New Gillette ad: Right message. Wrong brand.

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers


The new Gillette ad has sparked quite a stir to start the year. As a marketer, I’ve been in the position where you make what you think is an excellent piece of work, and wait for the consumer to say it works. The reality of any risk you take is that some work, some don’t. Twelve million views are great, but 673,000 giving it a thumbs down on Youtube, and many of the negative comments floating around Youtube and Twitter.

To my fellow men: make no mistake, this is the right message. Maybe you shouldn’t have been the target. If it was intended to inspire change in men, it might not be working.

Would this same message work better if women were the target? Would men have maybe listened a bit better if the message said “hey women, you deserve better”

Purpose is never a strategy

I see people putting “this is a great example of a brand purpose strategy.” What is a brand purpose strategy? That sounds a little shallow. You can’t have a brand purpose strategy if you don’t have a brand purpose. Moreover, you can’t just make up a brand purpose that wasn’t your brand purpose last year, or fifty years ago, or it will feel fake.

Last year, Pepsi put out the infamous Kendell Jenner “save the world” ad, that flopped. It likely would have been fine if it was another brand. However, with Pepsi, it felt fake. For the past 50 years, Pepsi has used Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Beyonce to “get people to dance and smile” and all of a sudden, they want to save the world?

Gillette has spent the past 50 years adding one more blade every couple of years, putting rubber in certain places on the blade and calling it a system. While they have “The best, a man can be” I’ve always thought that tagline was a bit of a cheesy 1970s, left over from the disco era. For all those purpose-loving folks; be careful, because if all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Gillette is a product-driven brand. Everything they do is about technology. You can’t just tack on a brand purpose to a product-driven brand and hope it works.

A brand is not what you say it is. A brand is what your consumer says it is.

Even if you want it to be, that doesn’t make it so.

To paraphrase the CEO of Patagonia, one of the most purpose-driven brands around: “Purpose is never a strategy.”

If it’s just a strategy, you make brand purpose seem very shallow.

Have a look at the new Gillette ad: 

If the goal of the ad was to inspire men to be better versions of themselves, it’s not working. The majority of the backlash seems to be coming from men. I’ve worked on many brands focused on inspiring change, whether to quit smoking or adopt a new health routine. You cannot lecture, guilt or tell people to change. It would be best if you used a very gentle helping hand to move people through the stages of change. Even then, you have to expect resistance.

Maybe the brand is wrong. Perhaps the target is wrong.

Maybe this message should be towards women, not men. Use the same theme, same storyline, but instead of “you can be better” it could be “you deserve better.” If this was for Olay or Always, would men resist the idea as much? Could the message get out there for men to see, almost without the ability to challenge.

I love the #LikeAGirl campaign for Always.

The right message for our times. The right message for both women and men to hear. However, would this same ad have worked better on a different brand?

The bad news is about a month from now, and the financial-driven P&G will force the team to change up the brand message.

As a man, let’s not let Piers Morgan or the Twitter Cowboys speak for us. We actually should be better.

Don’t give up. This type of message is needed. Maybe another brand can take the torch and carry it.

This is what I wrote 3-4 years ago when Always launched #LikeAGirl

Always “Like a Girl” ad will re-define stereotypes

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

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At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

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If you need our help, email me at or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

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