Last week, Boston-based razor company Gillette launched a new video entitled “We Believe” to kick off its new “The Best Men Can Be” digital campaign. Since then, the video has been viewed more than 23 million times on YouTube, retweeted more than 235,000 times, and parodied by the likes of Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live. It has been a frequent topic of heated conversation in political pundit shows and social media comments alike.
The ad builds off of Gillette’s 30-year-old slogan “The Best a Man Can Get” by urging men to speak up and act out against bullying, sexual harassment and assault, and violence. It calls for an end to the excuse “boys will be boys,” and reminds viewers that “the boys watching today, will be the men of tomorrow.” The commercial ends with a call to action to visit thebestmencanbe.org.
Experts throughout the business and academic communities have shared their well-researched analyses of the commercial – and society’s reaction – throughout the past few days, using the lenses of consumerism, gender politics, social commentary and financial success. Regardless of personal views, Gillette’s video offers several key takeaways for brands interested in taking more of a stand regarding social issues.
Never underestimate the importance of timing.
The timing of Gillette’s online ad launch – three weeks before the Super Bowl – is intentional. A 30-second spot during the Big Game costs $5 million this year, meaning the two-minute Gillette ad would cost $20 million to air. Think of all of the free airtime the spot has received in the past week instead.
“Ultimately, the goal of great advertising and marketing is to cut through the clutter and create a conversation,” wrote entrepreneur Dave Kerpen in an article for Inc. “It’s about frequency and reach, and Gillette has done that in a cost-effective way here.”
Also, the extra few weeks give the ad a clear advantage to set itself apart from other social issue-based Super Bowl commercials, which have grown far more common in recent years.
“Gillette strategically released this ad just before the Super Bowl to benefit from the spotlight on advertisements, but without getting lost in the clutter of Super Bowl Sunday,” advertising executive Spencer Gerrol said in an interview with USA Today. “Now, not only does Gillette get all of the Super Bowl momentum, they also set the bar by which all other advertisements coming out on and leading up to the big day will be judged.”
Taking a stand can revive an outdated brand.
It is no secret that Gillette – which is part of the Procter & Gamble family of brands - has taken a substantial hit in recent years due to the success of subscription-based razor start-ups Dollar Shave Club (now owned by Unilever) and Harry’s. Over the past 10 years alone, Gillette’s market share has fallen from 70 percent to 50 percent.
A Morning Consult survey conducted in the two days immediately following the Gillette video launch found that 56 percent of consumers who use Harry’s or Dollar Shave Club products indicated they’d be more likely to buy from Gillette after viewing the “Best Men Can Be” video, while only 18 percent said they’d be less likely to buy from Gillette.
The survey also found that after viewing the ad, 71 percent of consumers agreed that Gillette “shared their values” (compared with 42 percent before viewing), and 72 percent agreed that Gillette “is socially responsible” (compared with 45 percent before viewing the ad).
By positioning itself as a socially responsible company, Gillette is more likely to attract the key demographic it has lost the most due to competition – millennials. Research shows again and again that millennial consumers are more likely to choose and stay loyal to a brand that has a strong purpose and social consciousness. As Kerpen wrote:
“This ad speaks to the majority of millennials and even younger men who are noting the changing times and want an easy way to support change. In fact, ironically it might be easier for a young man to buy a Gillette razor than to speak up against his macho sexist buddy. Guess what generation Gillette wants to build lifelong loyalty with today? I'll give you a clue: It's not Baby Boomers.”
Make the Message Count.
Not much has been said about the actual “The Best Men Can Be” website mentioned at the end of the video, but it has some of the most important context within which to view the Gillette campaign.
“It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man,” the welcome page states.
The site goes on to announce that Gillette will be donating a total of $3 million over the next three years to non-profit organizations that help continue this message. The first partner organization is the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Ultimately, yes – the Gillette “We Believe” video is an attempt to increase market share and brand awareness and, as a result, sell more men’s razors. But this does not negate the positive impact the ad and corresponding campaign can have on society, whether in the form of charitable donations or a change in collective awareness. Slate writer Melinda Wenner Moyer sums it up best:
“P&G can have financial incentives and still make an ad worth lauding. These two things are not mutually exclusive. And this ad is a step in the right direction, because the more we collectively hear the message that sexual harassment is unacceptable, that bullying is wrong, and that helping victims is noble, the more this message will shape our—and our children’s—everyday choices. . . . Cultural shifts happen when every aspect of culture embraces and normalizes a change.”
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Image credit: Gillette
Megan is a writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. She is the author of Show Up and Bring Coffee, a book highlighting how to support friends who are parents of disabled children. You can follow her at JoyfulBraveAwesome.com.