This article originally appeared in Adweek
Gillette recently launched an advertisement “The Best Men Can Be” on Twitter that plays on their tagline and offers a perspective on modern day masculinity. The ad has generated strong reactions on social channels, and the brand is facing a wave of backlash to the advertisement.
The Twitterverse has exploded with chatter. There have been jokes and memes and men claiming they threw their Gillette blades into the toilet. Was the controversy worth it for the brand?
Long story short, it was.
Many are comparing the ad to the #MeToo movement. Gillette has historically targeted a male audience, which is very explicit with the slogan “The Best a Man Can Get.” The ad stars men and focuses on masculine behaviors, and yet the ad appeals to and engages a female audience.
Data about the social conversation focused on Gillette confirms that their branding primarily targets men. In the past year, 56% of the Gillette conversation has been generated by men, predominantly over age 35.
Over the years, the target demographic has discussed Gillette’s brand optimistically, with 66% of the conversation leaning positive. However, the broader online conversation about the topic of shaving in general is actually dominated by young women. Gillette may be missing an opportunity. The shaving conversation online is 62% female and 75% are under the age of 35.
Women’s razors are more expensive, society expects women to shave everywhere, and women are frustrated with the whole experience. Engaging women positively in the shaving industry has been a neglected opportunity. Women are disgusted with the topic of shaving, as the data shows. Only 21% of the conversation is joyful.
Gillette’s ad is a clever way to spark controversy, generate large volumes of conversation, and engage with a new audience, all at the same time. They did all this while maintaining their original branding and key message for their traditional audience.
Of the women engaged in conversation about the ad, 51% expressed joy, which is a significant departure from women’s sentiment about shaving in general. The ad struck a nerve in the zeitgeist. While 28% of women exhibited disgust about the ad, most of that disgust was targeted at toxic masculinity and not about the ad itself. Women’s response to the ad was incredibly positive, and some of the most retweeted posts were made by women.
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Gillette has positively engaged with a new audience, in new ways. The ad is a win. They may have lost some buyers, as suggested by some of the most dramatic negative responses, like this one or this one or this one, showing men throw away their already-purchased Gillette products. But those are corner cases. The bold move will likely convert far more shaving consumers into new Gillette customers.
For more analysis on controversial campaigns, read about our analysis on the Nike/Kaepernick Campaign