As we exit the second decade of the 21st century, you can add a new term to the “antiquated things” list: corporate social responsibility. I know I’ve mentioned it before as key, critical, have-to-have in today’s business climate, but the energy is quickly gathering behind a new phenomenon. The brand of the 21st century doesn’t just dabble in donation to nonprofits, or organize an employee volunteer day. Nope, the successful brand of the 21st century is socially conscious from the get-go.
What does that mean?
Well, we’re seeing the latest example in the highly controversial ad (and rebrand) released by shaving company Gillette. If you didn’t hear about it, Procter & Gamble’s Gillette released an ad on YouTube last month entitled “We Believe.” It depicted in a somewhat cartoonish fashion the masculine foibles of yesteryear – bullying, talking over women in board meetings, sexual harassment, etc. Then a TV screen depicted footage representing the rise of #MeToo – after which, for men, there is “no going back.” The rest of the commercial shows men encouraging one another to bring out the best in themselves – finally revealing that Gillette has changed its well-known slogan “The Best A Man Can Get” to “The Best Men Can Be.”1
This raised a lot of hackles – detractors thought of the commercial as preachy and condescending, and a betrayal of Gillette’s main customer base. As often happens after controversial marketing communications, some people declared they would #BoycottGillette.2 Of course, others saw the ad as a welcome conversation starter and positive step ahead. But boy, did it get people talking (with Gillette at the center of it all).
I’m making the contention here that Gillette’s splash-making ad is ultimately a #PRWIN, no matter what one thinks of the message and how it was delivered. Brands who take a stand are seeing results, because especially younger consumers want to purchase from brands who share their social consciousness and worldview – brands that they can feel good about supporting. Other prominent brands to do this include Dove, Nike (also quite controversially), Aerie, Sephora – not to mention the startups like Toms and Brilliant Earth who have social consciousness baked into their very fabric.3 The older, more storied brands are having to get hip to keep up.
“Taking a stand” and earning cultural credibility is what’s paying dividends today. Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign contributed to an increase in sales of 6% — and Nike’s Kaepernick ad, which (like Gillette’s) provoked a PR firestorm, ultimately gave the company an additional $6 billion in market value.4
1) Stanley-Becker, Isaac. “Gillette Ad Takes on ‘Toxic Masculinity’ in #MeToo-Era Rebrand, Provoking a Backlash.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 15 Jan. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/01/15/gillette-takes-toxic-masculinity-new-ad-rebranding-metoo-era-inviting-backlash/?utm_term=.7e42fb23003b.
3) Baird, Nikki. “Is Gillette’s Stand A Tipping Point for Brands?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 Jan. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/nikkibaird/2019/01/25/is-gillettes-stand-a-tipping-point-for-brands/#a6cc15e1066e.
4) Gibson, Kate. “Colin Kaepernick Is Nike’s $6 Billion Man.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 25 Sept. 2018, www.cbsnews.com/news/colin-kaepernick-nike-6-billion-man/?ftag=COS-05-10aaa0h&utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A%2BTrending%2BContent&utm_content=5ba5c81b9ebbef0001d6be40&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook.