The recent outcry following Gillette’s ‘The best a man can be’ advertising campaign was unsurprising for many, with commentators on both sides of the argument engaging in the Twitter diatribes that are becoming all too common.

Both sides are, however, in agreement that the campaign is likely to have an impact on the razor brand’s sales due to its brave stance against toxic masculinity/or unwarranted attack on men, depending on one’s viewpoint.

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Gillette advert

Or will it? While the campaign has resonated with many men, the focus is certainly on women. With high-profile campaigns last year, such as the #MeToo movement, Gillette is looking here to tap into this energy by engaging these women on issues for which there is much strong feeling.

Given that Gillette is primarily seen as a male-brand, it seems counter-intuitive to target women. But, a look back at Old Spice would disprove this.

Lessons from Old Spice

Old Spice, another male-orientated brand, famously saw huge success with its ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ campaign. This flew in the face of traditional marketing logic: to markets products to appeal to the end-user.

Given that women, despite being far more likely to be in full-time employment (even compared to 10 years ago), traditionally shoulder a disproportionate share of household duties compared to men, including shopping, Old Spice correctly recognised that the best target for marketing was the buyer and not the end-user.

However, there is a key difference between the Old Spice and the Gillette campaigns. Yes, both are designed to appeal to women, and both presume women are more likely to be the buyer than the male end-user.

Taking a gamble with the public

However, Old Spice employed a feel-good campaign fronted by the now iconic Old Spice guy. Gillette, on the other hand, aims to monetise a deeply controversial issue, with strong feelings on either side.

The risk is of alienating the end-user to the point that the buyer is overruled. Gillette has taken a gamble and other fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies will be taking notes on the public response as, after all, anger can be a profitable emotion to tap into.