Gillette’s New Campaign Repositions Brand for the Future

P&G and Grey Advertising took a massive leap this week with a brand that has kept their advertising relatively safe and predictable given its target audience and male-dominated consumer base. For 30 years, Gillette’s “The Best a Man Can Get” was a great tagline for selling razors, but the hyper-masculine brand needed to adapt and reposition their brand for the foreseeable future.

This week Gillette launched a new campaign with the tagline, “The Best a Man Can Be.” A YouTube video associated with the campaign has been highly controversial to some and a welcome sight for others. The video addresses issues surrounding toxic masculinity and encourages men to change the status quo when it comes to bullying, sexism and other normalized and unacceptable male behavior.

I applaud Gillette and P&G for making such a bold move, clearly knowing this ad would be highly polarizing. Advertising should change with society. Consumers want to see brands stand for something, any issue that aligns with their own beliefs and values. The backlash surrounding this video is exactly why the world needed to see it. Advertising has become too safe, and companies have been reluctant to align their brands with issues that could affect their bottom line. Along with Gillette, brands like Nike with Colin Kaepernick and Pepsi with Kendall Jenner (kidding) are pushing boundaries and setting the bar high for cause campaigns in 2019.

The Gillette ad is not virtue baiting and is not an attack on males and their morals. Fragile, emasculated men might be a little triggered as evidenced by the nearly 900k dislikes on YouTube,  but if anything the ad achieved its goal of starting a conversation that’s been long overdue. Men CAN do better, and it doesn’t take an ad to remind us of that. The #MeToo movement created a cultural shift in society over the past few years. Advertisers are adapting to a new world where products and services take a back seat to the issues surrounding brands and the consumers with a personal connection to them.

With this new campaign, Gillette is positioning their brand for a future where masculinity and the ‘ideal male’ will take on an entirely different look. If a brand wants to use their clout and online influence to spark real change, let’s give them an opportunity to do it tastefully and creatively. Gillette got it right, and I hope other brands follow suit.

 

 

 

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Arby’s No Longer Serves Police Officers

Arby’s made national headlines this week, and it was not for their delicious curly fries. A Pembroke Pines restaurant employee refused to serve a police officer at a drive-thru, and the city’s police chief did not take kindly to the news. The chief contacted Arby’s corporate executives directly and demanded an apology. Arby’s issued a public statement and apologized for the employee’s actions, but from a public relations perspective that’s like putting a band-aid on a broken window. Arby’s needs a lesson in crisis communications. It’s clear their public relations team was not prepared to handle a situation of this magnitude. The online community is threatening to boycott their brand, and the company has done very little to assure customers that the issue is being resolved.

The story has spread like wildfire on social media. The company is being more reactive than proactive with their communications efforts. Arby’s hasn’t made a post on their Facebook page since August 29, and they failed to issue a statement on social media explaining the situation, apologizing and offering ways to right their wrongs. Was the employee fired? What is being done about it? Why should we trust Arby’s and their employees? It’s important to take responsibility, not ignore the problem and wait until it blows over.

The company is keeping the public in the dark when they should be acting as transparent and honest as possible. More proactive steps are needed to educate and inform the public. Instead, they’ve allowed the media and their own customer base to dominate the discussions that are happening across social media. Arby’s is more interested in promoting their new sliders instead of doing some much-needed damage control and building goodwill with their audience.

Corporations are not invincible. There comes a time when a brand will come under fire when they least expect it. A crisis communications plan needs to be in place. In less than 24 hours the entire nation caught wind of this story. An interaction between a fast food worker and a police officer is now threatening a well-established brand, and their comms. team has essentially lost control of the situation.

“All Cops Eat Free for a Day” would be a simple campaign Arby’s could start to earn back the trust of the public and police departments across the nation. It may have been an isolated incident, but the brand is still affected wherever it operates. A simple statement will not cut it. A call to the police chief is not sufficient. This story has legs, and right now it’s outrunning the Arby’s brand in every possible direction.

The State of Social Media

The social media landscape is saturated, and communications professionals are struggling to keep up with new platforms popping up every day. Facebook held the throne for quite some time, Twitter experienced rapid growth and life was cozy for the few major players enjoying the quietness of the social landscape during the mid-2000s.

Fast forward to 2015, I have coworkers asking what a “snapchat” is and how the “vine” works. In less than five years, Instagram exploded in popularity and is slowly strangling a competitive field once dominated by its owner (Facebook). YouTube is a video behemoth, and there doesn’t seem to be any website that can rival its superiority. Google owns it, and with their money, resources and overall dominance it’s hard to imagine any other video platform competing with YouTube in the foreseeable future.

