Gillette sparks emotions, controversy, possibly gold with ‘We Believe: The Best A Man Can Be’ video

Many are asking if Gillette's commentary on toxic masculinity is too controversial. The answer will come when sales are reported.

Chat with MarTechBot

Gillette has accomplished what many advertisers strive to achieve, sparking emotions with its now viral “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” video ad. The brand released the “short film” on Sunday, and quickly generated thousands of reactions, conversations and hot takes about toxic masculinity and whether brands should weigh in on social issues.

If Gillette’s primary goal was to get the ad in front of the widest audience possible, it is succeeding. In three days, it has had more than 11.5 million views on YouTube and 4.1 million views on Facebook (with 24,000 comments and nearly 150,000 shares). But savvy marketers need to go deeper than “how many views did we get” when releasing a controversial ad.

When ads spark conversation and controversy. Much like Nike’s ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, Gillette’s video highlights the risk more brands are willing to absorb by taking a stand on social issues.

“If in the past, brands stayed away from participating in political discussions or highly contentious topics in fear of alienating certain audiences, we’re now seeing a significant shift in the other direction as brands realize audiences expect brands to stand for something and want to be able to identify with them,” said HYPR Brands co-founder and CEO Gil Eyal.

Chamber Media founder Travis Chambers said what he loves about the ad is the message it sends about respecting and standing up for women, and how it has opened up a dialogue about toxic masculinity. He believes Gillette’s ad strategy was to appeal to women while alienating men because women buy Gillette for men.

“What’s very interesting is it has three downvotes for every upvote on YouTube, which is the most male social platform, whereas it has a higher positive ratio on Facebook which skews slightly more female, which I believe is a marker for how it’s being received,” said Chambers.

Keeping an ear to the ground. Social media listening tools are important components of measuring response to any campaign, but they are especially important when campaigns involve polarizing subject matter that can impacts brand perceptions. According to Chambers, the four main categories for brands to consider in terms of social listening are reach and engagement, sentiment, sales and net promoter score.

“Every brand needs reach, and even poorly received reach can increase short term sales, which is where the net promoter score comes in — to find out how people’s perception of the brand is changing,” said Chambers, “Look at the horrible press Chik-Fil-A got for their CEO’s homophobic comments, yet they’ve had a sustained sales lift, so when reach is achieved, even when all the other metrics appear negative, you can still have sustained sales.”

When a campaign strikes a chord, social platforms have the power to exponentially multiply brand exposure.

“With TV, there was no feedback loop outside of word of mouth and press commentary. Now with a controversial ad on social media, it’s getting people to talk about an issue, triggering the algorithms to serve massive amounts of earned media. These ads now become self-perpetuating, quadrupling the reach of the brand. The feedback of social media is the main reason these ads are driving sales for brands,” said Chambers.

Eyal expects to see more ads like Gillette’s from legacy brands. “With younger audiences flocking to more opinionated, less politically correct brands like Dollar Shave Club and Beard Club, it’s clear that Gillette needs to send a message to those audiences that it is not out of touch,” said Eyal. He noted recent political-charged ads that have received the same positive reception, such as Heineken’s “World’s Apart” campaign and Airbnb’s 2017 Super Bowl ad “We Accept” that was a response to the White House’s travel ban at the time.

Chambers echoes HYPR Brand’s CEO’s sentiments, “It [Gillette’s ad] may end up working because controversy has been succeeding in advertising the last few years despite negative response; we live in the Trump era now of shock and conflict.”

In the end, the ultimate test is always whether or not the ad moves the needle in sales and revenue.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Amy Gesenhues
Amy Gesenhues was a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy's articles.

Get the must-read newsletter for marketers.