Gillette brand takes a hit as ‘#metoo’ ad backfires

The P&G-owned brand has seen consumer perceptions in the UK plummet in the wake of the ad, which has been both criticised and applauded for its attempt to tackle toxic masculinity.

Gillette has seen consumer perceptions, including the key sales metric consideration, tumble in the UK in the wake of its ‘#metoo’ ad, despite the film not actually being aimed at the UK market.

The ad, which launched earlier this week, plays on Gillette’s famous slogan ‘The best a man can get’, replacing it with ‘The best men can be’. Aiming to “celebrate the stories of men making a positive impact and to inspire others in the process”, it shows a compilation of actions often associated with “toxic masculinity” and examples of how men can take action to create meaningful change.

However, the ad has split opinion. While some have praised the brand for tackling an important issue, others have criticised it for its approach and questioned why the razor brand is inserting itself into the debate.

The controversy has seen Gillette make headlines around the world and prompted almost 20 million people to watch the two-minute film on YouTube.

Despite the ad being aimed at a US audience it has had an impact on consumer perceptions of the brand in the UK. And the shift has not been positive.

According to YouGov BrandIndex, Gillette’s buzz score – which is a balance of the positive and negative things people have heard about a brand – has fallen by 5.8 points over the past week to -3.4. That shows more people have been hearing negative things about the brand than positive and takes it from seventh in a list of 45 health and beauty brands to bottom.

Of even more concern for the brand should be that purchase metrics have started to shift downwards. Consideration has fallen by a statistically significant 12 points over the past week to a score of 16.4. However, it is still top of the pile in terms of consideration among razor brands, ahead of Wilkinson Sword, Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club.

Among current customers, Gillette’s score is down 1.9 points to 4.5 although this is not deemed a statistically significant fall. Among former customers it has fallen by 8.6 points to 35.8, although again this is not a statistically significant drop.

This drop in consideration comes despite those considering buying Gillette and those who shave skewing slightly more towards being in favour of brands that are willing to get involved in societal issues, compared to a nationally representative sample. YouGov finds that 31% ‘tend to agree’ and just 21% ‘tend not to agree’ with the sentiment “I like brands that are willing to get involved in societal issues. These figures are 29% and 26% respectively across the British public.

A separate study by Unruly, which tracked the cognitive response of 533 consumers, found that the Gillette ad caused more of an emotional response among consumers than the UK norm. However, not all those responses were in the ad’s favour.

On cognitive response, Unruly found that 13% described their reaction to the Gillette ad as “surprise”, above the norm of 10%, while 7% described it as “shock”, above the 3% ads normally get. However in many cases the response was negative with 15% describing “confusion”, 8% “disgust” and 9% “contempt”. The UK norms for these responses are 12%, 4% and 9% respectively.

However, the Unruly data also suggests this could still play in Gillette’s favour in terms of sales. Both “purchase” and “find out” were three points above normal at 33% and 34% respectively, while “promoters” was four points above a normal campaign at 25% and “favourable” was 11 points up on the average campaign at 40%.

Most people also recognised that the campaign was for Gillette (although many had difficulty spelling its name), with 70% able to name the brand versus 7% who didn’t name a brand, 12% who can’t remember and 2% who couldn’t tell.

Data from Forrester’s Consumer Energy Index backs this up, finding that the ad strengthened emotional ties to the brand by boosting trust, empowering them to overcome challenges and emboldening them to try something new.

However, Anjali Lai, a data analyst at Forrester, believes the ad creative has “missed the mark”. In a blog post, she writes: “The message is clear, but the content belabours it to an extreme. Aligning toxicity with masculinity immediately connotes disease and implies that there is no degree of masculine behaviour we can celebrate in this era of #MeToo.

“Rather than evoke shame, Gillette should fill viewers with hope; rather than a montage of impropriety, the brand should tell a simple but powerful story; rather than attack an identity, the campaign should fuel a desire for us all to contribute to being better.”

For the campaign to be successful long-term, Lai also suggests Gillette will need to follow-through on the promise of the campaign with its overall brand positioning. The company has pledged to donate $1m a year for the next three years to non-profits running US programmes designed to help men achieve their “personal best”. But Lai believes Gillette needs to go further.

“For Gillette to have the effect it intends, the brand needs to make the message real for consumers. Gillette must craft a narrative around the conversation over time and show tangible dedication to living the message it calls for,” she concludes.



