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A "purpose" too far?

Gillette's ad “the best men can be” has quite rightly caused much debate. However, as a marketing professional I would like to suggest that we don’t get confused between good intentions and good marketing.

A. If a brand is to have a “purpose” beyond its core brand values and essence then that purpose needs to relate to the brand and the (parent) company. That company then needs to follow through in everything it does or risk being ridiculed. If you put yourself out there, prepare to be scrutinised.

- However laudable Gillette’s intention, this communication looks cynical. There is too much going on; bullying, harassment, machismo, parenting, excuses, (boys will be boys…). Far better to have focused on one aspect and told a more positive story. But even then how does it relate to shaving products? Million Dollar Shave Club (Unilever) communicates a purpose very well whilst staying brand focused.

B. The brand manager's role is to add value for the company by creating value for their consumers via brand strategy and implementation against their target market.

- Will this communication help Gillette sell more? I doubt it. Given the dislikes on You Tube and the polemic generated I believe Gillette has more to lose than to gain here. Gillette has a dominant share, (50% in the US), and as Mark Ritson points out in Marketing Week, Nike’s use of Colin Kaerpernick resonated because it was focused, featured the product and really only risked alienating non-core users. Win-win for Nike, looks like lose-lose for Gillette.

C. The communications role is to ensure that any message is conveyed in a compelling and engaging way for the target market.

- The comments on numerous threads indicate that many men in the core target market don’t want to be lectured to by a brand, for whatever reason (even defensive ones). Brand communications should connect with and inspire the target. This ad, (and this is subjective), feels clunky, manipulative and poorly executed and that is unforgivable.

Please understand one thing here: the debate, the subject, the need for heightened awareness on all the issues raised in the communication is absolutely valid and I really believe Gillette had the best intentions. However, is it “their” battle? Will it increase shareholder value? Will the vast majority of their massive consumer base fully embrace the message? If the answer is not yes three times then this might prove the first marketing misstep of 2019.

Mark Shepherd a lecturer in marketing at The University of Applied Sciences, Western Switzerland. Mark is also the owner of The Branding Authority, a consultancy bringing big brand expertise without big agency bills.

If you would like to chat about marketing capabilities, brand challenges and marketing programmes, please contact me.

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