Gillette wades into big social issue in a powerful way

Gillette, now what?

No doubt a big missing piece of the #metoo movement are more targeted programs focused on the behavior of men and boys. In their latest popular video, Gillette starts to bring attention to what’s at stake and the role brands (specifically their brand) can play in shaping the mindsets and ultimately behavior of men.

The sentiment is right and it is commendable for them to wade into this issue. But they also run the risk of just being cynically viewed as another brand surfing the news or issues of the day and “goodwashing” to get attention in a world where the cost of attention continues to rise.

Additionally while the video is emotive and challenges people to think differently about the role men and boys play in this issue, the action they are taking (a million dollar donation) and what they ask of consumers comes up far short. When you are a multibillion dollar company that is an ubiquitous brand in our culture, it will certainly take more than a small (by percentage) donation and a tear jerking video to meaningfully participate in this broader issue.

Gillette should consider committing themselves to help lead a broad societal mission to start to shape the boys today who will be the fathers, husbands and work colleagues of tomorrow. And it should start internally, at their own company. What are the real policies they are bringing to their company to ensure more gender equity and create a culture where everyone feels they can succeed regardless of their gender.

They could also ask their customers to participate. Ask people to become leaders on this issue in their families and communities — to become men who agree to actively shape boys into men who respect and value women. They could spend their significant marketing budget supporting these leaders with education, tools and resources so that this could potentially have a real impact on culture and individuals.

The attention this effort has garnered has shown what’s possible when a brand wades into a relevant social issue that they genuinely want to impact. Problem is ads plus a donation won’t cut it. As marketers and story tellers we need to continue to encourage brands to look deep to discover their purpose, the broader mission they are on. But then commit to build something meaningful that can connect with people and empower them as leaders to make lasting impact. It is not as easy as making a video. It takes sustained effort and requires the courage to walk away from the status quo of broadcast marketing.

But to make big impact and over the long-term deliver everything that brands want from their advertising—attention, consideration, purchase and loyalty— they need to rethink their marketing and invest in advancing their mission in everything they do and say.

Let’s hope that this is the intention that Gillette has. If so I look forward to seeing them lead many other brands in this direction — to repurpose their marketing towards impact.