They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and it’s certainly the case that exposure for your brand will always generate interest, but PR campaigns that don’t land right can damage names in the longer term, both in terms of alienating existing customers and deterring new ones.
A well-delivered PR campaign resonates with your target audience, delivers the right message about who you are, what you do and where you can be found, while also engaging with potential new customers outside of your usual marketplace.
This is achieved through putting your brand in front of the right people at the right time. It can be through placing an article in a publication that the right people will read or by doing something a little more out-of-the-box.
In this article, we will examine a famous recent example – and discuss how successful it was in meeting its objectives.
GILLETTE – A PR CAMPAIGN EXAMPLE
The best a man can be
Brands planning their PR strategy will generally aim to do three things:
- Connect with their core audience and nurture loyalty
- Expand their reach and audience
- Promote or challenge existing perceptions of what the brand represents.
One brave, recent example of a brand challenging broader perceptions is Gillette and its ‘the best a man can be’ campaign. This utilised content, advertising, social media and traditional PR to challenge the brand’s own long-acknowledged values.
The ‘best a man can be’ line was an adaptation of Gillette’s traditional ‘the best a man can get’ slogan and reflected its willingness to embrace change, especially around what it truly means ‘to be a man’.
The campaign challenged and called out the symbols of toxic masculinity and urged its customer base to think twice about their role and responsibility in society. It also called out its own history, which is punctuated with imagery and tropes which would now be considered old-fashioned at best, and discriminatory at worst.
Gillette’s campaign was incredibly bold and didn’t come without risk of alienating existing customers – namely by asking them to re-evaluate their own behaviours. And though the campaign was largely well-received, and succeeded in its aim of shifting perceptions of the Gillette brand, there was visible opposition. Many turned to social media to vent their anger at messaging behind the campaign, even threatening to boycott the brand’s products.
However you may argue that the hotly-contested debate the campaign caused helped to boost its visibility even further.
The campaign has not succeeded in boosting sales, but it has changed perceptions of the brand and helped engage a new audience. And it remains to be seen how this evolution in demographic will support Gillette’s ambitions in the medium-term.
There has been no U-turn nor an apology from Gillette, although it’s fair to deduce that the brand has not sought to court the same narrative since – at least not to the same extent.
The original campaign landed at the height of the ‘me too’ movement, which succeeded in challenging discrimination and misconduct by men towards women, and since then politics has remained intrinsically linked to brand.
The current Black Lives Matter movement has challenged big brands to add their voice to the conversation, with a key element of the campaign being that silence is no longer a position to take up. And once again brands have risked alienating existing customers by making a particular statement – or even just by choosing not to.
Gillette was perhaps one of the first major brands to embrace the belief that staying silent on major social issues represents a missed PR opportunity and their ‘best a man can be’ campaign should serve as an example of what can be gained – and lost – through being brave.