There are 7 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Douglas Spencer 18 Jan 2019

    Personally, I think the campaign will, in the long run, do well for the Gillette brand, even if there is short-term fallout from those who interpret it as blaming all men for the world’s ills. (It is not.) First, Gillette’s long-term and growing market (read: Millenials and Gen Z) put far more importance on supporting brands that take decisive positions on social issues. Their loyalty long-term is worth a few lost sales now.

    Second, a boycott of this nature has very little chance of picking up real steam. We have no attention span any longer and people will soon move on to another topic. Remember Nike’s Kaepernick ad? Some outcry, but more importantly, increased sales. Plus, the women in would-be boycotters’ lives probably won’t encourage it, either.

    Finally, if the Gillette brand is truly all about helping people be their best selves, they would be negligent to not have a stance like this one. And when brands are not true to themselves, piece by piece functions fail and shareholder value plummets.

    • Geoff Harrison 18 Jan 2019

      Gillette seems to disagree and have issued an apology. Further, even ‘socially aware’ Millenials and Zoombers aren’t that naive. Most see it for the cynical marketing ploy that it is, and the really ‘woke’ ones will see a multinational that has a poor record on gender-pay, animal testing and exploitation of child labour.

    • John Allman 18 Jan 2019

      Personally, I hope and anticipate that you will be shown to be wrong. The only reason you might not be, will be the difficulty of attributing lower sales in ten years time than there might have been, but for this advert.
      I’ve been boycotting buying Nestle products for more than 30 years now. I remember why I took this decision. I don’t think I’ll ever stop boycotting Nestle products. Because of this outrageous, offensive feminist-influenced advert, I have made a decision also to boycott all Procter & Gamble products, not just Gillette products,.

      My boycott will continue until Procter & Gamble admits misandry and hate speech and issues a groveling apology for this offensive advert. Ideally, the company will cease doing a Ratner, digging its own grave, and make a humorous advert that will ridicule feminist gender politics

  2. Richard Slee 18 Jan 2019

    The ad smacks of total corporate hypocrisy to me. Let’s look at Proctor and Gamble’s record on pay equality in the UK (source:

    Women’s mean hourly rate is 18.9% lower than men’s; women’s median hourly rate is 29.8% lower than men’s.

    Difference in bonus pay is no better: Women’s mean bonus pay is 39.1% lower than men’s while women’s median bonus pay is 4.8% lower than men’s.

    That’s ‘toxic’.

    I guess the ad also diverts attention from their diversion of corporate profits via the Netherlands and Cayman Islands which was flagged about a year ago. Perhaps some of the tax monies saved would have been better served narrowing the pay gap or donated to women’s refuges and victims of domestic abuse, where a number of charities in these areas are doing an amazing job under great financial pressures.

  3. Julian Pratt 21 Jan 2019

    “Aligning toxicity with masculinity immediately connotes disease and implies that there is no degree of masculine behaviour we can celebrate”

    Did they not actually WATCH the ad?

    Each of the scenarios of toxicity was resolved by a man intervening with a relatable and repeatable soundbite for specific scenarios:
    “Not cool” (to the creep)
    “Are you ok?” (to the victim)
    “That’s not how we treat each other” (to the fighting pair)

    THOSE are the masculine behaviours we can channel when confronting a strange and threatening situation.

    A friend lost an eye when he tried to break up a fight – it’s scary and dangerous. Having an ad show how man can step up is a really strong example to the next generation of consumers.

    So a few dinosaurs feel patronised? They are yesterday’s market.

    My wife was in floods watching the young boys in the mirror.
    Can you guess what brand she will favour when buying our 11yo his first razor in a few years?

  4. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance 23 Jan 2019

    @Julian Pratt. I also noted that the Gilette advert repeatedly recommends that men act in ways that are likely to cause fights. But I disagree that’s a good thing. I think it’s crazy.

  5. Joe Simiriglio 24 Jan 2019

    If you watch the Ad to completion and listen to the words, its clear its about truly being a Gentleman(A real Man), not a dawg. I like the advertisement, now the company should follow up with real stories and I would be proud to develop those adverts for the company. Their are many more good men than bad. Future Gillette follow up commercials should emphasize those regular everyday guys who are good people from around the globe.

Leave a comment