Opinion

‘I am surprised it took Gillette this long to evolve’

More than a revolutionary approach, the new Gillette ad is an example of yet another multinational playing cultural catchup, says Digitas's Keith Byrne

Some people are angry and threatening to never buy Gillette products ever again. Others think the brand’s new campaign is an honest and timely statement reflecting how a modern man should act. Either way the new campaign from P&G is a clear winner.

When I first saw the two-minute long film, I certainly didn’t feel angry like the many men (and some women) who have stated they will never buy Gillette ever again. Nor did I feel I was watching something truly groundbreaking.

Don’t get me wrong, the film is well executed by Kim Gehrig (This Girl Can, Viva La Vulva) and comes with obvious and timely statements on bullying, toxic masculinity and the #metoo movement. Statements I fully agree with.

For me, the campaign is simply another example of a brand evolving to fit the times. Another example of a corporation reflecting and using a shift in societal standards to sell. Another example of a multinational playing cultural catchup.

The Gillette campaign reminds me of when Lynx dropped the ‘lynx effect’ and stopped making ads with ‘babes in bikinis’. There was initially some backlash (particularly when the brand featured two men kissing) but in the long run, sales of deodorant went up.

I’m sure P&G would have looked closely at how Lynx evolved and decided to follow a similar path. Because the truth is Gillette really couldn’t afford to make another skippable global campaign. The once category leader has been losing market share for the past decade. Continually discounting its products and losing billions along the way.

For Gillette, the choice was a simple: ‘We either keep discounting or we use marketing to get us top of mind again.’ And on this occasion, clever strategy and smart execution has worked.

I’m actually surprised it’s taken the brand this long to evolve when you consider the ‘The best a man can get’ positioning has been around for 30 years.

When the online trolls have moved on to some other issue, I’m sure the gentlemen (and their wives, moms and girlfriends) will keep buying Gillette. And I’m sure this campaign will have won over a new generation of shavers, as well as reminded an older generation that the brand still exists.

There’s a lesson here.

Brands shouldn’t suddenly become brave when sales are in decline. They shouldn’t go on the offensive when under attack. They should instead be continually evolving their marketing to reflect society’s values. Gillette’s new campaign isn’t a revolution, more a natural evolution. They are not the first and certainly won’t be the last to use a cultural shift to sell.

Keith Byrne is creative director at Digitas

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