News Exchange: Credentials, competitors and customer-first
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News Exchange: Credentials, competitors and customer-first

A weekly update on the latest headlines and highlights from the marketing sector

Gillette tries a new look

Procter & Gamble’s safety razor brand has taken a risk with its new campaign, but will it pay off?

‘The best a man can get’ has become ‘The best men can be’ in a Gillette TV advert that has divided opinion. Late last week, and only six days after its launch, the 90-second ad had been watched almost 20 million times on YouTube, attracting 530,000 likes and 983,000 dislikes – and a torrent of headlines.

The numbers are remarkable but, as many commentators have pointed out, a media splash like this can fade very quickly and it’s simply too early to say whether the campaign, which tackles ‘toxic masculinity’ head on, has been successful. “Gillette has said it wanted to spark a debate. If that’s true, then they’ve definitely done that. But if it also hurts sales and market share, as many are predicting, then that’s not a success,” says CIM marketing director Gemma Butler.

The ad’s bottom-line impact is still to be seen. At this stage it’s noteworthy that there are no Gillette products in the ‘modern day’ segment of the ad. “Social purpose is massively important to today’s consumer, but at the end of the day, it needs to make sense for the business commercially. Unless Gillette follow up and create a link back to their products, there might be a problem,” warns Butler.

“However, among all of the dislikes, it’s important to remember that there is still a lot of positive feeling towards this campaign. Gillette has resonated with a new – potentially big – audience. It’s up to them now how they follow up,” concludes Butler. “Tone will be crucial. Consumers expect brands to take a stance now, but chastising customers, or preaching to them, may well backfire.”

Tears of joy for Boohoo

The 2018 Christmas season was not kind to many retailers, but online business Boohoo has emphasised its point of difference to post a big jump in sales.

Fast-fashion online retailer Boohoo, which targets 16-30-year-olds with its Boohoo, Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing brands, reported a year-on-year sales leap of 44% for the final four months of 2018.

CIM marketing director Gemma Butler believes Boohoo’s marketing department can certainly take some credit for the success. “I think they’ve played a crucial role in helping the brand stand out in an increasingly crowded market, deliver a great customer experience and, more recently, break into the US.”

Founded in 2006, Boohoo was one of the first online retailers to compete on price for a young audience but, in the face of growing competition from the likes of ASOS and Missguided, it has redoubled its efforts to stand out. Now the biggest employer in Burnley, it has made great play of its ‘made in the UK’ credentials. “This has been very important,” says CIM’s Ally Lee-Boone. “They played on their British heritage in a way that made sense to their brand; for example, advertising in the London Underground, and using the iconic city skyline in their advertising visuals.”

That domestic manufacturing operation has also given it a competitive edge. Boohoo makes its own clothing and designs in small quantities, launching lots of new lines that keep consumers coming back to its websites regularly. With no shipping lead times to consider, it can also respond immediately to new trends and surges in demand.

In this way, it has kept prices low while reducing waste. “It’s a great way around a supply-chain issue that has caused significant problems for a long time in retail,” suggests Butler. As a fast, relatively sustainable fashion retailer, it is now in “an enhanced position, with a point of difference, to ride out a tough market,” says Butler. “It’s going to be very interesting watching them try to establish themselves in the US.”

A bumpy ride for Cathy Pacific

Hong Kong’s flag carrier ran into turbulence when it mispriced some of its fares twice in two weeks.

Early in the new year, Cathay Pacific mistakenly sold some business-class tickets on its Vietnam-New York route for around $675. They should have cost $16,000. A fortnight on, it sold some first-class tickets from Lisbon to Hong Kong for $1,512. They too should have cost $16,000.

The airline has said it will honour all of the tickets it has under-sold. For CIM marketing director Gemma Butler, “That is absolutely the right thing to do. This is no fault of any consumer.” In taking this course of action, she says, “Played right, this misstep could have minimal impact on their brand reputation. If anything, customers might well now follow their site more closely – looking for more mistakes! Whether or not this will erode their status as a luxury brand, particularly as they face increased competition from budget airlines across Asia, remains to be seen.”

However, the double mistake comes on the back of a challenging six months for Cathay. In the final few months of last year, the airline suffered a significant data breach, then signwriters misspelled its name on the side of a new aircraft, to much embarrassment.

“Fundamentally, these are internal issues that need to be addressed, but the issue comes where internal issues are now becoming public knowledge faster than brands can rectify them,” says Butler, “which they could eventually impact the brand. Try Googling ‘Cathay Pacific’ now; all you get are these stories. This will be an interesting year for them as they try to regain trust in the face of these missteps, and hopefully avoid making any more negative headlines.”

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Tobias Gourlay Journalist
Gemma Butler Director of Marketing CIM
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