The Public Rejects Corporate Virtue Signaling

Companies should save the moralizing to save their bottom line.

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Photo by Vladimir Solomyani on Unsplash

“Cash rules everything around me.” — Wu Tang Clan

Corporate attempts to cash in on social justice issues and political divisions in America have been summarily rejected.

Proctor and Gamble took a huge write down after their “Toxic Masculinity” was less than enthusiastically received by their customer base. Perhaps corporate ad and marketing execs forgot a golden rule of selling goods in America.

A commercial that alienates half your targeted audience is never a winning strategy. P & G forgot something else important, too. Something that made the fallout from ‘Toxic Masculinity’ ads even more impactful on the bottom line.

Progressive liberals might have adored the commercial, and its message. But progressive liberals don’t buy Proctor and Gamble, haven’t for years; bad for the environment. If P&G isn’t the king of excessive plastic packaging, it should be. P&G also tests on animals, exploits workers in emerging markets, and makes junk food ads targeting children.

The difference between making a sales commercial about a perceived wrong in society versus actually doing something about it is perfectly clear. If it isn’t, advertisers and marketers are giving themselves far too much credit. Making a commercial never fixed anything but a bottom line.

This wasn’t a cultural moment, this wasn’t a movement, or a great message; it was a commercial. It was an ad trial for a marketing strategy, an experiment by a company who could well afford to fail.

In spite of the Gillette losses, P&G shares rose to a record high this week.

It might have worked. It was worth a shot. You don’t get as big as Proctor & Gamble without trying a few risky ad strategies. This one simply didn’t pay off.

“Does the customer want to be told they’re a naughty boy? Are you asking too much of your consumer to be having this conversation with them? It’s about execution. Sometimes brands stretch themselves too fine and they snap.” — Dean Crutchfield, CEO Crutchfield & Partners

Perhaps Gillette’s customers were wise enough to see through the thinly veiled attempt to sell more razors, and to recognize the danger in it. Allowing billion dollar ad budgets to do society’s moralizing? Dangerous at best.

Allowing companies to capitalize on political divisions and hot button social issues at will, driving these divisions further in an attempt to emotionally manipulate us into buying more products is a recipe for disaster at worst.

Hopefully, this financial loss will prevent such efforts in future.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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