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Online Trends

Published January 15th 2019

Deconstructing Gillette’s The Best Men Can Be Tagline

Consumers are buying with their hearts. Now's the time for brands to define and live by their values.

The modern world used to be predictable. Family life was strictly regimented, religion governed our beliefs, there was an understanding as to how things were done, and there were restrictions on the self and its malleability.

We’re now living in a time, theoretically speaking, of incessant choice. We can construct our own identities from an unprecedented range and combination of sources. There are a plurality of truths available to us. These are some of the central tenets of postmodernism – a state of the world in which individuals are unconstrained by tradition and can define themselves however they wish.

This is a western-centric and incredibly simplified view of our rapidly changing reality, but it’s one way to look at the direction consumer tastes and branding are moving in.

Belief-driven consumerism

A recent Edelmen study shows that 64% of consumers will choose, switch, avoid, or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about.

“Today more than ever, consumers are putting their faith in brands to stand for something. To do the right thing. To help solve societal and political problems. Whether people are shopping for soap or shoes, they’re weighing a brand’s principles as much as its products. Opting out of taking a stand is no longer an option for brands.”

– Edelmen study (October 2018)

What this study, plus many other signs, is telling us is that it’s time for brands to define and live by their values in a public way. We’ve seen a few high profile instances of this recently that have played out well for the brands in question – Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad, Lush’s SpyCops campaign, Dick’s Sporting Goods removing assault rifles from the shelves – and we’re likely to see plenty more.

Gillette’s #TheBestMenCanBe campaign looks to be next up:

Their website makes their intentions and stance clear:

“It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man.”

And while the campaign has had its fair share of negative comments, it’s received a lot of praise too. When we looked at mentions of Gillette between 14 – 15 January (up to 9am ET, and removing retweets), the sentiment-categorized conversation showed an almost 50/50 split between positive and negative.

This isn’t necessarily bad – Nike’s mentions were around 65% negative around the release of the Kaepernick ad and it’s become one of the best examples of ‘moral marketing’ ever.

“The Best a Man Can Get” becomes “The Best Men Can Be”

Gillette’s famous tagline “The Best a Man Can Get” (that’s been around since 1989) has been given a makeover for their latest campaign, and I think the resulting phrase is one of the most poignant examples of a brand directly targeting consumers’ identities (rather than their practical preferences) ever.

“The Best a Man Can Get” is about obtaining. “The Best a Man Can Be” is about becoming.

Gillette is no longer positioning itself as a tool a man can use. It’s positioning itself as a set of values all men can live by.

It’s a bold move, especially given the diversity of their clientele. Not everyone wants to be told how to live, after all.

But in terms of fitting with the positive messaging of other recent moral marketing campaigns, and the already huge reaction (342k mentions over the last one-and-a-bit days), I’m going to guess that Gillette will do pretty well out of their new tagline.

Brands and identity

Brand connotations aren’t a new thing, but the way brand stories and values are playing into the buying decisions we make is getting stronger.

There are consequences to this – a potentially even more divided society, for example. Soon the once apolitical clothing we wear or the products we keep in the bathroom might signify particular beliefs that could either offend or comply with those of our peers.

There are also exceptions. Not everyone can afford to buy with their heart, and while some people might dislike Gillette’s new ad they might continue to buy their razors just because they prefer them to others.

Taking a strong stance isn’t always going to work – especially if brand values clash with those of their target audience – and I imagine we’ll see some casualties to this when brands jump in without doing their research. But as more and more brands make their views known on particular issues, for the rest there are fewer and fewer places to hide.

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