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Was that the best Gillette could get? And why didn’t it learn from its sister?

May 22, 2019 | POINTS OF VIEW

It might be losing share and relevance but if Gillette had held its nerve it could have created something far more powerful. Five things we can learn from its press release.

Gillette fight like a girl
Feted the world over, how many times must Gillette have been told “we need a Like A Girl”?

Gillette’s new campaign has broken to widespread criticism, condemnation and calls for a boycott. Bit drastic given we’re talking razors but when then the world’s leading marketer to men makes a big and bold statement, the world the world the world the world the world the world the world the world the world the world the world the world the world takes notice.

Some have likened it to Nike’s last campaign – but I’m with my old mini-MBA marketing professor Mark Ritson. One is a fine example of targeting, the other is a poor example of marketing but it’s also a poor attempt at creating a movement.  You could of course say that if it changes just one person’s attitude in the world it would be worth it, and I wouldn’t disagree. But if they’d only gone and spoken to their sister brand, Always, they could have created something far more powerful and long lasting.

Below is a quick comparison of Gillette’s launch release versus Always release for “Like A Girl” back in 2015 and analysed against five core traits of creating a movement. One is a campaign which continues to knock it out of the park, the other is a campaign climbing the gates to get into the park.


To UK audiences, remember these are US releases so expect to see differences in style and headline length. Both headlines actually offer a tantalising glimpse of what’s to come. But it’s in the sub head where one fails and the other concentrates the mind and the news.

Separating the Men from the Boys: Gillette® Campaign Inspires Men to Re-Examine What It Means to Be Their Best 

Company recommits to tagline “The Best A Man Can Get,” pledges to support non-profit organizations helping men of all ages be their personal best

Now look at this from July 2015 release from Always:

New Always® #LikeAGirl Unstoppable Video Reveals How Societal Expectations Hold Girls Back; Always Takes Action by Partnering with Academics and TED to Teach Confidence to Girls at Puberty 

New Always Survey Reveals 72 Percent of Girls Feel Held Back by Society

The difference is immediate – Always has articulated a problem in society, injected new research and tells us it’s partnering to do something about it.  Gillette wants to inspire men by recommitting its 30-year-old tag line and throwing money at the problem. And not even that much money.  One grabs news by the collar, the other gets a shrug of the shoulders.


In both campaigns the enemy is societal norms and rightly encourages people to challenge them. Always though has a scientific backbone.  In a 2002 study from the American Psychological Association, a graph highlighted an issue that has underpinned all of the brand’s subsequent work:

“Self-esteem drops for both boys and girls during puberty, but the drop is twice as big for girls. Later in life men’s self-esteem rises higher than it was pre-puberty. The same is not true for women, who never regain the pre-puberty level of self-esteem.”

Gillette attempted to use a similar approach but sadly decided to go with, what some might say, was a “fluffier” PR route. Here’s what the research undertaken by Ketchum Global Research & Analytics (KGRA) found:

The four traits that define a “great man” for the majority of respondents, regardless of gender, are: Honesty (64%) Moral integrity (51%), Hard-working (43%), Respectful to others (41%). Men and women universally agree that being a good father is one of the most important things a great man does (95%). Other positive actions for “great men” include: Setting a good example for others (96% agree) , Stepping in and taking action when he sees someone in need (95% find this important).

I feel for them. It’s not research which is going to set the world on fire is it and nor is it going to prove a foundation stone for a campaign due to last at least three years.  The brand took a short cut on primary research, on really digging into its target audience to nail a strong catalyst to drive relevance and affinity. It went for the quick win. Probably retro-fitted the research to fit the ad. And it shows.


Gillette’s spokesperson quote appears in the second para – often a sign that either the story is weak or the spokesperson wants the spotlight. You decide:

“Gillette believes in the best in men,” said Gary Coombe, president, P&G Global Grooming. “By holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal ‘best,’ we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come.”

Always had two quotes in its release before the brand spokesperson. The first from Stephanie Lo, TED-Ed Programs Director at TED saying why they were partnering with Always. The second from Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones saying why she thought the campaign was important and then lastly, this from the VP:

“You would expect that girls believe things will get better but, in fact, our latest research shows that one in two girls think that in 10 years there will be the same or even more limitations for young girls,” said Fama Francisco, Vice President, Global Feminine Care at Procter & Gamble. “This surprising statistic is a wake-up call for all of us to encourage girls to smash any limitations that hold them back and empower them to be unstoppable.” 

I’d have been proud to have written that last line. Powerful stuff and sadly lacking from Gillette.


Here was the call to action from Always:

“Always is inviting girls and women everywhere to join the movement to smash limitations and to share proudly how they are unstoppable #LikeAGirl. Take a picture, shoot a video or send a message using the hashtag #LikeAGirl to take a stand and show young girls everywhere that girls can do anything and everything!”

And here it is from Gillette:

“As Gillette and our partners work together in the development of national programs that will inspire positive actions in men everywhere, we encourage you to visit to and @Gillette social channels for information on getting involved, and to share your stories. Because in taking actions both big and small together, we can collectively live up to what it really means to be The Best A Man Can Get.”

I know which one appeals more.

Gillette Trump

Always chose the phrase “Like a Girl”. I thought Gillette was going to really go for “Boys will be boys”. It could have been really powerful. Maybe they thought it was too similar to Always. Who knows.  If they’d been really brave they could have spotlighted some of the deplorable things men in power have said and done. Imagine the different type of reaction if they’d had the balls to included Trump.  But with market share declining by 25 percent in 10 years maybe they thought they couldn’t risk it in the Red States of America.  I would say, given they still have 50 percent of the US market and 65 percent of the global market, its exactly the move they could have made. And should have. Then it would have been in Nike territory.  Then they could have reignited relevance. Then it could have been a campaign worth waiting for.

We aim high. Every time.

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