Extreme Branding Gone Awry

Extreme BrandScreen Shot 2019-01-20 at 3.03.59 PMing is alive and well.

Nike jumped into the deep end of civil rights with Kaepernick’s Anthem kneeling. Now Gillette has followed suit with a not so subtle attack on ‘masculine toxicity.’

I get it! Gillette, like Nike, wants to make sure their global mega brand is relevant to the younger males who appear to be more sensitive to social purpose.

Nike played on their enduring, ‘Just Do It,’ campaign. Gillette is using their long time, ‘The Best a Man Can Get’ platform.

One can look at this from a business view and say bravo. Gillette’s viral buzz is on fire; brand re-awareness is rocketing and should continue so through the hyped Super Bowl season.

Nike’s sales were reportedly up after their campaign launched and although their effort turned off some loyal users, it has apparently worked for younger audiences. Time will tell. As one young friend said, ‘At least they had the courage to use their money to help make things better.”

I asked the same young person what they thought of the new Gillette campaign and he said,“Stupid. I don’t need some shaving company lecturing me on how I should be.”


Of course this was just one person’s view, but it doesn’t take more than a Google minute to see that he was not alone. One report showed twice as many dislikes as likes.

Scanning through the comments, unlike Nike, which tended to be about social conscience for all, Gillette’s approach hits a more personal note.

Nike did not lecture the viewer on his or her role in civil liberty issues. They were celebrating Kaepernick’s individual right to ‘Just Do It.’ You can argue with the way he protested but at the same time you cannot argue with everyone’s rights to justice.

Gillette on the other hand may have made a bad mistake.

Did they take the right stand? Who are they talking to?

No question, the #MeToo movement has put a spotlight on sexual harassment, and yes, bullying has come to the fore today in really nasty ways including suicides and school shootings.

But, and this is a big ‘but’, not all males are bullies or sexual predators as this campaign seems to imply. These aren’t rampant diseases that every male indulges in. Maybe more was tolerated in the 50’s and 60’s as in the footage they showed, but not today.

In fact, data shows that females are just as likely to bully. Social media can be decidedly mean. A black eye is not good but it can heal. Being socially ostracized can hurt for a long time.

And BTW, on a purely personal note the phrase ‘boys will be boys’ is something I have heard just as often in my life from females and mothers. And why did the producer shoot men as though they were standing against a wall like in all the thousands of firing squad movies we’ve seen?

Gillette took a #MeToo movement against those males that sexually harassed to a platform indicting every male’s behavior and their duty to the next generation of males to boot!

 Do males really need a shaving brand to lecture them on the bad behavior of a few and their supposed collective toxicity?  I think not and unfortunately their attempt at what I call Extreme Branding will backfire for some time to come.  After all switching shaving brands is not a big decision and Gillette is by no means unique. It is somewhat harder to move away from Nike products.

Hopefully they are going to evolve this campaign back to the original basis of the ‘The Best a Man’ campaign by celebrating the admirable aspects of manhood as opposed to taking on a gratuitous grandstanding attack on it.

Perhaps P&G should have taken note of Bud Light’s highly successful, ‘Dilly, Dilly!’ campaign where taking a stand ‘for the many and not the few’ actually works.

Or more so, look at their own excellent history of taking aging brands and reintroducing them to the young. I helped P&G do so in the successful re-launching both Old Spice and Head and Shoulders brands.

P&G’s Dawn Detergent’s, saving at-risk wildlife campaign is one of the more brilliant pieces of Extreme Branding I have seen. Their platform of strength and mildness was taken to an even higher level when they moved it into the ugly tragedy of oil spoils.

So what are the lessons here?

Extreme branding can certainly re-activate the presence and potential relevance of a brand to new generations but it can also backfire in profound ways.

Some tips:

1. Pick your poison carefully. It is fine for the brand to have an Extreme Branding platform but this is not about a strategy  looking for a noisy cause. It is about authentic and relevant beliefs.

2. Don’t overstate your brand’s role. A brand can certainly educate, inform and at times be very persuasive on social issues. Chances are that many more eyeballs are going to see the Gillette advertising than may read the #MeToo news. So be sure you know what the role of the brand’s message is out there and make sure you are turning a lot more on than off, or you will be hurting the very cause you are trying to help.

3. Be Smart. Extreme Branding is a long-term strategy. Treat it as such and fight the battle to win overtime. Don’t just pop your head up, yell a little and then sit back down. Where Gillette goes next can well determine their fate in my mind at least.

 What say you?





