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Gillette Gets Masculinity Mixed-Up

Gillette’s new ad campaign reveals more than just a company looking to jump on the “socially aware” bandwagon.

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It’s The Why, Not The What

Reports indicate that Nike’s “Kaepernick” campaign was successful as both advertising (increasing sales) and as controversial social commentary. In this case, it appears to have had the intended effect.

The “Success has many Fathers” rule led, unavoidably, the next batch of socially aware commentary with a taste of controversy. A great new genre and, overall, a positive move and redefinition of advertising?

In the case of Gillette, it begs the question, why Gillette and why now? The previous Gillette campaign “Boston Made” was a stark departure from their staple of ads, oriented towards product shots and hawking of benefits, that go back decades. Why change now to new styles and directions?

A revolution in direct-to-consumer branding in the U.S.A., that’s why.

The huge and unexpected success of upstarts in the once impenetrable shaving supplies market by online “answer brands” like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club was behind a drop in Gillette’s 70% of the market in 2008 to only 50% in 2017.

For more than a century Gillette and Schick were #1 and #2 in a huge men’s shaving industry which recently accounted for $2.8 billion in annual sales. Suddenly, the two main upstarts have grown to around 10% of that.

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A bite of that magnitude, and one that is growing, was enough to awaken the sleeping giant. First, an attempt at rebranding as a kind of “local” start-up with the “Boston Made” campaign mentioned above, and now, with the “We Believe: The best men can be” ad, the giant is fighting back.

Problems of veracity with the Boston ads, and perhaps looking a little desperate with the newest socially aware salvo notwithstanding, we should all still applaud this story and others like it.

Having four or more choices and pricing options in a formerly closed market is a clear advantage for consumers. And, regardless of your take on the content or message in the “Believe” clip above, it’s still better and more interesting to see this than yet another animated imaginary blade cutting fake hairs on a cartoon chin “oh so close and easy”.

Even this video response from Égard Watch Company adds to the conversation and to the variety of opinions, not just on “what is a man?” but even more so: “what is an advertisement?”.

Ok, opportunistic? Sure. But at least new things are being tried and tested.

Be it Razor’s or a Mattress or any other product, with help from changes brought on by eCommerce, the wave of companies finding ways to capture even 10% of a previously stagnant market are a ray of hope and a healthy shot of competition.

“Even this video response from Égard Watch Company adds to the conversation and to the variety of opinions, not just on “what is a man?” but even more so: “what is an advertisement?”.”


Never mind that Harry’s was recently bought by Unilever (and was thereby swallowed up by Gillette’s main competitor since P&G owns Gillette), the wave of new companies across all categories, many of which were thought of as impossible to enter at any cost, is a win for us all and one of the most exciting trends to emerge as the internet begins it’s third decade.

So, hooray! and thanks to Nike (although, perhaps the extra $6 billion in sales are thanks enough). Here’s to hoping that more large companies will jump into the fray with more “crazy” campaigns to recapture relevance (and market share) from the new kids on the block.

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