The best a PR stunt can be? - Dooley PR

Gillette has certainly sparked a lot of debate with its advertisement: “We believe: the best men can be.”

From a PR measurement standpoint alone, the film has succeeded in generating massive publicity for the razor brand receiving tens of millions of video views and millions more in earned media impressions. People around the world are talking about the brand, and they’re debating what it means to be a man in the #metoo era.

Some critics say the film is maddening because it equates masculinity with toxic masculinity (a catchphrase that covers all manner of bad male behaviour). By seemingly blaming all men for the behaviour of some men, critics say the film has gone too far. Some say they’ll now boycott the brand as a result, claiming it has abandoned decades of positive male branding in a fit of political correctness.

If you take a gander at the brand’s advertising over the years, it has always appealed to men being the “best they can be” (which the commercials show as being upstanding providers, husbands, fathers, brothers, friends). The men in their commercials are virile, successful, athletic and, of course, well groomed. They work, fix things, play sports, help sons learn how to shave and are irresistible to their beautiful wives or girlfriends.

Has the new film departed from that image? A close viewing says that it still homes in pretty close to the same themes. In this case, it celebrates the dudes who call out bad behaviour, who are the peacemakers, who are the ones willing to speak up and confront bullies and harassers. At the same time, the critics say the company offended a large part of its customer base and therefore missed its mark in its execution. Presumably, the absence of awful female behaviour in the commercial has led large numbers of people to assume the company believes only men behave badly.

Brave brands are winning the day

Gillette is following in the footsteps of other brands such as Nike, which courted controversy in last year’s video featuring Colin Kaepernick. The new Gillette video took a brand from being mundane to being the centre of conversations around dining room tables and office coolers everywhere. I doubt Gillette razors have been ever been discussed this much by this many people. For the relatively low cost of a single video, the brand was shot to the forefront of pop culture.

It’s a great example of storytelling and shows how the worlds of marketing and public relations are blurring. Judging from news coverage, the company is clearly happy with the reaction. It said it expected the commercial would spark a conversation. We expect they’re awaiting sales results to determine ultimate success or failure.

While people can quibble with the execution, we applaud brands that are brave; brands that aren’t afraid to be true to their core values. It’s possible that Gillette could have sent the same message without being so provocative, but then it probably would not have earned this much attention either.

What do you think? Did Gillette hit or miss with this one? How bold is your brand willing to be?

If you’re interested in more coverage on this story, check out the links below:

  1. January 23, 2019

    Great analysis Adam! I think they absolutely hit the mark with this and I also think this ad is directed as much at me and my peers, who buy razors and shaving cream for our husbands, partners, sons, as it is at men.

    • January 23, 2019

      Thanks. You raise a good point. The ad most certainly was targeting women as much as men. P.S. for the record, I buy my own razors 🙂

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