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Inclusivity in Brand Storytelling

An Interview with Gillette's Brand Director Pankaj Bhalla

— June 28, 2019 — Business
Shaving for the first time is a milestone for many young men, but this moment was even more memorable for Toronto-local Samson Bonkeabantu Brown -- a transgender artist and activist who allowed the world to peer into his bathroom while he shaved for the first time in Gillette’s short film, ‘First Shave.’ In light of this, Trend Hunter had the opportunity to sit down with Gillette's North American Brand Director, Pankaj Bhalla, who spoke to Gillette and Venus’ commitment to inclusivity, and how the brand plans to support the trans community locally.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do?

I have been with P&G for more than 15 years and have worked across the globe on P&G’s Health, Grooming, Beauty and Household Care sectors, leading global, regional and local business. Currently, I’m the Brand Director for Gillette and Venus North America based at Gillette’s headquarters in Boston, MA.

Can you explain in a little more detail how Gillette is showing its support for the LGBTQIA+ communities?

Gillette supports everyone in their journey to looking, feeling and acting their best every day. That includes our own journey as a brand committed to using our platform to showcase real, diverse and inclusive stories of men working toward their ‘best’ selves. Samson’s story in First Shave is a perfect example of that commitment because whenever, wherever, however it happens, your first shave is special.

Beyond the launch of the short film, we’re taking action to demonstrate Gillette’s values of respect and inclusivity for everyone. As we continue the conversation around First Shave, Gillette is partnering with Toronto-based charity and City agency The 519 to support its trans-inclusive programs. With support from Gillette, they will continue to provide ongoing resources and support to help inspire Canadians of all parts of the gender spectrum to have the confidence to express their true authentic voices, so we can all be our best selves every day.

We also recently sponsored the 2019 Inside Out LGBT Film Festival in Canada and have committed to sponsoring the 2020 festival as well. The Inside Out LGBT Film Festival is a not-for-profit registered charity that exists to challenge attitudes and change lives through the promotion, production and exhibition of film made by and about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people of all ages, races and abilities.

Why is it important for brands to align with causes? Why is it important for brands to engage in discussions of diversity and inclusivity?

Brands and companies play a role in influencing culture. As one of if not the biggest men’s brand in the world, Gillette has a responsibility to use our voice to champion issues of great relevance to both our brand and our customers. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we want to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. That’s what we’ve been setting out to do for a while now – not just with the ‘First Shave’ video which touched on the important conversation around gender that is important to our customers, but with past programs and campaigns over the last several years including ‘Go Ask Dad,’ ‘Your Best Never Comes Easy’ and ‘We Believe.’

What can other brands or companies be doing to engage in meaningful discussions with their consumers?

Successful brands today must engage consumers in topics that matter to them, in a way that is authentic to the brand and the company. This is especially true when it comes to younger consumers – a key demographic for us. That’s why we’re focused on being a force for good and a force for growth by using our voice as a brand to advance a more modern, positive vision of what it means for men to be at their best, and also developing products that uniquely meet their needs in a way only Gillette can.