A lesson in sincerity

Gillette’s newest advert, launched last week, created a media storm – but for all the wrong reasons. The advert, riding off the wave of the #MeToo movement proudly calls for an end to ‘toxic masculinity’ depicting men catcalling, groping and coercively controlling women. The backlash is understandable. Making insulting generalisations about the conduct of your primary customer base isn’t usually what one would consider an effective marketing technique. But perhaps the bigger issue at hand is the question of whether it’s ever wise for a brand to align itself with a socio-political movement?

Well yes – provided the context is right. A jeweller like Tiffany’s can promote a campaign calling for conflict-free diamonds because the brand tells us it is committed to selling conflict-free diamonds. Likewise, outdoor-clothing brand Patagonia can encourage its customers to buy sustainable apparel because the brand claims to be committed to reducing environmental destruction through organic farming and land preservation.

But Gillette – a brand which, among others in its industry, has historically and continues to face accusations of ripping women off, by charging more for their female-focused products than for those aimed at their male counterparts – despite many of the products being near identical – doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Perhaps they should have set their sights on helping abolish the ‘Pink Tax’ before they tackled toxic male conduct – after all, the economic exploitation of women is itself just another form of gender inequality.

It’s a lesson relevant for any organisation when choosing a CSR initiative: look closely at the values that underpin your organisation, because sincerity always pays in the end.

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