After I lambasted Gillette for its initial response to the blowback to the “We Believe” campaign, it’s only fair that I acknowledge that the firm has continued to engage with the controversy. Damon Jones, P&G’s VP of global communications and advocacy, spoke to Forbes journalist Michelle King in an interview published on January 20.
While Mr. Jones didn’t make any statements that would further inflame the blowback, he missed the opportunity to reframe the conversation around the core values the brand initially claimed, thus earning an overall grade that’s subpar for a world-class brand.
Here are the detailed grades:
Timeliness: B+ Fast Company published an article on January 17 that contained a quote from the Gillette brand manager saying that it was really only updating its tag line. Mr. Jones must have engaged with Forbes pretty quickly to get the interview and have it publish on the 20th. Unfortunately, publishing on the Sunday of a holiday weekend decreases visibility. The publishing schedule isn’t entirely under P&G’s control, so I’ll cut them some slack.
Key message: F In the press release announcing the campaign, the brand had listed respect, accountability, and role modeling as the three key values it wanted this campaign to promote. Nowhere in this article or interview do these values appear. PR 101 is to know the message and make sure to communicate it. The reporter’s question, “What was the intent behind the ad?” is a softball that invited Mr. Jones to clearly state these values — and he missed the opportunity. The fact that Gillette spokespeople repeatedly miss opportunities to highlight these values shows that the brand hasn’t authentically embraced them.
Overall substance: B Despite missing the opportunity to focus on respect, accountability, and role modeling, Mr. Jones succeeded in presenting a more positive message of Gillette’s intent, saying “[W]e do believe we have an opportunity to promote positive, attainable, inclusive, and healthy versions of what it means to be a man.”
Proof points: C In response to Ms. King’s question, “[H]ow is Gillette living up to the standard of ‘being best’ as a brand?” Mr Jones stated: “We had to look at ourselves and say, ‘Are we doing everything that would bring this intent to life — from a brand purpose point of view?’” But the only action he cites is a million-dollar commitment to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Writing checks is easy. Atoning for past advertising that objectified women, such as this 2013 ad using Kate Upton in a low-cut dress to hawk the ProGlide Styler, would have shown that Gillette had truly looked in the mirror, as Mr. Jones stated Gillette is asking men to do.
Tone and manner: C- Mr. Jones comes across as sincere and concerned, and his statement that “It’s not OK to harass women. It’s not OK to catcall. It’s not OK to bully others” is unequivocal, clear, and direct. Other statements try to soft-pedal the controversy, such as “There are some images that perhaps ruffle a couple feathers . . .” Given the 1.2 million thumbs-down votes on YouTube as of this morning, this is dodging the blowback. Finally, much of the interview is corporate-speak, which undercuts any sense of authenticity. Example: “Gillette is one of the largest male brands in the world and we really want to use the platform to advance a more modern, positive vision of what it means for men to be at their best.”