought for any men who object to the Gillette ad on the grounds that it’s condescending to try to teach a man how to think in a TV spot selling personal care products… Have you ever heard of Dove? Or basically any beauty product ever targeted at women? Or, um, the ad industry in general that has spent somewhere around a century making a business out of telling women how to think, look, behave and feel? Riiiiight…
Taking a stand as a brand is complex, and you want to make sure you’re prepared and on point. Need help with your strategy or messaging? Get in touch!
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