Gillette Just Did WHAT????

The best a man can get? The best a man can be? The best a brand can be?

Gillette knew it was stepping into a discussion, if not a controversy, when leaders sat down with Grey to discuss the new campaign. It is an ad, directed by a woman (thanks to P&G’s 2016 “Free the Bid” initiative), telling the best of men to stand up to hold one another accountable for the “toxic” behavior of the worst of them. To say that there has been backlash would be an understatement.

In less than a month, the ad has been viewed over 27 million times (and counting) on YouTube alone, and journalists covering the phenomenon are quick to point out that the YouTube thumbs-down dislikes (1.3M) WELL exceed the likes (737K). Ignoring all of the “They Removed My Dislike” conspiracy theories, the comment section takes on a markedly terrifying tone that skews from the ironic (the gentleman that uses sexism to combat his disdain for the ad by informing viewers that he’s told his wife she is not allowed to buy P&G products any more) to the offensive. 

The noise from the crowd has been deafening. Here is a taste:

In an AdAge article, Jack Neff reveals some fascinating social stats about the spot:

  • Marketing intelligence firm BrandTotal found social media sentiment toward Gillette's ad to be overwhelmingly negative (63 percent) vs. 8 percent positive and 29 percent neutral.
  • Social-listening firm Converseon found it negatively perceived by a 45-percent to 34-percent margin.

This is where it gets interesting. Yes…social buzz is incredibly negative (and offensive), but according to AceMetrix, our friends that track and measure the impact of video advertising, the spot “easily beat norms across all performance measures,” including attention grabbing (25 percent+) and likability (22 percent+).

But this, friends, is the big one: 65 percent of viewers indicated that the ad made them more or much more likely to purchase from the brand whereas only 8 percent of viewers were less or much less likely to purchase after watching the ad.

Sales post-campaign appears to be more in line with the AceMextrix findings than the sentiment across social chatter as P&G notes sales are “in line with pre-campaign levels.” Jon Moeller, P&G’s CFO told AdAge that part of the intention behind the campaign was to more directly and meaningfully connect with young consumer groups…you know…all those guys sporting beards now and not racing out to buy lots of razor blades. “Early results when you look at the age-group specifics, both internally and externally, reflect that we’re accomplishing that objective.”

“We continue to be pleased with the level of consumption post the advertisement both in traditional retail channels and importantly on the Gillette shave club.”

In a conversation with Forbes, P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard noted, “We wanted to start an important conversation, and we sure have done that. What’s been really encouraging is you’ve seen people say how much the work moved them, and discussion about what it means to be a good man in today’s world.”

So what can be learned here? Should we all race out and adopt a cause and a controversial video to go along with it? I mean, ALL the cool kids (from Nike to all the copy-cat “Men are awesome just the way they are” ads that have cropped up) are doing it! Here are just a couple of my thoughts:

  • This is a case of Gillette listening for and to the voice of their customer… and not the voice of the crowd. The crowd is PISSED. They loved the chiseled chin and impossible physique of the half-naked man shaving as his scantily clad, and also impossibly beautiful, lady friend looks on…you know…because shaving is super exciting to watch and admire as it is happening. They aspired to be HIM…and we capitalized on that aspiration. We encouraged it with little to no awareness of what impact it would have psychologically or sociologically. But I digress. Back to the listening. Gillette is listening for the voice of their customer in this debate… and that brings me to the second point…
  • While these angry, angry men of social are many of Gillette’s users, they, perhaps, are not their customer. As the angry man of YouTube explained, he had to tell his wife to stop buying Gillette. He shared that he is 75 years old… and I’d wager that he hasn’t purchased his own razors for as long as he has had facial hair, first relying on his mother and then his wife. So perhaps… he was never the voice Gillette was listening for… which brings me to…
  • Gillette took a calculated risk. This is a brand that still has images of their brand literally emblazoned on the rear-ends of models. But, in the wake of a call to clean the swamp of toxicity from parent company P&G, and an understanding that younger generations gravitate to purpose, this risk appears to have a far more calculated and safe landing spot.

Regardless of strategy or intention going in, Gillette needed to have a strategy for managing the conversation… a strategy for listening that went beyond what the CMO Council learned the overwhelming majority of brands think social media is for: amplifying PR messages. Had that been all Gillette was doing… pushing and not listening… this campaign would be an expensive failure.

By listening… and truly knowing and understanding their customer and the prospects they would like to get to know better, Gillette has started a conversation that needs to be continued. But potentially more importantly, Gillette needs to have systems in place that aggregate voice, allowing them to push beyond the din and chaos of the angry crowd, pin point the conversations, including the highly negative ones, and continue a bi-directional dialogue. Challenge those who challenge the concept. Talk to the most ardent critics. And most importantly, do what the ad suggests: celebrate change that we all work together to realize.


Until next month!


@lizkmiller on Twitter

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