Well, that escalated quickly.
Last week, Gillette released a new commerical, which instantly went viral for some very interesting reasons.
Check out my response to the commercial and the controversy in the video above.
The advert takes Gillette’s famous catchphrase “The Best a Man can Get”, and changes it to urge men everywhere to become “The best a man can be”.
In the commercial, a narrator asks whether behaviours have historically been accepted by society as masculine and “boys being boys” are still acceptable, like bullying, talking down to women, objectifying them and standing by when they see these things happen.
The narrator then suggests that we (men) need to take more of a stand against these aspects of “toxic masculinity”.
Which all seems like a powerful, positive message, doesn’t it?
Well unfortunately, the internet didn’t seem to agree.
An attack on men?
The commercial has been viewed about 24m times as of this writing, but has more than 1m “dislikes”.
These are predominantly coming from angry men who say that the commercial is shaming men and making them out to all be horrible creatures.
Many feel that they are being personally attacked and feel like this is an extension of the trend to blame all of society’s problems on white, western men, and that it is not their fault that they were born into a privileged, powerful position. This has been brought to the forefront in recent years through the #MeToo movement.
The result has been an outpouring of anger against Gillette and their parent company Procter & Gamble, saying that they their products should be boycotted forever.
It is similar to the uproar which happened last year when Nike chose to use Colin Kaepernick, an African-American American Football player in their newest commercial. Kaepernick became a controversial figure when he refused to stand up for the American national anthem before his games, instead choosing to kneel, to protest the way that black people were being treated by America’s police force at the time. This resulted in a backlash against Nike, with many (predominantly conservative white men) in America saying that Nike was disrespecting the American flag, and burning their Nike shoes on social media.
Even the response to my own video (above) was hijacked by hatred in the comments. Here are a few of the comments I received, telling me that I am a feminazi, that I am deluded, and a moron. Apparently, people didn’t like the fact that I was agreeing with what Gillette and Nike stood for:
However, I firmly believe that what these brands are doing is not just the right thing it to, it is actually a necessary innovation for the companies to adapt, evolve and survive.
How brands need to innovate and evolve
The main thing I highlighted was that more and more, brands (and the companies behind them) need to innovate in what their brand represents and stands for.
And this needs to align with the beliefs and values not of everyone, but of their future target customers.
This means that these companies (and all companies) need to ask themselves whether they are willing to upset a proportion of their current users, for the benefit of a larger number of future users.
If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.
These adverts were not just the work of a rogue advertising agent or videographer.
These sorts of commercials will have been planned, designed, and approved through several levels of global management.
This was a conscious decision from both companies.
Procter & Gamble and Nike would have been very aware that putting a message out there which some of their existing core demographic disagree with was not only the right thing to do from a “cultural” perspective, but that it was the right thing to do from a medium and long-term financial perspective.
By making the brand represent something which the younger generation associates with emotionally, they are more likely to have a positive sentiment to the products.
According to the recent WIRED article on the subject, Gillette based their new message not on a hunch of what kids nowadays are talking about, but by going out and discussing the topic with their target consumer:
The company conducted focus groups with men and women across the country, in their homes, and in online surveys. What Bhalla says the team heard over and over again was men saying: “I know I’m not a bad guy. I’m not that person. I know that, but what I don’t know is how can I be the best version of ourselves?” – Pankaj Bhalla, North American brand director for Gillette.
P&G likely needed to innovate their Gillette brand more than most other companies, as in recent years price competition from subscription upstarts like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s have wooed away both price-conscious consumers, as well as younger purchasers who enjoy their light-hearted brands and subscription business models. In fact, Gillette’s market share dropped for seven consecutive years from 2010 to 2017.
So by appealing to a basic, emotional desire which their next generation consumers are feeling, Gillette has positioned itself into a strong position for the future. It is an excellent (and necessary) example of brand innovation.
Will it work? Let’s check back in a few years.
What do you think of the advert itself? Is it anti-masculine? Let me know in the comments below?
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