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That Gillette advert: why it was brand suicide with good intentions

Posted on 21 January, 2019

We’re sure anyone with an internet connection has seen comments regarding Gillette’s latest advertising campaign, but we’re not sure whether everyone is getting the point of it. The Boston based company has been around for some time (117 years in fact) and up until 2019, have used their well-known motto ‘the best a man can get’ to sell razors. However, the mischievous advertising moguls over there have change a single word in that tagline and subsequently managed to break the internet…

 

Rise of the socially conscious brand

In the last ten years or so, it seems we’ve tackled (and continue to tackle) quite a number of societal issues, misconceptions and prejudices head on. Anything that is able to break down barriers and promote powerful messages of equality is only a good thing in our eyes. Gillette is the latest company to have their say on a matter close, in fact uncomfortably close (like their razors) to their key demographic.

‘The best a man can be’ - as a motto goes - is pretty loaded with preconceived ideologies, open for interpretation. It's an inspiring thought, urging us to strive for more and become better people. Not everyone saw it that way though. Before we delve into why, take a look at the advert and make your own mind up:

 

Powerful and evocative: what do you think of Gillette’s advert?


Men as an ‘idea’ not a gender

Okay, hopefully you’ve watched the advert above, and you’ll see how they portray the idea of what makes a ‘man’ rather than what a man ‘is’. The advert is a carefully-spun narrative about masculinity, raising some huge topics such as bullying, sexual harassment, inequality in the workplace and sexism.

In an ironic twist to Gillette’s intentions though, lots of men have found it deeply offensive and see it as a targeted attack on their gender - ‘tarring every man with the same brush’ as one person called it on Twitter. And, on first watch, without scratching below the surface, you can kind of see why. Melissa Chen used an eloquent analogy to highlight why many might have felt attacked/offended by the ad (interesting too that this comes from a woman):

 

Melissa Chen

A perspective that shows how the message could be (and was) misinterpreted by many.


When you watch it a second time and listen to the words alongside the actions, the advert is actually working very hard to promote responsibility, kindness, courage and being the right role model for our next generation. These are all qualities I’m sure any self-respecting man strives to achieve, so you might say this message isn’t even aimed at them - something they even state in the advert themselves.

Gillette continue to say that the message is aimed at the other men, urging them to shake off outdated, patriarchal stereotypes of ‘manliness' - traits of toxic masculinity that have a detrimental affect on others (women, other men, minority groups etc.)

In contrast to Chen’s view, below are the voices of a couple of people (both men) who see the true meaning/intention of the advert.

 

Gillette ad twitter


Morality aside, Have Gillette shot themselves in the foot?

As with any powerful marketing tool, Gillette have raised a topic here that is important to humanity, needs to be discussed and causes controversy in the process. I’m sure when asked, 99% of men would agree with the ideology being proposed in the ad - but evidently the 1% have loud voices and also probably make up a big chunk of Gillette's customer base.

And while we’d all like to believe that Gillette’s moral compass was solely out to change the world, you’d be naive to think this.

Point being, they pay for marketing/advertising to do one thing above anything else: sell their products. According to a Wired article, Gillette’s customer demographic is around 70% male. Of that portion, and judging from the controversy caused, their will be many that have taken offense to this advert, which will no doubt lead to them boycotting the brand altogether.

Will Gillette win more new customers through this than they inevitably lose? Only time will tell. On a lighter note, imagine if this sparked a whole new debate of ‘why do men even need to shave anyway?’ - surely that would cut the throat of their profits for good.

One thing is for sure, the advert raises important topics that need to be discussed - and we're curious to see what you think about it, so please sound off in the comments on social media.