By Paul Bilardo
Undoubtedly most people have heard of shaving company Gillette’s most recent campaign coinciding with the #MeToo movement that struck the internet like a storm and got those who were silent to begin speaking. The short film advertisement, named We Believe: The Best Men Can Be tackles modern social conflict including sexual harassment, bullying and overall misogyny embedded in the everyday culture. A play on Gillette’s long-time slogan ‘The Best a Man Can Get’, the advertisement features a plethora of disrespectfully normalized masculine situations including mansplaining at a corporate meeting, catcalling and targeted bullying of a young boy. Coupled with multiple examples of toxic masculinity through media over the years, the latter half of the video features men asking others to be accountable for their disrespectful actions. Gillette took the initiative, using their platform to support a cause through a PR lens that strays away from their traditional mission.
Historically, Gillette (owned by Proctor & Gamble) has aired advertisements that features a man using their products, inevitably resulting in a woman finding him irresistible. While this strategy has been used repeatedly, they not only decided to change their style, they changed their message. “This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own,” stated Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette’s North American brand director who played a huge role in the go-ahead of the campaign. Gillette was clearly able to realize their platform of influence and rather than taking the backseat, took the strategic gamble of taking a stance on the highly controversial subject of misogyny and toxic masculinity traits in today’s social culture. The campaign doesn’t just rest on its message however, the company has also pledged $1 million dollars a year (for three years) to The Boys & Girls Clubs of America in an attempt to fund gender equality education and overall improvement of the programs.
Naturally, as is with any marketing decision (specifically digital media) there was immediate feedback. Many praised the message behind the campaign, while others slandered it completely (even making it one of the top 30 most disliked videos on YouTube). The advertisement’s message split the internet right down the middle, with men’s rights activists boycotting the company and those who support the video commending Gillette for using their voice.
The decision (through a public relations standpoint) to make the campaign public was a bold one that made Gillette the talk of the digital world for a few days. While they may have lost a portion of their consumers, they’ve gained the respect of an entirely new audience that will support them for their stance, if not for their product. In a world filled with corporate transparency, it’s refreshing to see a firm stance on a belief with a consensual understanding of the impact it may have on your brand.