Gillette’s closest shave yet?

Gillette - best man he can be

Iconic men’s shaving brand, Gillette, made a bold move this month with a new ad campaign. Ditching their almost equally iconic tagline, the best a man can get’ in favour of a tip of the hat to the #MeToo movement and to distance themselves from the controversial ‘toxic masculinity’ culture, the new Gillette man is the ‘best man he can be’.

You might think that an ad promoting respect to women, and each other would be hard to criticise, however, is it a moral high ground that one of the most archetypal alpha male brands in the marketplace can preach from? With the rise of the Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s and the other millennial-orientated shaving brands breaking into Gillette’s territory, a strategic move that enabled a shift in their positioning was needed. Perhaps an overhaul of ‘the best a man can get’ was overdue but was it delivered appropriately and almost more importantly, effectively?

The BBC reported that the ad was watched more than 2 million times on YouTube within just 48 hours. Campaign Live reports that nearly 40 percent of women reacted negatively to the Gillette ad, and on social media, men are taking great offence too, trying to send #boycottgillette viral. It may be splitting opinion but it is reaching a huge audience and rapidly. When was the last time a Gillette ad really caught attention online?

So does Gillette have enough brand equity to ride out the storm for the longer term gain of a brand with more substance? Can you actively promote a rather shallow and primarily aesthetic aspiration in men for decades, and switch it up in one campaign, not alienate your existing market, but also engage a new one? It was a bold move, and despite the reported controversial public reception, one we think has paid off.

SurveyGoo conducted a survey with 2000 members of the general public to explore what they really feel about Gillette and the ad.

The demographic with the best recall of the ad, were 18-34 years and of that age group, it was mostly male Londoners. An overwhelming 85% of this demographic, actually liked the advert. In fact only 10% of people surveyed felt strongly that the advert offended them.

As you might expect, younger audiences discovered the ad online, but the majority of our survey panel (69%) discovered the ad more traditionally, via their tv. So despite the media reporting a wealth of emotive responses across social media, it appears the bigger audience is actually still accessing the ad on TV.

Taking into account Gillette’s historic, more shallow and aesthetic view of the world, 58% of our panel felt that Gillette should run advertising campaigns that highlight issues such as men’s behaviour, or other social issues. This is a critical finding, endorsing Gillette’s decision to move away from the visage of the perfect looking, alpha male to a more tangible, relatable model of men and current issues. In our digital world, we have almost unrestricted access to brands we’re interested in and expect full disclosure. We want and expect them to have a good ethos and personality, alongside a great product. This idea of substance and adding depth to the brand would be difficult to insert into the historic Gillette ads which primarily featured flawless men in towels, smiling in the mirror.
Regarding the wider comments being made in the press about toxic masculinity, and Gillette’s position on the topic. Awareness of the term is really quite limited to those aged between 18 and 34 years, and even then only 28% of people surveyed had heard of the term. This does suggest that the risk of toxic masculinity labels damaging their brand is quite limited.

Fundamentally, when asked whether the ad would make our panel more or less likely to purchase Gillette ads in the future, 63% felt completely indifferent! Of those that were existing Gillette users, only 8% responded that the ad would make them less likely to buy Gillette going forwards. Not entirely the widespread boycott we are being led to believe!

In conclusion, aligning with the #MeToo movement was never going to be plain sailing, and wading in as a hugely successful alpha male brand was brave. But the hardest shift has now been accomplished. Gillette can now use their huge platform and resource to refine their messaging, add depth, show a different personality and agenda, and extol virtues beyond abs and cheekbones. Gillette is reinventing itself and despite some social media controversy, remains a household name. This campaign has increased Gillette’s exposure dramatically and will enable them to begin communicating with men in a much more relevant and engaging way.

About this Survey

The research was carried out by Surveygoo which conducted an online survey among 2,000 respondents across the UK. The sample of adults was randomly selected from our survey panel and weighted to be representative of the UK population for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability at the country level was +/- 2.2% at 95% confidence limit. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The research was conducted between 21st and 24th January 2019.

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