Is This The Best Gillette Can Get?
Gillette took a big gamble with its latest ad campaign attacking toxic masculinity.
Gillette—the best a man can get. This recognized slogan used to just refer to the company’s popular line of razors, but now, these words have taken on a new meaning in the company’s “We Believe” ad campaign. Gillette launched the ad a couple of days ago, and already has suffered severe backlash from conservatives regarding the ad’s message of combating “toxic masculinity.”
Just as America is divided these days, so is the repsone to the ad with a “love it or hate it” outcome. Many conservatives have spoken out against the ad as just another attack in the seemingly incessant war on the male gender. They say the subliminal message of the ad is “all men are bad” — all men are born misogynistic, and those men that have become “woke” need to stand up to those men who are not.
The ad portrays stereotypical behaviors often associated with toxic males — bullying, laughing at off-color jokes, physical violence and even “mansplaining” an idea to a female colleague. Then it shows men who just stand by and watch these behaviors happen, followed by men who do the right thing and jump in to defend against these behaviors.
The ad says, “We believe in the best in men. To say the right thing, to act the right way. Some already are. But some is not enough. Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.” There is no promotion of any particular product – in fact, no product is ever mentioned.
Regardless of how people might feel about the ad, let’s cut to the chase. Gillette is a real company, owned by parent company Procter & Gamble – and it has a real marketing team and, more importantly, real shareholders.
A Smart Business Decision?
Gillette’s primary goal is to sell products, so does this ad help accomplish that? Hard to say. If awards are the goal, PG did win an Emmy last year for an ad entitled “The Talk”, part of the company’s “My Black is Beautiful” campaign in which African-American parents discuss racism with their children. That ad didn’t promote a product either. The company has also been praised for other campaigns: “Like a Girl” which challenged female stereotypes and “Strong is Beautiful” which showed NFL players in more tender roles.
These ads are all part of the new socially conscious playbook, and Scott Galloway, founder of the Gartner L2 research group said in a CNN interview that consumers will see even more ”woke” ads from companies in 2019 as companies try to position themselves in new markets with younger consumers who want to see strong stands on topics like racism, LGBTQ rights, guns and immigration. Market research shows that younger consumers are trying to find companies that align with their beliefs.
Did Gillette Just Alienate Its Customer Base?
The problem is that so are older, white male consumers, therefore Gillette’s campaign is risky because it alienates some of its current customers in an effort to lure new ones. Andrew Gilman, CEO of CommCore Consulting, told CNN that P&G, which acquired Gillette in 2005, has a long history of using unconventional advertising to stress its core principles. Gilman said the latest ad was a clear message to Gillette’s current and future employees.
Fine, but most companies don’t run ads for their employees – after all, that is what internal training videos are for. Gilman said that P&G is trying to establish a long-term reputation for the company. Again, fine, but are they sacrificing their business in the short-term?
Gillette’s ad turns their slogan on its heels, asking “Is this the best a man can get?” and saying that bad male behavior has been going on for far too long. The ad urges people to stop making the same old excuses for male behavior. Gillette intended the message to be “we get it” as a company, but did they not see that it might frankly piss off a very large part of their current customer base.
Gillette seems to be making a risky but very calculated bet, that the long-term popularity of their ads with a new younger audience will outlast any short-term pressure from customers or the stock market. They’re betting that their products are so good and that their current customer base is perhaps too lazy to switch brands.
How Dare You, Gillette!
Piers Morgan is a lifelong Gillette customer, but no more. Writing in the London Daily Mail, Morgan said the “incessant poisonous war on gender has culminated in the very word ‘man’ being decried as an abusive term, to the extent that Princeton University actually issued a ridiculous four-page memo instructing students to only use gender-neutral language.” The latest women’s march in D.C. is actually termed the “Womxn’s March” because of the desire to avoid having the word “man” in their title.
It seems many lifelong Gillette customers agree with Morgan. One Red State contributor had this to say, “I really don’t give a flying f*** what makers of shaving and butt-wipe products think.” Many men and women agree, saying they don’t need to be lectured by a razor company regarding how to live their lives or raise their boys.
For example, the ad shows a long line of smug men grilling meat, with a narration of “Boys will be boys.” Is the ad assuming that every man who grills is a misogynistic bully? Meat lovers across the country are livid. Gillette likely just alienated pretty much the entire state of Texas, and because some of those grills had (gasp!) corn, probably corn grillers in the great state of Nebraska as well as other corn-strong states in the Midwest.
As one guy put it, he has used Gillette products all his life. Never thought twice about it. He carried Gillette products in his field gear the entire time he was in the U.S. Army. However, in the past few years, paying more for a Gillette razor than a good burger started to bug him, and the latest ad made his decision clear: leave Gillette for good.
Fox News reports that Gillette’s ad had three million views in less than 24 hours. One enraged Gillette customer said, “As a very successful, loving, and responsible husband (married 32 years) and father of two confident young adults (male and female), I find this ad INCREDIBLY insulting. Gillette has NO BUSINESS assuming most men are bad and misogynistic. I’m not buying ANOTHER product from these self-important morons. How DARE you, Gillette…”
After all, America is a free country, and consumers are certainly not forced to buy Gillette products. Competitors like Dollar Shave Club are only too happy to welcome pissed off Gillette customers. One man said to Gillette, “There’s nothing like attracting us to your product line than to shame masculinity.”
DSC’s ad campaign is entirely different. Nine billboards in Times Square reflect a diverse group of customers who use their products – young, old, different religions, hairy and bald. The ads are inclusive, and DSC offers far cheaper products.
Nevertheless, Gillette’s marketing team seems sure about their “woke” direction. Their brand manager felt compelled to comment on “what is happening today” and has refused to pull the ad. For their business’ sake, hopefully, Gillette has made the right choice.