Gillette’s India Shaves Movement Case Study

The Eight Make or Break Rules of Multicultural Marketing

To read about the eight make or break rules outlined in Morse’s Multicultural Intelligence book, please click here.

Asian American Audiences

A group commonly under represented and poorly portrayed in the media is Asian Americans. Americans often demonstrate baffling misunderstandings of Asians and tend to accidentally and sometimes intentionally offend this segment of the American population. Asian Americans are often described as the “model minority,” as they are stereotyped as being incredibly smart and diligent workers. Although Asian Americans are highly educated and typically employed, there are still Asians who are not as lucky as to have all these advantages. This stereotype causes many people to ignore the fact that some groups of Asian Americans need assistance and are all not wealthy or well educated.

Unfortunately, some marketers use Asian stereotypes in their advertisements because they get “laughs” and are noticed by the public. However, these professionals are not thinking about how deeply they are offending the group of people being stereotyped. An example of this “stereotyping-for-laughs” marketing is Abercrombie and Fitch’s t-shirts featuring deeply offensive caricatures of Asians. One t-shirt’s design featured two stereotypically Asian men pointing at a sign that said “Wong Brother’s Laundry Service: two Wongs can make it white.” abercrombie-asian1The company’s purpose was to add humor and levity to it’s fashion line, but ended up offending the exact group it was trying to sell to, Asian American college students. After hundreds and hundreds of complaints, Abercrombie & Fitch withdrew the items from their stores nationwide and discontinued catalog sales. The lesson to learn from this is that stereotypes do not work in marketing, especially if the products are aimed at the stereotyped group of people.

Asian Americans consistently want to be shown in the media and in advertisements as they really are: normal Americans who mingle with all different types of people. In a study done by marketers, results found that Asians reacted well to advertisements when they saw Asians hanging out with all different types of people. They reacted negatively when the ads were all white people or all Asian people. They felt better represented with the mixed ad. Finally, Asian Americans want people to understand that there are a lot of cultural differences between Americans and Asians, as well as different Asian ethnicities. One cannot assume Chinese people will react the same to a campaign as Japanese people. “Asian means many things to many people” and that needs to be respected on all levels. The best way to ensure all groups of people are happy with an advertisement is to do research. That might involve doing one’s own research or hiring someone to help. An offensive campaign has ruined companies and should be a warning for anyone thinking of using a stereotype in their marketing plan.

Gillette’s India Shaves Movement


Although Gillette was debuted to India in 1984 with several new product introductions throughout the years, sales were flat for a long time. Their products kept their premium prices and were marketed to professional men with higher disposable incomes than the average Indian. Men were also just not concerned with shaving as much as marketers thought they would be and discovered Indian men thought shaving was “time-consuming, irritating and generally unpleasant.” (Scamazzo) According to Financial Times, 80 percent of men in India who shaved were using traditional double edged razors, a technology so ingrained that cuts and razor burn were considered a part of everyday life. Research also uncovered that Gillette was more expensive than the traditional Indian brand and men were not willing to go out of their way to pay for it. Their products were too pricy to feature in rural stores and that large demographic of men were missed out on. Finally, traditional global marketing schemes were just no working, so Sharat Verma, brand manager for Gillette India, decided something had to be done. He believed there needed to be new tactics to increase its market share by 20 percent.


Gillette needed a comprehensive campaign that appealed to both the urban elite and rural poor to persuade men to use their products. First, Gillette cut prices significantly to no more than three times the price of a double-edged razor. The company also made a razor for low-income men and took into consideration that rural areas might not have running water or the ability to afford much. The razors they created cost a total of 41 cents and were in smaller packaging, which made it easier for vendors to sell.

The best part of this change, however, was the creative and innovative marketing campaign called the Shave India Movement. It featured infomercials, social media and the “world record for shaving.” In 2009, Gillette announced a story showing that 77 percent of women prefer clean-shaven men. Following it was “India Votes: to Shave or Not to Shave,” a campaign that generated media buzz in urban areas. Gillette asked three controversial questions: Are clean-shaven men more successful? Did the nation prefer clean-shaven celebrities? And the most talked about: do women prefer clean-shaven men? Various media channels picked up on the poll and ran debates, editorials and news stories. The final question (do women prefer clean-shaven men?) garnered its own media attention and received its own campaign. Women Against Lazy Stubble (WALS) encouraged women to talk to their men about shaving. Gillette also recruited Bollywood celebrities to help, increasing their audience reach significantly.


Gillette’s “Shave India Movement” is a classic case of a campaign done right. It focused on understanding its customers and the challenges they faced, which required spending hours visiting and interviewing consumers in order to understand the role of grooming in their lives and their needs. It also understand understood digital marketing strategies weren’t going to work with its demographics and focused on reach its audience in other manners. By 2013, only a few short years after the beginning of the campaign, Gillette accounted for two out of the three razors sold in India. We can learn from this that word-of-mouth campaigns influence opinions at all levels of society for a low cost. Sometimes, all a company needs is a good product with a good story.


The Gillette Shave India Movement can be applied to the eight make or break rules of multicultural marketing in several ways. First, the professionals who came up with the campaign “divided and conquered.” They did not assume all Indian men would immediately go for the same campaign. They had to invent something that would attract urban elite, like India Votes, and something that would persuade rural workers to go out and buy a razor, such as bringing down the price. They also followed rule five, “don’t get lost in translation.” Gillette didn’t just translate their American or global marketing plans in hopes that it would work. Gillette tailored its advertising to an Indian audience and invented a new product development process to reflect local shaving habits. They did their research, the most important part of this campaign.

Works Cited

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