Real Leaders

What CEOs Can Learn from Gillette’s Advert

Gillette’s new advert is the talk of the town. And for many reasons. It speaks to the current trend of the “woke advertising” movement. It comments on many aspects of the growing pains that men go through – and how they have to navigate those waters.

At the time of writing, with almost 29 million views, the ad has certainly commanded attention. However, is it the right move or the right type of attention?

Here’s what CEO’s and CMO’s can learn from Gillette’s attempt at the “Visiconomy.”

Firstly, what is the Visiconomy and how does a brand leverage it? It’s a term made up from the words “Vision” and “Economy.” There are many opinions on the trends in marketing today – but none speak to the core of where advertising is going more than the Visiconomy.

Every brand needs to be social, that’s a given. And every brand needs to be personal when it comes to building relationships; despite being overlooked. The “woke” movement and social advocacy are powerful tools that can be used by brands to connect and share their stories.

However, it should stem from one important concept: That everything you do – your branding, your product, your services, your social media and advertising must come from, and align with, the core of your vision.

What does your company believe about the world? What does your company think about your industry? What does your company stand for? Fight for? Believe in? What’s your vision?

If you share your vision in the right way, and through the proper channels, it can create economic value. This is what the Visiconomy is all about. Your vision can indeed create economic value – if communicated in the right way.

Simon Sinek’s TED talk explains well how to communicate this message.  You start with your “why” – this is your vision. You progress to your “how” – this is what makes you different or better. It’s your unique selling position. Finally, you share your “what” – this is how it all comes together, in a product, service (or even a razor blade).

This seems easy enough, but few brands get it right when trying to align an entire organization.
That’s where Gillette enters the picture. There’s no denying that their advert has gained attention. At 29 million views on YouTube, they indeed have “eyeballs.”

However, is it the kind of attention that inspires would-be buyers to feel inspired? That connects with the core vision of the organization? That makes them feel that they’re on a fantastic mission with the brand? That makes them feel great about themselves?

Gillette no doubt looked at the data before launching the campaign – something every CEO should do. But data doesn’t always give you the full picture. Gillette has now progressed from relative obscurity in regards to advertisements on YouTube, to the third most disliked video on YouTube ever – with an astounding 1.3-million dislikes.

There is added controversy because users have complained about the removal of negative comments, the unnaturally rapid slowdown of negative ratings and the abnormal increase in positive ones.

This is not a good position for any brand to be in. If this is a representation of being a better man, or the “best a man can get” – then the response to the ad shows Gillette may have used a dull approach (pun intended) in a quick, opportunistic attempt to tap into a hot, trending topic – instead of reflecting the core Gillette’s vision.

How a CEO or CMO decides to communicate their core vision is unique to that company. But what shouldn’t be an issue is sticking to that core. Nike, in contrast, has done this surprisingly well for many years. Take the inspiring “Find Your Greatness” commercial, the Kaepernick Advert, or the Serena Williams catsuit controversy around her outfit. In all cases, Nike has stuck to their vision of inspiring athletes, overcoming odds and maintaining true self, regardless of the outcome.

Have Nike received a backlash? Of course, but the benefits have been astounding and far outweighed the negatives. The Visiconomy is real. As an example, shortly after the Kaepernick advert, Nike’s stock hit an all-time-high and saw a massive $6-billion in sales. Alternatively, look at Serena Williams’ catsuit ban. Hundreds of thousands of new followers came from this.

In all the examples above if you believe what the brand thinks, you walk away feeling that they can help you overcome your odds and find your true self. You feel empowered. Nike’s shoes can help you take the first step toward a better you.

The Takeaway
Sharing your companies core vision is critical to building a strong marketing campaign and strong corporate foundations.

  • Start with your core vision – your why
  • Share how your brand expresses that core vision
  • Tie this into what you sell (a product or service) and why it’s better

CEO’s and CMO’s that leverage a trending topic in a way that doesn’t align with their core messages risk losing customers, getting negative backlash and creating more problems than they solve. This is doubly true for companies that create social impact – or have the influence to do so.

While we may never know the true effect of this advertisement (Gillette is a subsidiary of publicly traded P&G) Gillette’s attempt at the Visiconomy definitely needs some adjustment before it achieves the cutting edge. Pun intended.


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