Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail's marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky .
Stainless steel blades are no match for the man of steel.
As a tie-in with the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, coming out this month, Gillette has struck a marketing deal with Warner Bros. to attempt to harness some social media conversation around a key question: How does Superman shave?
The campaign seems tailor-made for nerdy delight, with such pop culture heroes as the duo from Mythbusters , Bill Nye the Science Guy , Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik , and filmmaker/comic book aficionado Kevin Smith each making a video offering their own theories. (Since Superman is impervious to earth-made weapons, it stands to reason his beard is as well – ridiculously multi-bladed razors notwithstanding.)
The Reddit-loving crowd this campaign targets, however, also seems the least impressed. Commenters on the website have been quick to point out that the comic books themselves answered this question long ago. (He uses his heat vision , reflected in a mirror , obviously . The mirrors are occasionally the worse for wear.)
While criticism was immediate however, since the campaign launched on May 28 Gillette has seen some positive effects: it counts 51 million impressions on Twitter so far (that is, the number of views of commentary around the question and the campaign itself, positive or negative.) The videos with the theories have been viewed roughly 1.8 million times so far in total, and the ratio of people clicking "like" vs. "dislike" in the voting buttons on YouTube has been 22 to 1. (And comic book inconsistencies being what they are, it can't be worse than what is arguably the most obnoxious commercial on television right now .)
Gillette's position on the controversy is to say that what is in the comic books is not gospel; the company points out that Superman has died in the course of the series in past, and come back to life. (Comic book lovers will almost certainly argue against this point.)
As a marketing strategy for Gillette, however, it's not just fun and games discussing the details of the superhero's toilette. It's also an attempt by the Procter & Gamble-owned brand to catch up with social media.
Last year, feisty startup Dollar Shave Club made a cheap campaign for its mail-order razors that went viral, thanks to a basic understanding of the type of humour and sense of fun that get noticed online and create conversations – a holy grail for marketers today. It also poked holes in the big marketing strategies of established razor companies, which for years have sold shavers as loss leaders in order to rope consumers into buying pricey replacement blades.
By working with Warner Bros., Gillette is hoping to access a socially-engaged crowd and make itself part of a more lighthearted conversation.
"At the end of the day, content is king," said Rob Chambers , brand manager for Gillette Canada. (The campaign was conceived in the U.S. and is running North America-wide.) "This gave us an opportunity to create content. … It created a nice opportunity for Gillette to play, which is why we're excited about it."
The opportunity came about four months ago when the brand's Connecticut-based ad agency, Concept One Communications, saw a trailer for the movie and noticed that Clark Kent has a beard at one point, and is later clean-shaven when donning his uniform.
It led to talks with the movie studio about a tie-in promotion. There is no Gillette product placement in the movie that the company knows of.