New TEch Blog PM copyBranding is the most undervalued ROI asset for a new technology based product or service.

Yet with a little creativity and strategic rigor, branding is one of the easiest, cheapest and quickest assets to build.

Snausages (a new doubly extruded pet treat) was created over a slice of pizza, Celebrex (a new cox-2 inhibitor) on a napkin over lunch. The new, Old Spice (advanced deodorancy) from a couple of focus groups.

Branding is the short hand surrogate for the technology. Would you rather put sucralose or Splenda in your coffee? Would you rather send a ‘fax’ or a facsimile transmission? Do you ride a Harley or a motorbike?

Branding is also an opportunity to create new category language. Celebrex was the first new ‘smart’ drug. ‘Social collaboration’ was the new space for content management and intranet software. Being the first or best of a new space is a great positioning for a new technology. It tends to bring in the media, which loves to name and anoint new categories …4X4, SUV, laptop, cross trainer, designer drugs and so on.

A well-positioned and designed brand identity (name, logo, tag, message) will accelerate acceptance and, importantly promote advocacy (and buzz) among key customers, consumers and their influencers.

New technology has created revenues and market share for centuries with examples in every category … medicine, food, transport, fabric etc. and now with the digital age new technology applications are producing new products and behaviors at an unprecedented rate.

So why do so many new tech brands fail to gain traction and deliver their early revenue and ROI goals?.

Three reasons.

1. The ‘What it is vs. What it does’ syndrome. New technology creators are brilliant. New features and functions can be world changing. Unfortunately most of the world is too busy and occupied to notice. The trap is in believing that all you have to do is tout the features …the what it is and people will flock to it.

The truth is that most people don’t care as much about what it is as what it does for them. Does it it make their lives, easier, healthier, happier? And even further does it provide an emotional or psychic reward? And even further what does it allow me to give up?

2. Creative Fear. One of the great ironies I come across is how creative, technology innovators, can be and yet how uncreative they think they are in branding. Scientists, engineers, inventors, invariably feel that they are not equipped to create brands. No so. In fact in my experience some of the most creative branding exercises have been conducted with exactly that group.

I hate to break the myth but branding is simple logic and common sense…typically two of the key strengths of creators.

3. Asking the wrong questions

Here’s the magic. Take notes. This is a product of 35+ years of building successful brands and particularly technology fueled brands. It is called Rocket Branding℠.

It’s all about growth, focus and simplicity.

Understanding what the role of the branding is in building company growth, focusing on the target that will contribute most and quickest to the growth path and if it isn’t simple no one cares.

Answer these 5 questions and you will be on your way to branding nirvana.

1. What revenue are we looking for over the next 3-5 years?

2. What target consumer or customer is going to be our most important revenue generator?

3. What does our new technology enable them to do better or more of?

4. How are they going to feel in using our technology?

5. What words, thought, ideas best describe or symbolize that experience?

Start here and go for it. You’ll be surprised how creative you can be.

For more on this thinking and cases read my book Rocket Branding,buy at www.rocketbranding.com, visit www.tbpllc.com and contact us if you’d like some help.


Like it or not Facebook ‘Likes’ have now become a shiny, new marketing tool.

Dollars and teams are being dedicated to building legions of ‘Likers’ and ‘Sharers’.

The belief is that the audience gained is actually among targeted customers and that they will at some point help build business.

The jury is still out on this, but the frenzied quest for Likes has spawned a new era of trickery and deception, all to get you to click that little button of love.

Here are some classics:

1.  Reverse Psychology. This is a fairly new trick to get you to Like/Share a post.  They use a little reverse psychology to make you think you are smart by being able to answer a question easily.  But before you type ‘Monopoly’ in the comments section, understand that you were just tricked into giving the host a higher SEO and page rank.

2. If I Had A Million Likes. Sneaky! Sneaky!  For those of you who have Liked one of these posts, see if any of these people are still in your Liked list.  Hmmm.  I don’t remember liking Bill Joe’s Auto Dealership. When did I become a fan of Willy’s Widgets?  When these cute little kids get a million Likes, they’re cute page magically transforms, in the middle of the night, into a business (auto dealership, radio station, local insurance agency). These companies enjoy the launch of their new social media page with a base of millions of Likes, all gained because you wanted to help someone.

3.  The Sob Story. There are multiple fan pages on Facebook based solely on getting people to interact through sad events.  They post something that makes you laugh, or cry and you click Like and Share.  This puts it in front of all your friends and so on and so on, until you see the story has 3.8 million likes!  What you don’t necessarily know is that there could be a company behind this hoping now to sell you, and your friends, and their friends something.

