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'Low-risk low-reward': Why Gillette's #MeToo ad is a relatively safe bet

(REUTERS/John Gress)

The debate over a Gillette ad channeling the #MeToo movement rages on. Some call it insulting and preachy, while others applaud the message. Parallels to Nike’s ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick are being drawn, but it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison.

Gillette’s Internet-only ad shows men and boys engaging in bullying and sexual harassment. They are encouraged to clean up their acts. It has more than 12 million views on YouTube alone since it debuted on Monday.

“I think the message is what I would call low-risk low-reward because the message itself is hard to disagree with or admit that you disagree with it.” Mark Satov, founder and strategy advisor at Satov Consultants, told Yahoo Finance Canada.

“There were some who disagreed with it, but they were quickly sort of pushed aside as being insensitive.”

Nike’s (NKE) ad featured former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who famously kneeled for the U.S. national anthem. He told media he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” It was a controversial move that even drew the ire of President Donald Trump.

Satov says Nike’s ad was a riskier move than Gillette’s.

“With Colin Kaepernick, there were a bunch of Americans who believed he was disrespectful,” says Satov.

“I think the reward was higher for Nike because apparel is more of a lifestyle brand than shaving, so you are more likely to choose an apparel brand based on your affinity with the brand value than you are with a razor which is a utility item.”

They know what they’re doing

Michigan University’s associate dean for business + impact says Nike’s knew exactly what it was doing.

“Nike’s most fervent fans are likely to find Colin Kaepernick a highly sympathetic spokesman, so there was not a huge risk to the brand for engaging him.” Jerry Davis, told Yahoo Finance Canada.

Davis says Gillette’s situation is pretty different because it aims to sell razors to everyone.

“On the other hand, I’m not sure there is a pro-bullying or pro-harassment lobby out there that will be angered by the ad’s message,” says Davis.

Nikes bet paid off with an immediate increase in sales.

But will it work?

Mark Satov says corporate social activism is on the rise because people are hungry for heroes.

“Anybody who says something that remotely sounds less than selfish is something that a bunch of people will glom onto, so I think brands are seduced by that possibility,” says Satov.

Gillette is part of consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (PG), which puts a lot of resources into marketing. Rival upstarts like Dollar Shave Club have shaved off around 40 per cent of Gillette’s market share. Ads like this could help stem the tide.

“I think this type of marketing can be very effective when the alternatives in a category are very similar,” David Soberman, marketing professor, at the Rotman School of Management, told Yahoo Finance Canada.

“If you are able to reflect values and concepts that resonate with your target you can create positive associations for your brand and this helps to make the likelihood of a consumer choosing your brand higher (which is what marketing is all about).”

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