Photo: Colin Kaepernick mural in Atlanta, Georgia/ Erik S. Lesser/EPA, The Media Online

Photo: Colin Kaepernick mural in Atlanta, Georgia/ Erik S. Lesser/EPA, The Media Online


A mother comforts her son while WhatsApp message notifications pop up around him with words like “Sissy”, “You’re Such a Loser” and “Everyone Hates You”. The “Best A Man Can Be” campaign by shaving giant Gillette caused a stir but did the furore lead to sales? And can brands ever be sure of the end results if they enter a politically and socially charged debate with a purpose-driven campaign?


Exploring toxic masculinity was always going to generate love/ hate headlines and Gillette’s wishes were granted with a plethora of media outlets either bemoaning or rejoicing in the left-field campaign. But, the media furore failed to impact on the bottom line, with Proctor & Gamble, reporting no change in their brand’s sales following the campaign[1].


This is in contrast to Nike’s bumper sales increase[2] from its recent “Believe in Something” purpose-driven campaign ad campaign exploring institutional racism with American footballer Colin Kaepernick.


Why didn’t both campaigns result in increased sales? Well, Nike’s was a calculated risk: the brand knew its core demographic of younger, more socially aware millennials were largely behind Kaepernick’s stance. Gillette’s stand was slightly more “broad brush” – talking to all men - which can be dangerous in PR and marketing terms, especially with a campaign which focused on levelling criticism at their main audience[3].


So, with Nike and Gillette both producing different results but both being risky campaigns, why would marketers venture into potentially stormy waters? An insight can be found in a recent study which has shown consumers now look for more of a connection with brands, with 73% saying they want more than simply a product or service[4].


Both examples provide a cautionary tale in PR and marketing. Good PR is knowing your core demographic, fine tuning the message and converting media buzz into an increase in sales, never ever creating media buzz for media buzz’s sake.



[1] Independent Online

[2] Guardian

[3] Marketing Week


Mandy Sharp