Pressing Like is similar to giving out your email address to everyone!

We at Rocket Branding do not advocate trickery for successful brand building. ‘Likes’ may ultimately be important to your brand’s growth, and if so, then we will recommend some very sound and legitimate ways to do it and win in this arena. What say you?

Visit us at www.rocketbranding.com


With over a billion users, ‘social media’ was certainly the media buzz in 2012.

2013 will be no different. Can it grow to 2 billion users?

Why not…new users of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram etc. are signing up and instantly sharing everyday. And even more interesting is the addiction to checking updates on mobile devices.

All those people you see hunched over their cell phones and tablets on the bus or train or coffee shop are more often than not checking into their social networks.

That’s all great but as everyone knows these sites are largely based on personal not commercial interactions. It’s tough to find a vibrant social community committed to discussing and sharing the latest toilet paper brand let alone accepting brand advertising on their smart phones.

So should you ‘rocket’ your brand on social media?   Absolutely!  As a brand marketer you cannot afford to disregard a behavior that in the next 2-3 years could involve 50-60% of your consumers or customers for as much as 20 -30 times a day. It is not just a question of trying to get attention here but it is also about being integrally involved in new habits and behaviors that in many cases will lead to all kinds of new products and experiences.

Trust me if you do not learn how to engage your brand in this new set of digital experiences your competitors will, and by doing so, leave you several chapters behind in the learning curve.

Ok smart guy, how?   Actually the answer is a lot simpler than you would think.  

1.    Forget the medium and think about the behavior. The only difference with social media is that it is personal and the sharing is about stuff that is interesting or relevant to a particular group.  So forget about trying to place an ad. Create interesting content. Provide relevant knowledge. A colleague used to create one-page novels and one-minute movies around a brand story. He was ahead of his time.

2.    Find the ‘what’s in it for me’

YouTube cracked the code on this by allowing you to share an outrageous video or laugh with your friends. The big daddy question is what is in it for your consumers and customers that they would want to share with their buddies and cohorts (and you).

You are not creating a brand message but a brand currency… something that your brand target would find interesting and relevant enough to get you invited into their world and shared with their connections.

‘Save the world’ causes sponsored by your brand and special deals are oft used example of getting branded traction among a certain community of consumers or customers.  We’d say go further and really dig into what about the brand category if anything has real ‘what’s in it for me’ potential and social significance to your brand target.

So for even the toilet paper brand, maybe your target is ‘soccer moms’ and they are becoming more afraid of public soccer field restrooms and want some advice and maybe even a discussion forum on making them safer. They may want an app that shows the cleanest/safest facilities or would even be open to sampling a new portable, discreet spray product that they advocate to others?   Whatever, again it’s about the behavior insight not about finding an advertising opportunity in the medium.

We at, Rocket Branding, have built an entire new discipline around gaining Social Traction for your brand in this brave new world.   Let us help you compete here. Visit www.rocketbranding.com or call 312 951 5178.  

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Want your career (and life) to take off?

Everyone is a ‘brand’.

Let us rocket you just like we would a successful, fast moving billion-dollar brand.

Rocket Branding has helped built six so far with a few in the works.



The same principles apply… grow, focus and simplify, and four questions:

1.    Where do you want to be five years from now? If you know where you are going it is a whole lot easier to get there. Dream, ponder and go for it. A scrappy, 22 year old in Sydney, (down under) decided he needed to get to the USA and run a world class ad agency. I did with a series of 5-year rocket plans that took me through London, Hong Kong, and tons of client meetings and ad campaigns to get there.

2.    What are the three key actions that have to take place? Focus on what has to happen when? Not a laundry list, just the three critical ones.  

3.    What key decision makers do you need to influence to accomplish the five-year goal? Employers, bosses, influencer etc.  Again, not a laundry list, just the critical ones.

4.    What basic emotional connections do I need to have for my ‘brand’ to gain accelerated acceptance among these key decision makers? Really important. How should you be perceived? Life is often a series of snap decisions. Put your self in the shoes of the decision makers above and remember most people decide based on what’s in it for them and, often from what they see in front of them. So don’t dress and act like a low level salesman if you want to be a high level president.    

Yes, I know you may have heard some of this before and yes, at times we hear it from brands…. a lot of ‘but this’ and ‘but that’ – but trust us and really try it. The billion brands are still thanking us for forcing them to follow this type of rigor.

We have helped rocket many individuals and through our Traction Training process based on the above. So contact us and we’ll get you flying high fast, www.rocketbranding.com.