It didn’t take long to wait. After the Nike, which “took the Internet by storm” with Colin Kaepernick’s activist video and which was the subject of countless articles and columns in traditional media, here comes a new example of a global brand that bases its campaign on a controversial and sensitive social topic.
At the very beginning of the year, on January 13th, Gillette started the campaign “We Believe”, designed in cooperation with the MeToo movement. Its main element is the spot with the theme of “toxic masculinity” with a critical reference to male aggression towards women and the weak as a problem that, first of all, men themselves must become aware of. They are also called upon to oppose to such a behaviour and thus begin to give an example to young boys, as they directly influence what kind of men they will become.
The video ends with the slogan “The Best A Man Can Be” with, of course, the inevitable logo of the brand, which is a variation of the well-known old slogan “The Best A Man Can Get”. This slogan wordplay can also be understood as a kind of self-criticism as it sends a message that Gillette, as a brand, have realized that it has to change its attitude towards the topic of masculinity.
As in the case of the Nike campaign with Kaepernick, this one has also sparked a lively debate. On traditional media, various media analysts and marketing experts were given the opportunity to distinguish themselves, while an extremely hot discussion began on social networks. In the first week alone, the video was viewed 23 million times on YouTube and earned 620 thousand likes and almost twice as many dislikes (1.1 million) during that period. And as in the case of the Nike campaign, there was a movement of throwing and destroying Gillette products, and the advocates of this idea upload videos doing that under the #boycottgillette.
Although the campaign is only at the beginning, based on based on the current situation, we can conclude that it will be successful. Because, the main challenge for every campaign today, which is to grab customer attention, has already been achieved. And it’s achieved because of the controversy of the topic itself. Gillette simply chose a topic that could be naturally put into the context of communication within its target group. When the theme was selected, the initial content was created in the form of a video clip, where the topic was provokingly associated with the brand. This way of presenting the content has led to its distribution by the social network users, for which the key motive was to participate in a hot debate on the subject.
If Nike was a pioneer in such an approach to marketing communication, and Gillette confirms that this is a trend, then we are waiting for new examples that will only confirm that we can talk about a new standard. And that’s what we are talking about here.
As Nike claims that their campaign with Colin Kaepernick was aimed at pointing to the problem of racial discrimination and violence against black people, Gillette argues that their motive was to point out the negative consequences of men’s macho behaviour and violence against women. Both themes are realistic and the problems of this kind actually exist and the changes are necessary. But when global brands point to them through the form of a marketing campaign, we must be aware that their primary motive is to increase sales and profit. And to make it clear right away – it is completely legitimate and normal. The goal of each company’s business is profit.
There are two main reasons why current social topics become the subject of marketing communications by companies that directly address the final consumers. The first is that the previous triggers used in campaigns as a motive for shopping have been really overused. The main one so far was the price and this motive was packed in the form of discounts, seasonal sales, various loyalty programs and similar. In a globalized market and in the climate of fierce competition, the price is simply no longer enough to push the sales.
Another reason is the decline of traditional media and the shift in active communication to social networks. Unlike traditional media, where the reach of a marketing message is directly proportional to the media budget, the message in the new media world must be sufficiently strident and different in order to be effectively distributed through sharing. In the old world, attention was paid, today it has to be earned. That’s why Nike and Gillette are just the beginning of the new practice.
But now we come to another topic. While companies are dealing with these issues, what do people who are called to recognize them as current social problem but also to solve them do? Aren’t the problems of racial discrimination, peer violence, violence against women, and others, problems that should be taken into account by the state and resolved through a clear articulation of public policies and accompanying measures? What do the political representatives who have been elected to deal with these issues do?
If we look at this from the perspective of marketing communication, we will see that politicians are increasingly using modern means of communication and social networks. So it’s not a problem of the technological juvenile. But what do they do on social networks and generally in media communication? They mostly try to be loved by their electorate by being fun and cute. This is why politicians avoid controversial social issues, so as not to refuse, those who have a different opinion, thereby jeopardizing their survival in the political framework. That’s why they choose topics for which they know they can get the support of the majority. They are then followed by phrases, commonplaces, and as a safeguard, many topics are disguised in the cloak of the glorious past and their concealment of national and religious myths. And, of course, there is a bunch of all kinds of promises for which there are already labelled culprits in case the promises are broken.
So, here’s what we have. Business takes over controversial social issues and places them in the public, challenging the discussion about them. At the same time, the politics is being reduced to the amusement of the electorate and the democratic electoral process becomes the show business. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are more and more television celebrities among politicians, actors, stand-up comedians and entertainers in general. They instinctively recognized that the lights of the spotlight switched from one stage to the other. And they continued to do what they know best – to act and entertain the people and worship the audience that applauds them.
The fact that business takes over the political agenda, while politics takes over entertainment, partly tells us about the people who deal with it. It informs us more about the society we live in today. And even more about the one in which we will live. This is just the beginning.