Apps like Vine and Snapchat offer short-form video storytelling, and a handful of brands have found success using these tools. From how-to videos on Vine (Lowes) to stop motion animation, it will be interesting to see how brands continue to reach younger audiences and create compelling content. Telling a story in six seconds is an art form in and of itself. I’m amazed at the creative process behind the amazing Vines being shared on a daily basis. Pinterest is a great outlet for brands to get creative and share fun DIY projects, recipes, products and more on their pages and pin boards.

Brands are getting help from influencers who dominate these popular social channels. Companies are leveraging the clout these influencers have to reach larger audiences looking for content that is genuine, authentic and relevant.

Today’s social media lineup is so deep it feels like a new platform is sprouting up every week. Periscope is an app I’ve been keeping a close eye on. It’s a live video streaming service, and as a newer platform it appears to have some staying power. Journalists are using it to cover live events and breaking news. Politicians and other organizations are live streaming speeches and other notable talks. The general public is live streaming pay-per-view boxing matches and Game of Thrones episodes. The app has many applications for both brands and personal users.

LinkedIn is a platform for professionals, but brands are doing a great job of sharing content that is relevant to job seekers and working professionals. It’s great to build your own professional network, but there is value for companies using LinkedIn to hire and inspire.

Flickr is a hub for photographers and enthusiasts who don’t need the social aspect of a photo sharing site like Instagram. It’s an image hosting site owned by Yahoo, so it’s easy to see why it’s not as popular as some of the more prominent photo apps.

At the end of the day it comes down to content and community. Satisfy a need, always ask what purpose your content is serving and why people should care about it.

Changing Perceptions of a Misunderstood Profession

The negative and often misunderstood perception of public relations professionals and the entire industry has been the thorn in our profession’s paw for decades. We’re managing the reputation and image of clients we represent, but what’s being done to manage the reputation of our own industry?

The C-suite is starting to realize the value of public relations toward the overall success of an organization. If we want the respect we deserve as a profession, PR executives must be included in strategic business decisions made by top executives. The tides have slowly been changing, and it’s exciting to see the influence public relations has garnered in recent years.

It boils down to an industry’s damaging image that’s been shaped by the media, television and the ethical wrongdoings of days past. There’s a common misconception about what we do as PR professionals. For a thorough, accurate explanation of what we actually do as practitioners, this PRSA article sums it up perfectly.

If we’re hoping to improve our industry’s reputation and gain influence atop the corporate ladder, we must:

  • Prove our worth by using appropriate measurement standards to tie in PR plans and strategies to the bottom line of a company
  • Not let publicity define public relations
  • Highlight and enforce our Code of Ethics to ensure the profession continues to be positively perceived in the eyes of consumers and other professions.
  • Change the stigma of PR pros being viewed as flacks or spin doctors. Transparency and openness is crucial toward the success of our profession for the long term.
  • Practice corporate social responsibility by supporting the communities and people you serve. These good deeds humanize our industry and make it clear that philanthropy, not profit, is at the heart of what we do.

This is clearly not an extensive list, but surely a  proactive vision toward a fresh start. The work we do for clients is invaluable, and our good practices and efforts should be better recognized and appreciated.

How the Public Views Public Relations

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Tennessee found that public relations has been portrayed negatively by media outlets over the years. This can ultimately have a negative impact on the credibility of the entire profession.

Negative stereotypical themes have continually discredited everything good public relations can do for an organization. Media has been known to portray the profession as damage control specialists and slacks who are spewing lies and working with no moral backbone. The reality is quite the opposite. Without trust and transparency, public relations would not be the thriving industry it is today.

Public relations is of great value to society, and the perception of this industry has changed drastically from what it once was. Academic studies focused on 84 different articles that contained the term ‘public relations’. These articles made negative remarks about the profession and portrayed public relations as an attempt to hide or disguise the truth. Spin doctors are a thing of the past.

Studies also found that media definitions for public relations matched the standard PRSA definition only about five percent of the time, and public relations was portrayed negatively 85 percent of the time.

Candace White and Joosuk Park, University of Tennessee researchers, conducted a phone survey involving over 400 people, and found that the public’s view of public relations is not simply damage control, or that they disguise the truth. What may be the most beneficial for the practice of public relations is to focus on how organizations view the profession, and what can be done to enhance the legitimacy of the profession.

Public perceptions of public relations Original Research Article
Public Relations Review, Volume 36, Issue 4, November 2010, Pages 319-324
Candace White, Joosuk Park