Is Gillette Close-Shaving its Brand Purpose

22 Jun,2020


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Advertising is a way to enhance Brand value. As a result, brands expect growth and higher revenue. Every era has a different approach that seems to work with the generations. Brand Purpose appears to the current favourite and brands are opportunistically flirting with it.


A brand in its strategic madness must leverage topical opportunities. However, I think Gillette is diluting its image associating with a confusing brand purpose if any. What is the brand purpose? It is about being a secular product or an anti-racism advocate that avoids discrimination basis races and colour. Do you buy that for Gillette?~


I have grown with Gillette selling me the golden dream of the masculine clean-shaven man. It created that image for my idol. The one every woman is fascinated with. At least that’s what the brand been telling me for long.


I was young, the razor had just two blades. The 5pm shadow could be the difference between success and failure. Shaving an almost non-existent stubble was a ritual before any evening outing.


Gillette had you by the balls and ruled the mind space.


The times must have changed. It seems shaving is no longer about sharp, smooth, silky feel.




Every week I get System1 newsletter. It is a marketing outcomes agency. System1 picks up ‘the spot of the week’ by measuring emotion at scale and predicting the business impact of brands, communications and ideas.


System1 says, ‘The more people feel, the more people buy. Emotional advertising leads to long-term brand growth’.


You cannot fault this thinking.


Mostly I agree with their analysis and find it absolutely bang-on. Just to say that our thinking matches. At times, System1 outlook does not pass my filters or fit the pattern of my thinking. I then talk about it.


Gillette- Made Of What Matters.

Last week, the System1 spot of the week was Gillettte; ‘MADE OF WHAT MATTERS’.


Gillette advertisement stars British footballer Raheem Sterling. He plays for Manchester City.

The advertisement was launched around the world in February 2020. It was about helping kids who’d become disengaged from education.


However, it was not released in the US. Possibly the Gillette team thought that an unknown British soccer football player may not work in the US, where the game itself is of niche interest. Later, when Black Life Matter and racism wave hit the US, the spot was released. Now it takes a different cue.


It Is About Brand Purpose Or Opportunity.

The spot seems an answer to a topical opportunity. There is a seamless repositioning of existing creative. ‘Made of What Matters’ celebrates the idols in the game and outside it. The sports code of goodness, positivity and passion gets reflected in actions and life to push. Black lives matter. Made up of what matters.


The protest around police violence in the US gives the communication a good head-start. However, the brand response if much delayed and deliberated. Forget the brand purpose. The TVC was available for release much earlier.


It seems that learning from other brands like Pepsi (the Kendall Jenner ad), Gillette did not want to rush in. It waited to understand and evaluate the sympathy curve. When it became clear that the protest is triggering strong emotions across the nation. That the skin colour is not segmenting the protesters and that there is little chance of alienating a segment. It qualified as the window of intervention.



Is Gillette opportunistic? In India, Gillette has recently been all about acts than ads. Does this imagery conflict? Or it does not matter. After all, it is about a silly sharpened plate of metal cutting beard.


So what is the Gillette Brand Purpose?


I am confused. The brand keeps shifting the dialogue to successfully leverage topical causes; obvious, insightful, created or opportunistic. Will someone on Gillette stand up and tell us what is the brand purpose. 


Not The First Time For Gillette

There was a lot of talk when Gillette asked men to be their best during #MeToo era. In communication, Is this what the best can get. Gillette asked men to measure their impact and try evaluating what they do. Much against a ‘boys will be boys’ attribute. It was wonderfully opportunistic. Remember the mother brand P&G. The economic power of women forced the brand to align with the dominant social statement. Oh, for a brand that is best for shaving.


Branding and purpose branding is risky, and when you keep shifting the post, it is totally risky. Will, the brand Gillette, keep finding a new topical purpose to remain salient and fight growing competition or will it find a real purpose.


In India, the brand tried discriminating between men who shaved or not. A clean-shaven man or with stubble. It keeps raising questions. Do women like a man with stubble? Is three-blade better than two?


Gillette in India also presented the real-life story of Lt Col M K Sinha SM (Retd) and his father in an attempt to define the way for a new understanding of manliness and strength. Something that the next generation of men could aspire to. Was that the brand purpose? If yes, there is nothing wrong with it. However, somewhere we are lost in articulation or focus. Now, what is Gillette all about? As a customer, I am just seeking consistency 


P&G: Mother Brand with a Sharper Focus

On the other side, the mother company P&G has been on the track of undifferentiated living, equality and anti-racism. It made sense. Look at the #WeSeeEQUAL. 


P&G says ‘A gender-equal world is a better world for all. Through our actions and the conversations that we spark, we aspire to build a better world for all of us — inside and outside of P&G — free from gender bias and with equal representation and an equal voice for women and men. A world where everyone sees equal’.(YouTube)


In other communication, P&G directly attacks racism with ‘The Talk- My Black is Beautiful’. It addresses racism frankly and direct, something that opportunistic razor brand has failed in trying to create a space for itself to embrace progressive causes. Oh yes, the Gillette brand purpose is to embrace progressive causes that give them topical momentum.


“My Black is Beautiful” campaign focuses on the lessons black American parents have to pass on to their children. Lessons about language, presentation and beauty to help them survive in a majority-white society. The goal is to remind black Americans, they are valuable, worthwhile and capable of success despite obstacles. To encourage other audiences to think more deeply about biases they might hold themselves. (YouTube)



When the first time I shaved, I needed a razor, and I wanted Gillette. At that time, people used the standard razer with the Topaz, Bharat, Swords, or Wilkinson type of blades.


Gillette was power. Gillette was the mark. It had the rich history of more than a century of the woman falling for clean smooth-shaven men, full of confidence. Removing the 5PM light sky coloured shadows was an essential ritual before stepping out.


Gillette has helped men to be their best in a totally different context. Now it wants to guide the next generation by telling them what it means to be made of what matters. Here is the link from Gillette to understand what women want.


Gillette always remained faithful to women appreciation. So much that the brand promoted a crazy act of ‘Women Against Lazy Stubble. It sounded adventurously sexy and perfect fit. Then what?


What am I a mere consumer wanting a clean, perfect shave make out of this slithery purpose shifting opportunistic moves of the brand?


The Brand Purpose.


The cause the brand promotes must be genuine and part of the brand/organisation culture and DNA. Reflected internally and externally. Relevant to the business, consumer-first than society. No functional brand can exist with the sole purpose of creating a better world. It is a commercial entity. It is not about being opportunistic and amplifying whichever purpose is relevant at that stage. Maybe the new generation values something they may miss in their life, a purpose. As Santosh Desai says, ‘You start with a purpose, you have it, or you don’t. You don’t source the market and latch on what is good for the time’.  




This article was written before the excellent debate on June 20 2020 titled ‘Brand Purpose; Responsible or opportunistic’ under the banner Vice&Versa  and presented by the Advertising Club. Santosh Desai spoke about how Brand Purpose is nothing but opportunistic and Josy Paul talked about how it is the core. The session was moderated by Agnello Dias. The article  was edited to add the Santosh Desai quote and recraft a few parts.



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