Gillette has had a rough few years. The former shaving hegemon has seen its market share plummet due to a resurgence in classic “wet shaving,” online razor subscription services, and the popularity of beards. Gillette’s obvious options are to lower their artificially high price or drastically improve their quality. Instead, they’ve decided to make their remaining customers feel bad about themselves through an expensive new ad campaign.
“You’re a very bad person, give us money” is an odd marketing pitch, especially from a company that’s used sex to sell its product for decades. (Every time I shave, I’m disappointed no scantily-clad supermodel steps up behind me to rub my smooth face.) The Wall Street Journal attempts to explain Gillette’s campaign:
The ad puts a new spin on the brand’s 30-year tagline, “The Best A Man Can Get,” challenging men to take positive actions, such as stopping other men, and the next generation, from harassing women.
“This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own,” said Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America in an emailed statement. “We are taking a realistic look at what’s happening today, and aiming to inspire change by acknowledging that the old saying ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is not an excuse. We want to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and hope all the men we serve will come along on that journey to find our ‘best’ together.”
“It’s a risky move,” said Dean Crutchfield, CEO of branding firm Crutchfield + Partners. On one hand, it “creates a credible, believable, and upfront conversation that takes brutal honesty and tough decisions,” he said.
Customers don’t want brutal honesty and tough decisions, especially when they already get those every hour of the day. Gillette’s target market wants a smooth face for a low price.
Of course, Gillette refuses to provide that; it would destroy its business model. A century ago, King Gillette revolutionized marketing by offering a dirt-cheap (or free) razor handle. He then sold replacement razors at a high markup, locking consumers into a lifetime of expensive refills. Many imitators followed his model, something you notice every time you replace ink cartridges in your printer.
By the 2000s, Gillette was offering 38 blades with lawn-trimmer attachment for about $20 a month; men had enough. Some guys (like me), bought shaving brushes and simple safety razors that provided a better shave for pennies a blade.
A few years later, Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s offered multi-blade razors online which performed better than Gillette at a fraction of the price. The shaving giant attempted a club of their own, but it was an overpriced scam like the rest of their product line. Watching their market share continue to decline, Gillette has now declared war on its customer base. Back to WSJ:
Gillette parent Procter & Gamble Co. is among companies that in recent years have used advertising as a platform to promote their stance on social issues such as gender equality, and polarizing political topics such as immigration and gun control. P&G is perhaps best known for its lauded “Like a Girl” ad campaign for feminine-care brand Always and “Stress test” for deodorant brand Secret.
Promoting social issues can be effective marketing, but notice the difference. P&G’s female-directed ads make women feel better about themselves. The company tells women “you’re great just as you are” and tells men “you’re bad and need to change.” I’ve yet to complete my Marketing Ph.D., but I don’t think a message of “Women are revolting, buy Secret” would spike profits.
What do you think about Woke Gillette? Will it change your buying decisions?