Gillette made a bold move and is apparently more than ready to pay for it. A campaign that was released today features a short film illustrating men engaged in in a whole array of ubiquitous and noxious behaviors and then examples of men stepping up to the challenge of ... real manhood. Sexual assault, harassment, bullying -- and raising young men to look past or condone most if not all of the above: Real men know better. That is the gist of the campaign. In the $3 Billion market for men's razors, competition is more fierce than ever. Gillette is making a statement by not only acknowledging that these are real patterns and real problems in modern society but by challenging its customers to consider themselves potentially part of the problem.
Sounds like the wheels of progress turning. The shaving giant is making a calculation that its future begins with the customer base that either won't punish it or might even reward it. For taking a stand against "toxic masculinity" and inappropriate behavior that is so routinely dismissed by men as mere "boys will be boys" or "locker room talk" the division of Procter and Gamble (PG (NYSE) $91.15 -0.58 (-0.63%) at time of posting) got immediate and strong reaction.
Of course, not everyone agrees. The calculation is likely a familiar one. Like Nike did by
including Colin Kaepernick in its big campaign in the summer of 2018 (discussed on this blog here), Gillette clearly believes that this film, made by AOR Grey New York, will earn the loyalty of a larger market segment than it alienates.
Men like the one who tweeted, "[y]ou may have your name on my football stadium but you lost my business" are apparently not part of the plan anymore. The toxic masculinity at which the campaign is aimed is on full display right now in social media.
Patrick Coffee reports in AdWeek's "Ad of the Day column today that "[i]n a series of surveys preceding the work, P&G and the research division of Omnicom PR firm Ketchum found that men and women in the United States believed the following four attributes define a “great man”: honesty, moral integrity, hard work and respect of others. Participants listed the most popular things men could do to be considered “great” as being a good father, setting a good example and taking unprompted action to help those in need."
“Gillette believes in the best in men,” Gary Coombe, President of P&G Global Grooming said in a statement released by the company. “By holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior and supporting a new generation working toward their personal ‘best,’ we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come.”
The company, whose "World Shaving Headquarters" is only a mile or two from Emblem Strategic here in the Boston area, has pledged some financial contributions and additional activities to come in support of helping men to be the best that they can be.
Watch the film. It will make you think, whether you like the approach they took or not; and whether you agree with the strategy or not.
Once again, the most important question for each of us thinking about the best strategy for our business is not "what did they do?" but "what can we do?" There is some issue that some important segment of your stakeholders needs you to address. It could be your existing customer or employee base, or it could be the ones you would be better off attracting in the long run. And that issue - whatever it is - can be addressed through your business in a way that makes it stronger. It's nice that Gillette set up a foundation with some thought leadership and gifts to good causes but it will be both more interesting and higher impact if Gillette can achieve something on this set of critically important issues through how it chooses to do its business.
Andy Tarsy is founder and principal of Emblem Strategic.