Gillette, the 118-year-old brand, has seemed to have alienated it’s largest market by taking a stand on toxic masculinity. Their advert “We Believe – The Best a Man Can Be” was released on the 13th January as a play on their long-standing tagline “The Best a Man Can Get”. Their new advert has come about from the #MeToo movement that started at the end of 2017, to raise awareness and bring an end to sexual assault. So far their advert, which is going to air on TV during the Superbowl next week, has received over 27 million views on Youtube with 734k likes but has 1.3 million dislikes on the platform.
What is their message?
Their message tackles a list of problems, including toxic masculinity, misogyny, bullying and sexual abuse. It includes short clips of news anchors discussing the #MeToo movement as well as the incredibly moving clip of Terry Crews court appearance about his encounter with sexual abuse, facing the issues head-on.
The brand knew that is had to take a stand, even though they were aware it would not be well liked by everyone. Gillette has had the same masculine tagline for 30 years and with the new climate of the world knew that it was time for a change.
A tagline with such a long history is hard to change, let alone ones with two completely different messages. The Best a Man Can Get is pushing men for the perfection that they see on their adverts, with clean-shaven muscular men being adored by beautiful women. Their new stand is a (potentially, much needed) sudden change to their brand image.
Gillette’s brand director, Pankaj Bhalla said “We knew that this particular commercial would trigger a conversation. The idea was to get people thinking because the belief was that good advertising does trigger a healthy debate.”
Procter & Gamble is the parent company for Gillette and this isn’t the first time they have taken a stand through their advertising. P&G’s The Talk promoting people (especially people of colour) to embrace what makes them unique. As well as the Always campaign Like a girl, bringing power back to the phrase that is used to belittle girls in their physical power.
Why has it received such a backlash?
A video like this is bound to bring about a mixture of reactions. Take a look at the political stand Nike took last year with the Just Do It campaign with Colin Kaepernick. A large group of people starting boycotting the brand as well as burning their clothing and cutting the iconic Swoosh logo out of their items. However this Gillette ad has received hate from all areas; the right, left, male and female audiences.
Toxic masculinity is a complex issue that is, sadly, ingrained into our society. Which makes the stand Gillette is taking a much-needed one, but it also means that you have to tread carefully as to address the issue clearly. This is where the shaving brand missed its mark.
The advert tries to hit all aspects of the issues, from everyday sexism, types of parenting, privilege and toxic male behaviour – all in under 2 minutes!
A lot of complaints about the advert is that it doesn’t come across as a genuine movement but more of a lecture. One given by a million dollar, alpha male power brand, nonetheless. They have been accused of ‘painting all men with the same brush’ and of alienating their target market. They feel belittled and excused instead of inspired and listened to.
Narratively speaking, the video starts this way, by putting all men in the same category – all men are bad. As the story goes on a small number of men are stepping forward to make a change and stop the wrongdoings they see. The call to action at the end calling for all men to do better.
This isn’t helped by the fact that the advert is a slight whitewash. Whether on purpose or not, they seem to be pointing the finger at white men, with generally the people of colour stepping in to do the right thing (for example, the man stepping in to stop another young man from catcalling women). Considering the fact that Gillette’s largest market is 30+ white males, this was a very risky move indeed.
What do we think?
Everyone can (and has) viewed the advert differently. Personally, I believe that this is a message that needs to be spread and that people need to start an open, healthy discussion about it. I think everyone agrees that the issues Gillette has challenged are things that need to be discussed and faced head-on. And I hope that even if the brand suffers a hit (which, if we’re being honest, it can easily afford), the conversation about toxic masculinity and aggressive male behaviour is opened.
After watching the video a handful of times, I understand why it has alienated and potentially hurt some of their clientele. They have produced a video that seems to be a polar opposite to their previous branding and values. I don’t believe they were trying to promote bad behaviour before but they definitely did not help.
In the form of corporate social responsibility, I believe that it was a brave and needed investment from the company. They put out a message, however poorly, that needed to be said. It will now be interesting to see how they handle the response. If they will continue down the road of The Best a Man Can Be or make a full circle to try and get their customers back.
How has it affected their market value?
It is still fairly early to see the full effects of the We Believe video, however, according to the Procter & Gamble Co. Vice Chairman-Chief Financial Officer, Jon Moeller, it hasn’t affected their sales and that they were “in-line with pre-campaign levels”.
Gillette’s campaign did go viral and was seen by millions of people all over the world. Even though there seemed to be a majority of hate directed towards them. And as I’m sure, the majority of people do not believe the message they promoted was off base, simply the way the performed it.
As Gillette is owned by the much bigger corporation, P&G, it’s hard to measure the true effect this will have on the brand. The grooming products owned by P&G (Venus, Gillette and Braun) only make up 10% of the organisations $66.8 billion in sales. Making their grooming section the weakest division at P&G.
With new brands popping up, such as Harry and Dollar Shave Club, Gillette has seen a fall in sales. From the last quarter being down 3% compared to the year before. Perhaps this is why they decided to make a stand, with little to lose and potentially a lot to gain, it may have been worth the risk.
More and more brands are using their platform to make a stand on a social or political issue, but as you can see, they don’t always get it right. This is not a new motion, however over the last couple of years it has become the norm for corporations to educate the public and push them towards a better future. But why is this? We looked into why this is happening, with good and bad examples in our newest whitepaper, Using Your Brand Platform to Make a Stand. Download for free today!