Gillette’s Path Forward With “We Believe”: Own The Controversy
In Part 1 of this post, I criticized Gillette for its statement, “We weren’t trying to court controversy. We were just trying to upgrade the selling line that we’ve held for 30 years,” as lacking conviction in the values it claimed that the campaign represented.
My first piece of advice was: If you aren’t authentic in a set of values and beliefs, do not attempt a campaign that touches on a social issue. If Gillette wanted to just update its tag line, it should have stuck with talking to men about grooming three-day stubble.
But what should Gillette have done once “We Believe” critics began posting what has grown to nearly a million “thumbs down” votes on YouTube?
First: Don’t Panic
Social media is full of trolls, and their knee-jerk reactions shouldn’t dictate a brand’s response. Instead, take the time to understand the broader consumer reaction, especially among your core customers. My colleague Anjali Lai did that, fielding research using Forrester’s Consumer Energy Index and found significant support among Gillette customers.
Second: Own It
In the report, “Brands Forget The Rules of Modern Marketing When Crisis Hits,” my colleague Emily Collins and I laid out the path that Gillette needs to follow:
- Take responsibility fast and often. Instead of saying that it didn’t want controversy, Gillette should admit that the term “toxic masculinity” may not have been a good choice of words to start the conversation it wanted to have.
- Show continued commitment to solving the problem. After this admission, refocus attention on the three values it prominently featured in the press release announcing the campaign: respect, accountability, and role modeling.
- Build a multifaceted action plan that goes beyond advertising. This starts with updating its mission statement, which, mystifyingly, doesn’t even mention these values. It then needs a proactive plan across the social media landscape to promote these values and engage people in defining how these inform modern masculinity.
It’s not too late to turn this stumble into the kind of positive statement that Gillette intended. But backpedaling and highlighting its charitable donations as proof of its values risk creating the perception that “We Believe” is nothing more than a marketing ploy exploiting a serious social issue for crass monetary gain.
Instead, Gillette should go all in and show the world that it really does believe.