The Best a Brand Can Get? Michael Goldthorpe discusses that Gillette campaign

Simon says, “Start with why”. Why? Because “no-one buys what you do, they buy why you do it.” Those are the headlines from Simon Sinek’s famous Ted talk. And his Apple makes a lot of sense.

But 40 million views later it’s all getting a little cliché and confused. And the most recent cobbled-together, virtue-signalling bollocks from Gillette is a great example of “Why not?”.

Why do we all like ‘why’?

Like most of the industry, we like the cut of Simon’s jib. He struck a chord and communicated with common sense. His genius was to summarise a lot of brand theory in some simple whiteboard circles and a catchphrase. It’s good stuff.

But the challenge of simplifying anything is forgetting the devil in the detail. In this case, Gillette missed the purpose of their business to create a new purpose for their business.

Rather than build brand around razors, they dived down the rabbit hole of social self-importance to lecture their target market instead. Most people don’t seem to like it.

What’s the point of purpose?

Having a purpose is no bad thing. The commercial point is to make people feel good about your brand so they buy more of your stuff. It’s brand-building 101. And it usually comes best from start-ups. Patagonia. Tick. Eat My Lunch. Tick. Even Dove’s campaign for real beauty. Tick.

Where it goes wrong is where it doesn’t ring true. Remember when Pepsi tried to fix racism with a music video? While no self-respecting human would disagree with the premise of Gillette’s ad, there’s no believable link between a smoother chin and a better society. It’s just awkward.

I don’t want to wake up woke.

Gillette missed the point of Sinek’s why. I don’t buy a razor to change the world. I buy it to shave. And in that early morning moment with me and the mirror I’m happy to pay more for ‘the best a man can get’. That’s Gillette’s why – and it’s worked for years.

It’s not all clean cut. 

The challenge of this marketing stuff, is that it’s not easy. Some brands can really benefit from a bold, relevant and genuine social purpose. Others, like Nike, can happily surf the zeitgeist and reap the rewards. But not everyone can. And not everyone should.

Sometimes you’re a yoghurt, an office chair, or a razor. Remember It’s okay to be proud of that. Or as Gillette used to say – “the best a man can get.”

That’s what I reckon, what do you think?

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Michael Goldthorpe is Managing Partner at Hunch.

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