Every ad campaign carries a bit of inherent risk. Despite careful research, you can’t truly know how your audience feels about things until an ad is live. Or can you?

Social sentiment can actually clue you in to which way the winds are blowing – which makes it all the more confounding when a brand finds itself dealing with major backlash to a campaign.

Are You Talking to Me?

The latest campaign under fire is Gillette’s – which, according to the brand’s website, is part of a new pledge “to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.”

There’s just one problem – their target audience hates the ad. Like, really hates it.

Throughout late December and into January, Net Sentiment for the brand fluctuated from 60% to high 80s. But you can see (above) the sharp peak of negative sentiment when the Gillette ad went live – dropping to -7% on January 15 – and in the days since. And you can see the Sentiment Behaviors – with “#boycott,” “not buy,” and “offended” prominent among them.

It’s not all bad, of course. There’s a bit of social love for the ad too, as you can see looking at Sentiment Emotions in NetBase:

… and tweets like Chrissy Teigen’s:

The problem is, the positive sentiment isn’t enough to counter the negative. And the negativity is coming from the very consumers Gillette has always served.

Trendjack With Care

Gillette isn’t the first brand to put a polarizing social issue at the heart of their advertising. They’re also not the first to ignore the lessons they could have learned from other brands’ mistakes.

And how can you effect change – if that’s your goal – if you alienate the customers who kept you in business all along?

That’s to say nothing of the fact that consumers mistrust brands’ motives as a general rule – but especially when they make grand political gestures. It might sound nice, but if it’s just to generate buzz and sales with a shocking ad, it’s only a short-term win.

At worst, it can be a total disaster, as we saw with Pepsi’s Khloe Kardashian commercial.

What brands seem to miss in these instances is the diversity of their audience’s interests. One segment of your audience might understand your goal and applaud it – but another (or several) may feel misunderstood or taken advantage of.

If only there were a way to know how people felt about such things… Oh, wait…

Social sentiment analysis exists for this very reason, and it should be used ahead of – and throughout – every marketing campaign.

Understanding the Conversation at Large

This is where it’s so very important to understand not just how your audience feels about your brand, but how they feel about everything. Rarely does brand love equate to “you can do no wrong.” It simply means you haven’t done wrong yet.

Reaction to Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad is another great example of what can happen when you ignore the attitudes, interests, and feelings of a major audience segment to cater to another one. Except Nike is recovering quite nicely, a few months out:

Will things turn around for Gillette? They certainly seem to have their work cut out for them, but it also depends on what their goals were for this campaign.

If they wanted to get people talking, well – mission accomplished. You can see that from late December up through the time before the new ad launched, they were their only influencer, and engagement was fairly low at 6.5K:

Fast forward to the past week and they’ve gained 25K followers along with 290K+ engagements.

Granted, not all of those engagements are positive – nor are the influencers they’ve picked up since the ad went live. But maybe becoming the 28th most disliked YouTube video of all time is exactly what they wanted from this ad in this moment.

It’s perfectly fine to get people riled up if you know that might happen and are prepared. If you have no idea there’s potential for backlash, that is a very different story. Understanding your audience has to be at the heart of every business decision. That doesn’t appear to be the case here, but time will tell.

Whatever Gillette’s goals, they will need to continuing monitoring social sentiment to understand how to proceed. With the Super Bowl coming up, will they need to shift gears, or will they surprise everyone with another take on this new messaging and win back some of their lost fans? Or embrace an entirely new audience?

In the time since the ad’s debut they’ve had a slight demographic shift, from 60% men and 40% women to 55% men and 45% women – with the gains happening among Millennials and Gen Z in particular:

Was that expected? Can women help them navigate this rocky patch? Possibly – though plenty of women hate the ad too.

It’s an exciting case to follow – from a social analytics perspective, at least. If you’re one of Gillette’s competitors, you’ve got to be looking for a way to swing those angry customers over to your brand.

If you’re Gillette, you’ve hopefully got an ace up your sleeve. Or at least social sentiment on your side.

There’s truly never a dull moment in social analytics. We can’t wait to see what happens next.

Want to be sure you won’t be caught off guard with your next campaign? Ask us how our audience and sentiment analysis tools will keep you in the know!


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