Gillette’s Ad Angered Old Customers in Pursuit of New Ones

A Procter & Gamble Co. Gillette brand razor sits on display in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Monday, Oct. 24, 2016. Procter & Gamble Co. is scheduled to release quarterly earnings on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

By Ellen Milligan, Jordyn Holman and Tiffany Kary | Bloomberg

Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette ad asked men to consider doing better. As a result, at least some are willing to consider Gillette.

Though the early reaction seemed to be dominated by male umbrage, early data suggests the ad split two important groups for the brand. More than half of younger men — a group the 117-year-old brand’s struggled with — reacted positively, according to survey data from Harris Poll. Their dads, though, were more likely to be offended.

Among millennials and Gen Zs, 57 percent said they’d be more likely to consider purchasing Gillette products. Nearly two-thirds of Gen X men said the same. Roughly the same proportion of Baby Boomers, though, felt the opposite.

“We knew this film might be polarizing,” a P&G spokeswoman told Bloomberg. “Conversations on these profound social issues can be difficult for all sides but we believe they are important and that, by sparking the discussion, we can play a part in creating meaningful and positive change.”

Brands are growing increasingly comfortable making politics part of their marketing, courting buzz and controversy at the risk of alienating some consumers, at least in the short term. The effects on the bottom line, however, take longer to reveal themselves. For example, Nike Inc.’s commercial featuring quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick inspired a social media call for a boycott. Months later, the company reported that the campaign boosted its online traffic and engagement, leading to sales growth.

The jury is still out for Gillette, whose products are used by 800 million men every year. While Nike’s Kaepernick campaign played to its core customers, Gillette sought to make an impression on the group it’s been losing to online startups like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club.

The advertisement, which has by now been viewed more than 70 million times across its social media channels, was “dog whistling to a younger demographic,” said Jess Weiner, culture expert and chief executive officer of Talk to Jess, a marketing and advertising consulting firm.

“Gillette is an iconic brand but it’s probably your dad’s or your granddad’s brand,’’ she said. “They were intentionally taking on a topic that is in the zeitgeist for millennial audiences right now.’’

During the first week of the campaign’s run, it generated over $34 million in media exposure, according to Eric Smallwood of Apex Marketing, which measures sentiment on TV, radio and online news. A little more than one-third of the coverage and reaction was negative, he said, roughly on par with the reactions to Nike’s Kaepernick ad during its first week.

Six percent of responses to Gillette were positive, fewer than the 11 percent positive responses generated by the Nike ad.

“The way to be modern is to take on a social issue,” said John Gerzema, chief executive officer of The Harris Poll. “They were successful in getting the brand back into the culture.’’

Read more at Bloomberg.