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Procter & Gamble (P&G)’s quarterly revenue and adjusted profit beat Wall Street expectations on Tuesday, sending shares to a record-high for the quarter ended June 30, even with a net loss of about $5.24 billion, due to an $8 billion non-cash write-down of Gillette, according to Reuters.

Because the write-down is coming just a few months after Gillette released what many termed a feminist ad titled “We Believe in the Best Men Can Be”, the majority of people believe the write-down was as a result of a significant dip in sales caused by the backlash the ad generated when it was released in January 2019.

However, company executives attributed the write-down to currency devaluations and lower shaving frequency. According to a Euromonitor report, in the past 5 years, the U.S. men’s market for shaving products has shrunk by over 11%. In the 2010s technology altered the way consumers purchased razors, and relaxed social norms prompted men to shave less often.

So it seems the brand had been suffering for a while now and the daring ad was in fact done in a bid to revive the Gilette business but it failed woefully judging by the amount of backlash it received. Even though the company generated a lot of awareness with over 20 million views on youtube and reported to not have experienced any massive dip in sales as a result of the ad, the advert still failed to revive the business and worse, further damaged the perception of the brand. The comments on the Brand’s Youtube channel are more negative than positive by a ten to one margin.

It is quite unfortunate because the ad which tackled “Toxic Masculinity” actually had good intentions. The theme ‘The best men can be’ played on Gillette’s famous slogan ‘The best a man can get’, and was meant to celebrate the stories of men making a positive impact and to inspire others in the process. However, it failed woefully and the reasons for the failure have provided us with some valuable advertising lessons.

Take Calculated risks

Recent research reveals that millennials and generation z are more likely to favour brands with corporate social responsibility appeals. I guess that is one of the reasons Nike, Gillette, and others, have embraced the idea but unlike Nike, Gillette did not take calculated risks. I mentioned this before in my youtube video that Nike went into their controversial campaign with their eyes wide open. They knew that the majority of their customers were black and would most likely support an anti-racism campaign. And that is why they won! Gillette’s primary targets were not here for broad generalizations about male behavior or any ad stereotyping men as toxic. While sometimes it is okay to sacrifice the minority for the greater good of the business, it is never okay to ignore the majority as Gillette has done. I’m glad they are still standing by their decision because they believe it is for a good cause and the company seemed unperturbed by the negative comments received but i am sure if they can take back the hands of time, knowing what they know now, they would calculate the risks properly before releasing such a campaign, after all, they are also in the business to make a profit and not just to do good.

Test your creatives on your TG

According to Forbes, Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette’s North American brand director is quoted by CNN as saying “We expected debate. Actually, a discussion is necessary. If we don’t discuss and don’t talk about it, I don’t think real change will happen.” Note the first sentence. Don’t ever assume people’s reactions.

Many a time, creatives fail to deliver the brand motive’s as one can see from this Gillette commercial. An ad meant to encourage good behavior in men was perceived as one that is stereotyping all men as being toxic and scolding them. The delivery of the ad was clearly wrong and testing it on the target audience could have revealed that early on and helped Gillette avoid the backlash, except of course they did do the testing and ignored the results, which brings me to my next point.

Be sensitive

People are different, people see things differently, so in order to please the majority of your target audience, you must learn to communicate wisely and choose words carefully. Like Charles Taylor mentioned in a Forbes article on the subject, the use of the term “toxic masculinity” in the ad was a flat out mistake. It may be the major cause of the perception of stereotyping an entire gender.

Also, the narrative of the ad could have been much better, it could have focussed more on encouraging good behavior and avoided being perceived as brash and condescending. Don’t forget, the customer is king.

So there you have it! Did you find this article useful?

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