Debating the Merits of a Clean Shave Boosts Gillette in India

2009 Festival of Media Case Study: People's Choice Winner

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This year's Festival of Media, held in Valencia, Spain, honored effective media campaigns from around the globe. In the next few weeks, MediaWorks will take a look at some of the winners, illuminating the insights behind the campaigns and why they worked. This week's case study, from MediaCom for Gillette in India, was the People's Choice Winner.

Gillette's campaign sparked a national debate and eventually generated record results for the brand.
Gillette's campaign sparked a national debate and eventually generated record results for the brand.
What could razor brand Gillette possibly do to get men in India, where most prefer the stubbled look, to not only pick up a Gillette Mach3 razor and shave but buy a razor that is 10 times more expensive than traditional Indian razors? It let them do what they do best: debate about it. With the help of its media agency, WPP's Mediacom, Gillette launched the "India votes: To shave or not" campaign, which ended up sparking a national debate on the merits of the clean-shaven look vs. the stubbled look and eventually generated record results for the brand.

The effort got under way with a Nielsen-commissioned survey intended to determine the country's attitude toward shaving. The results of the research were what really got people talking and managed to spark coverage across the country's key news services, such as The Times of India, which ran a daily poll on the subject using questions such as: Are clean-shaven men more successful? Does the nation prefer clean-shaven celebrities? It wasn't long before a national conversation was taking place among celebrities, Bollywood stars, noted business icons and socialites. TV-news anchors and radio DJs debated the issue on their respective channels.

Divya Gururaj, managing director of MediaCom India, said years of conventional product advertising had established a good brand image for Gillette, but that wasn't enough to get men to switch.

"Our task was to grow the trial and share of Gillette Mach3, but we realized that for men to rationalize the price premium and switch to Mach3, the real barrier was in combating their indifference to shaving," Ms. Gururaj said. Without a serious competitor anywhere in sight, Gillette's sales for the Mach3 had remained flat for a decade.

"We didn't think being 10 times more expensive was a challenge as much as disinterest in the category," she said. "The campaign worked well because it engaged consumers and got them talking. This was different and more effective than the brand talking to them. To debate and to express one's opinion is in the culture of India. Everyone has to have a point of view."

Online and live polls held in places such as gyms, malls, offices and movie theaters fed the fire while giving men a chance to use the product.

The campaign, which cost less than half a million dollars, produced groundbreaking results for Gillette, including doubling awareness, increasing sales 40% and trials 400%, and expanding market share more than 25%.

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