Over the last few days interest and commentary has been building around the new ad from Gillette, which tackles the very tricky subject of toxic masculinity, and it looks like the debate is set to continue over this highly polarising subject.
In recent times, several major brands have, with varying degrees of success, attempted to tackle issues that are a topical societal issue, and there are arguments from both sides of the coin as to whether or not this is something that belongs in advertising and promotional campaigns.
As the ABC has reported, the YouTube video of the campaign earned more than 300,000 dislikes within two days of being posted, so it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that Gillette has made an error of judgement by travelling down this shaky path.
However, history has shown in this arena that polarising concepts can be beneficial for brands despite the initial seemingly negative backlash and advocations for no longer supporting the brand. The ABC references Nike’s Kaepernick ad from late 2018, where there were calls to burn Nike products at the time. Following that campaign Nike received an immediate growth in stock price and online sales.
And why is that? If people are advocating that brands stay out of nailing their colours to the mast when it comes to societal issues, why does it, in general, have such an immediate positive impact for the brand?
In my view, it’s precisely for that reason. By taking the risk and speaking up about important issues, brands are actually showing they stand for something they believe in. They are utilising the privileged position they have and are helping to generate a positive impact on society. And when they do, they create a platform for open discussion of a topic that needs to be spotlighted.
Sure, if you read the thousands of comments stating that they will never purchase a Gillette product ever again, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that they have made a mistake. But, what this kind of campaign does is bring those people who support the brand’s position along for the ride with them. It uses a very public forum to make the discussion happen. And, in the long run, how many of those people who state they will never purchase again do you think will actually follow through on that threat?
The knee-jerk immediate backlash against campaigns like these are what show that it is having an impact. It’s making the discussion happen. It’s making people who are reacting badly to the suggestions actually think about those topics. I would even go so far as to say, many of them will actually come around to a different way of thinking.
But, brands be warned, tokenism can be spotted at 50 paces. If you’re planning to run a campaign that is aimed at dividing and conquering, make sure you put your money where your mouth is. And, top marks to Gillette for providing funding ($3M US over three years) to not-for-profit organisations in the US for education on toxic masculinity for boys and men. This is where the magic of this type of campaign really exists. By extending their message into practical action they ensure they will have a positive social impact.
Every brand, big or small, has the opportunity to stand for something good, and when they do everyone benefits.
If you would like to find out how your business can align your values to a positive social impact, get in touch with the team today.