Gillette's Culture Marketing Bomb

Did the razor companies' social values approach reach new customers, or did it just talking over men?

Robbie Mukai
Jan 8 · 4 min read

One year after greenlighting the new marketing plan — effectively stepping into the culture wars — Gillette’s CEO and president, Gary Coombe has no regrets.

In an interview back in July with Adweek, Mr. Coombe said that the fallout of some customers was, a “price worth paying.”

That all begs the question as to whether his plan to shift gears helped or hurt his marketing and sales goals — especially given the fact that leaner upstarts like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club are poaching their once uncontested waters.

Survival on a knifes edge

In response, Gillette has been making a major course change in their approach and reposition the brand values to target and capture a more narrow, yet dedicated group.

According to Accenture Research, 63% of customers report wanting to buy from brands that reflect their values. An interesting trend has given the current age of intense partisanship. Apparently, not stopping at our choice of razor selection.

For Gillette's’ part, they are going full-on tilt. The global brand recently released an ad of a man teaching his trans son to shave for the first time. One might expect that there would be more mixed results for some of taking these stands, but the protest has been pretty muted — in fact, they seem to be working well for the company.

In the trans son ad, some posts have garnered a 900k engagement rate with the overall sentiment being very positive. That has been pretty much the story since for this marketing campaign that highlights the values of inclusiveness and acceptance; an aim to elevate — seemingly not to replace — ethics among men.


Some of their complaints are taken with compelling arguments. One very moving response on YouTube pointed out that men in the world face a disproportionate amount of hardship that is unique to that population. They rightly point out that the high male suicide, workplace accident rate, or homicide rate get little attention.

Shave market shakeup

In turn, Dollar Shave Club has near fully developed working men or value-oriented customers that will likely mean that most of its customers come from rural places. Meanwhile, Harry’s is still in catchup mode.

It’s the website still is sporting vector art and pastel colors. All of which is fine to find and keep minimal sustainability for survival. It is however not good enough to play with the big boys. For them to do that, then they will need to really drill down and identify with who their customer is — and fast.

This gives startups lessons in survival

Tools that you can implement in your business

  1. Create the best content for our customers
  2. Schedule and post content
  3. analysis sentiment for each post
  4. Modify future posts with that data.

Gillette struck a nerve with this social marketing bomb

But they're showing all of us is that in some industries, when your competitors are knocking down your castle walls, then you need to make your last stand if you want to see tomorrow.

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Robbie Mukai

Written by

Social media manager: likes talking nerdy about building effective ad copy + business thought + social marketing strategy.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +607K people. Follow to join our community.

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