Best a brand can get?

January 2019 | By Brian Heffron

What’s it mean to be a real man? Gillette asks that question in a spot that aims to insert the shaving brand into national conversations around issues like #MeToo and cyberbullying. It takes a reflective look in the mirror at its old self and its “The Best a Man Can Get” message, while turning that same mirror on men it suggests enable bad behavior.

The spot is getting attention – good and bad – in the media and on social.  But does it hit the mark? Or fall flat? We asked folks across our agency.

It used to be considered risky for brands to take a stand on issues, movements or politics. The chair”men” at the board of directors towed the bottom lines and wouldn’t make waves as fear it would be a detriment to their brand. The modernization of marketing is showing us time and again that consumers not only love honestly, but actually champion brands that stand for something.  We no longer live in an era where silence in marketing pays off, quite the opposite, consumers are hungry for perceived truth in advertising.  This campaign to me was a brand growing up.  Yes, their main goal is to sell razors, but in making an attempt to make amends for a sexist past is owning the moment and showing that they understand their place and role in a thankfully evolving and changing modern world. #donnamartingraduates

 Will Claflin, Digital Storyteller

I fully support when brands put a stake in the ground and use their public microphone to stand up for a cause. In this specific case, Gillette chose a cause that is relevant and entirely on brand for such a “manly” company, which is key when standing up for a cause. Where I believe this ad fell short was how they went about representing this message. With more and more brands joining the “take a stand” bandwagon it is more important than ever to come across as authentic and not to portray yourself as taking a stand simply to appear better in the public eye. While this ad did briefly highlight some real men examples it then jumped to a comedic yard scene with lots of dads and their grills, before jumping to a dramatic reenactment. If the brand cannot decide on a clear direction to portray their message the impact of what they’re trying to achieve may be diluted.

– Jenny Crandall, Social Media & Content Specialist

I absolutely love that Gillette took a stand in support of men. Over the past couple of years brands have found themselves in a position of taking a stand for something – racism, feminism, the list goes on. Men have been framed in a negative light not just by other ads and the media but by books written by strong women that have shared their stories. Gillette is basically saying that not all men are the same – there are good men out there. Men that stand for human rights, men that help empower women, men against bulling, men that have compassion – and those men need to be highlighted. Celebrated. Be made the example. Today, brands need to either stand for something or just sell products. I love that Gillette chose to stand for something.

Yeliza Centeio, Associate Media Director

If a brand is going to take a stand it better mean it. This spot didn’t convince me Gillette means it. It felt like it was conveniently coopting a movement. No one doubted the authenticity of Dove’s Real Beauty message because it told real stories of real women and supported the message with depth.  Gillette should have stayed away from actors playing cliched roles and built the spot on real people – like the dad holding his daughter in front of a mirror repeating that she is strong – or just talk to real dads about their experiences. They could then add layers with thoughtful PR, social, CSR and grassroots elements. Minus that, this spot felt contrived.

Brian Heffron, partner 

Gillette has always stood for a version of “what a man is”.  Cheers to them for this attempt to stand for a new version.  I’ll be watching to see if they follow this all the way through–if they turn this into more than a social video.  If they invest in a Super Bowl spot.  If they do more than donate $1MM yearly to charities but instead drive and participate in this ongoing conversation.  If they move beyond the stunt.

Majja Dennis, Managing Director

Interesting that they use some real footage.  Because that stuff works. But just serves to accentuate the cheesy-ness of the scenes they shot.

Grant Pace, partner & Executive Creative Director

Taking a stand for societal issues is always a risky proposition. Even if there are good intentions, it can be perceived as taking advantage of a sensitive event or movement, simply to score points.  In these instances the tone and execution are extremely important.  For me, the execution of this spot did not strike the right tone.  The actors are overtly playing roles, and the scenes themselves are obviously meant to feel staged. Maybe it was meant to keep the spot from feeling too dark and heavy but, as a result, it does not transport me, or strike a visceral, human chord. The fact that it was over-acted and over-produced makes me feel like the brand is leveraging a social movement to score points, as opposed to sincerely standing behind something it deeply, truly believes in. Procter & Gamble also created the Always “Like a Girl” campaign, which was very powerful, sincere and extremely well executed.  I applaud taking a stand on an important issue, but this execution was not as powerful as it could have been.

Kevin Redmond, VP, Director of Growth & Innovation

Lead by example – a saying often heard but not always followed. Watching the spot as a mother of a young girl and boy, I often worry about the place this world is becoming. I worry for my kids safety, I worry about bullying in schools and I worry about all I can’t control that could hurt them in some way, shape or form. It’s clear that my kids watch everything we do. Everything. They want to be just like mom and dad so they mimic our behaviors and pick up the words we use (full transparency, that has backfired on me a couple times). I truly loved Gillette’s message and approach – strong men step in, do the right thing, are peacemakers, and help make positive change in big and small ways. Our kids are watching all of us so we need to lead by example. I can only hope my son and daughter grow up to be strong and kind. That’d make me very happy.

Lauren Kimball, VP, Director of Account Management

I’ve recently been a Harry’s guy, though all they really stood for to me was cost and convenience. Props to Gillette for standing for something more. I’ll happily go back to CVS and pay a little more.

Fred Conover, president

This is an interesting move for a brand like Gillette. Some of their target will not understand or agree with what they’re communicating. That’s already evident by comments on social media; comments like ‘never buying Gillette again’ and ‘you’ve convinced me to grow a beard’ are rampant. But it’s hard to know if those are empty threats or actual customers lost. Either way, I appreciate brands that can take a look at the past and decide they no longer want to contribute to a cultural narrative that is, for lack of a better word, toxic. What’ll be important now is that Gillette upholds this new narrative even if it does lose customers. That will show whether this is truly a brand shift or just a marketing campaign.

Caitlyn Pearson, Senior Account Executive

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