What Nike Got Right that Gillette got Wrong

One of the most stressful conversations I’m having with CEOs these days is walking the fine line between standing up for an important social issue and ‘staying in your lane.’ T­his issue has been perplexing CEOs and marketers alike, simply because it’s fraught with so many risks.


Interestingly,my first post on this topicwas almost exactly a year ago when consumers were boycotting brands based on political affiliation. Then, I suggested 5 ways to prepare your organization to take a social stand, should it become necessary. 

Now, looking back, I realized I missed one important criteria – and It’s this criteria that marked the success of Nike’s social equity campaignbut backfired on Gillette. If you’re going to market an aspirational vision, you better be ready to talk about your own wins & failures.


How Nike Just Did It.

What would have happened if Nike had launched any social justice campaign without also addressing the issues with inequity the organization faced in 2017?  This campaign wasn’t just a marketing message.  It was an internal celebration of the work that had been done internally. The 2017 Annual Report faces these challenges and demonstrates these efforts with the letter from the Chairman, “Because our aim is to elevate human potential—and because we have the brand, scale, and resources to make a global impact—we're counted on to lead. We embrace that opportunity.

But living up to our purpose is about more than words—it's about reflecting it in every facet of our company. That starts, first and foremost, by cultivating an environment of respect and inclusion within Nike.“The organization even brought this beyond a marketing campaign; it included a new mission statement:  To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world* (*if you have a body, you’re an athlete). 

Where Gillette Lost its Edge.

It’s this level of authenticity and accountability that Gillette’s marketing team missed.  Interestingly, this isn’t Gillette’s first foray into advocating for gender equality; it’s clear that the organization is investing into diversity and inclusion training, and working to develop male allies across the organization.  I think the organization is making effort- but I don’t think they were fully prepared to lead the conversation, or there would have been more transparency.

Here’s what I would have coached Gillette to consider before launching this campaign: 


1.  Are you being true to your mission statement

Gillette’s mission is towards “Promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man.”  Unfortunately, the video shows 18 segments of males behaving badly vs. 7 instances of appropriate behavior. (Also, there are 0 instances of a woman speaking in this video.)  Yes, I counted.)  There are million other ways this message could have be portrayed visually than spending more than 50% of its time showing poor bad behavior.


2.  It could have pointed to its own challenges, honestly and transparently.  

TheBestMenCanBe.org state’s Gillette’s goals with this campaign, “…we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.”  

You know what they say about when you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you? What if Gillette had spent time reconciling for some of their own inappropriate advertising? Ads posted even 3 years ago that would been considered cringe-worthy in 2019.  


Trigger warning, friends.


3.     It could have created a call to action to follow the activities the organization is actually already taking

Gillette is actually undertaking efforts to develop male allies, remove unconscious bias and enhance diversity initiatives. What if this ad had encouraged all audiences to civility and kindness regardless of your gender? To open the conversation to the transgender community?  Or even just to stick it to Bic, with their “Pens for Women”campaign.

Does this campaign spell the end for Gillette?  

I don’t think so.  In fact, when you look deeper into the sustainability report, Gillette truly seems to be trying to address diversity and inclusiveness and build a positive image of men that focused on honesty, moral integrity, hard-work and respectfulness; terms I’m thankful describe most of the men I know.  They even showed the graphic showing the messages they hope to convey.   

It’s too bad they came out guns blazing with so many bad, fictionalized examples that we didn’t get to celebrate the true male allies and role models that exist all around us.    I’m not counting Gillette out yet, but I’m certainly hoping for better execution next time.



Dora LutzComment