The Gillette "learning to shave while transitioning" ad

Is there a bona fide “controversy” around this one, as seemed to be the case when I stumbled across it repeatedly while news-reading yesterday, or is it one of those things where three people on Twitter are outraged and that’s enough for “news” outlets to crank out instant content on a slow holiday weekend?

It’s unorthodox for obvious reasons but the most notable thing about it is its provenance. Gillette is the same brand responsible for that Internet-famous “toxic masculinity” ad in January. I’m fascinated by their shift towards becoming a Woke Toiletries company. What are they seeing in their marketing data that makes them think social consciousness is a shrewd pitch to dudes looking for a tool to scrap hair off their faces?

I think John had it right in his first post about the “toxic masculinity” ad in January. Millennials, man.

Not to spoil the woke-feels this is intended to generate but this is still marketing and there’s another reason Gillette may be doing this. Have you heard of Harry’s? It turns out Gillette has been losing market share for the past 5-6 years to low-cost upstarts…

The bottom line here is that Gillette has taken a hit and needs some way to win back the new generation of customers that have moved over to cheaper competitors. Cutting prices was part of that strategy, now it’s trying to ingratiate itself with a contingent of young people who make buying decisions based on their political priorities. Sure Harry’s can sell you a great razor at a good price, but do they fight toxic masculinity? And besides, aren’t you willing to pay a bit more for social justice? That’s the pitch.

Imagine you’re an ad executive trying to get younger consumers interested in a razor that’s already well known and not as cheap as subscription start-ups. That is, you’re trying to win over customers who’ve already considered Gillette razors and opted for competitors. What do you do? You could opt for a traditional ad strategy, like sex or humor, but remember: Many consumers, especially younger ones, aren’t going to be wandering the razor aisle at the supermarket where a spark of memory about your ad might inspire them to buy Gillette. Some are ordering from Harry’s or Dollar Shave Club; recurring deliveries are a consumption model with which younger Americans are very comfortable in the age of Amazon. Not only do you need them to choose your brand over the others, you need to give them a reason to search your brand out. (On Amazon, at least, if not in the supermarket.)

What’s more likely to do that than a Cause? A funny ad might make you buy Gillette if you happen to think of it. An ad about trans acceptance might make you *look* for Gillette, the way a charity’s ad might lead you to Google them and donate. I think this spot is shrewd too in how prominently the dad features in it. Even if you’re not keen on transgenders, a doting father giving his child pointers on shaving makes it feel much more familiar than you might think an ad showcasing someone who’s trans would be. To Gillette, that might be the difference between some customers dropping their brand in protest and merely finding the add distasteful but ultimately not worth bothering about.

I’m looking forward to other corporate behemoths trying to out-woke each other, though, to try to get Millennials into the store as subscription services eat into their respective consumer bases. Within 10 years, half the ads on TV will look like PSAs.