Should Brands try to Change the World?

It is the job of advertising to elicit a reaction from consumers. It is the job of advertisers to plot the course on how to do this. Recently Gillette, a P&G brand, has chosen to use its significant reach to address an issue that has been increasingly top of mind for many over the last decade. With the release of a short film titled ‘We Believe: The Best Men Can Be,’ the brand took a firm stance on the need for an evolution from ‘boys will be boys’ to a more positive definition of masculinity. One thing is clear—this choice has certainly elicited a reaction!

It is also clear that the reaction is not universally and immediately positive, as evidenced by over one million dislikes on YouTube. A sentiment analysis of social media commentary by Ipsos shows 36% negative, compared to 16% positive, about the campaign in the days following its release. Many detractors don’t like the perceived stereotyping of male behavior and accuse the company of trying to ‘shame’ all men. There are also consumers who feel Gillette should ‘stick to razors’ and feel the brand is capitalizing on the #metoo movement to boost sales.
However, all may not be lost for Gillette. Supporters of the campaign, while in a minority on social media up to now, applaud Gillette for “making people think” and urge detractors to reflect on why it makes them mad. Many also defend the ad saying that it is simply calling for men to be better human beings. In fact, ad testing done by Ipsos indicates the commercial could reap rewards for the brand, long after the negative social media backlash has passed.
The analysis shows that the ad has done quite well to address themes that matter personally to consumers, and pull at the heart strings. From this comes two outcomes: perhaps most importantly, a strong desire for the brand; and of course, a buzzworthy piece of content. Consumers also rate their agreement with the social message, on aggregate, as a 7.5 out of 10. The ad certainly isn’t perfect—it is considered confusing to some, and the brand linkage to Gillette seems low. These issues seem related, as many question what the ad has to do with Gillette, or shaving. There is also evidence of the negative reactions showing up in the testing, with some direct comments from consumers echoing the irritations heard in social media. A significant minority find the ad offensive and strongly disagree with the social message. Not surprisingly, much of
this feedback originates from men, with their average rating of the ad’s offensiveness 13 points higher than that of women.2 There is also a skew to negative reactions coming from those who are older, and those who vote Republican.

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