Gillette, under pressure from losing market share, awareness and penetration decided to take an emotional approach to reach millennials, a space in which they were losing market share to competitors.
Unfortunately, the strategy was a catastrophic #Metoo jibe at men- who by the way, are the brand's primary target market.
The truth is, its hard to make rational decisions when the heat is on. People tend to go against their better judgement in search of respite and its no different in business. After all, even top executives are human beings.
But cause marketing should only be done when its in line with what your customers care about. Jumping on a trend without careful consideration is school boy stuff and dangerous to a brand's equity. The backlash, if poorly executed or received, can be far reaching as Gillette has now demonstrated.
Brands like Nike continue to pull if off successfully (but not without controversy and backlash) only because they tackle issues that are truly important to their customers. When done right, cause marketing makes the brand appear to join its customers in the trenches to fight alongside them (rather than against them like dear old Gillette). And the result is loyalty to the brand (and corresponding purchases) enough to overshadow the boycotts.