January 21, 2019

3 Reasons Why the Gillette Ad Didn’t Work

angry man responding to Gillette ad

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The new Gillette ad that piggybacked off of the #MeToo movement, left Gillette’s audiences uninspired. In fact, it made them downright angry. Surprisingly, I think it has much LESS to do with the topic than HOW it was presented. Since I’m in the business of helping brands learn how to use storytelling to their advantage, I figured it would be helpful to break down why this messaging wasn’t successful. Plus, if you read to the end I’ll show you how it could have been flipped around to be a successful and powerful brand story.

Here were the problems:

  1. At the beginning it showed men making bad choices instead of men making good choices. Because they chose to show the bad first, they immediately created an “us” vs. “them” mentality. Later, when Gillette is trying to identify with the good men, it’s too late. They’ve already created a wedge.
  2. When you are talking AT someone rather than with them it comes across as preachy. To avoid this, they should have either kept the conversation far more open ended, allowing audiences to draw their own conclusions (it’s very powerful when people come to conclusions on their own without having it pounded over their heads), or they should have told the story in first person. In first person, the audience would have experienced the situation through the eyes of the main character instead of being talked at, which makes it easier to identify with.
  3. They didn’t understand the psychographics of their audience. Everything in marketing comes down to knowing what the desires, frustrations, anguishes, hopes and dreams of your audience are. Had Gillette’s marketing team really stopped to think about it, they might have realized their ad would only appeal to a small group of men who promoted women’s activism. Apart from that, they were speaking to men who were tired of being told that they are toxic, that how they act is bad, and that who they’ve grown up learning to be is unacceptable. There is a way to speak to people to empower them in a positive direction toward change instead of preaching to them.

Here’s what I would have done to flip it (and this is just off the top of my head, not hashed out) but you’ll get the idea:

Instead of starting with men making poor choices I would start with men making GOOD choices such as: “Here’s to the men who are standing up for what they believe in…” (the shot might be of a man helping either another man or woman), “helping others when they can’t help themselves…”

Then they could have continued to show more emotion. “Here’s to showing compassion and that there’s power in emotion” (the shot might be of a terrible event and then a man crying, maybe there’s a hug after).

If they wanted to directly tie in the #MeToo movement they could have said something like: “Here’s to the men who stand up for their mothers, their sisters, their wives and their friends” (the shot might show women holding #MeToo signs).

A conclusion might be: “Here’s to the best men, the one’s who have each other’s backs and aren’t afraid to show their inner teddy bears.” (At the end inspirational, feel-good images would need to be shown). “We see see you.” Then across the screen it could read, “The Best a Man Can Be. The Best a Man Can Get.”)

This isn’t the best written story (not by far) and might not be what Gillette was going for, (let’s be honest, it should always take more than a couple minutes to come up with something impactful,) but ideas can be more powerful when they’re presented in an uplifting, inspirational way. When people are inspired to be a certain way rather than told directly that they need to be better, it’s likely to have a much better reception.

Storytelling drives brand loyalty and purchases, and so getting it right is really important. I know next time Gillette will have a winner because they did a lot right (they made themselves relevant), but next time hopefully it’ll appeal more to their customer base.

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Jamie Barber is a digital marketer and content consultant, helping brands learn how to use storytelling to connect to their audiences in a deeper way. She teaches content creation along with content distribution including social, SEO and PR.

gillette ad, ad fails, brand storytelling, brand story

Jamie Barber