The new Gillette advert has sparked fierce debate online for its perspective on masculinity. Some customers have threatened to boycott the brand, whereas others have been moved to tears, calling the campaign ‘brave and timely’.
The starting point for the ad is Gillette’s long-time slogan, ‘The best a man can get’. Produced by Somesuch, the agency behind Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, the ad takes that outdated line and asks what that means in 2019. Gillette have for decades placed an idea of masculinity at the heart of their brand marketing, and for the majority of that time it’s been a simple image: A muscled, handsome, confident man, having a shave and then getting some well-deserved attention from the opposite sex.
Handsome and smooth: a more typical Gillette advert from 2004
But given the current trend for socially-conscious brand storytelling, in the last few years the company has started to change its messaging, conforming to the changing expectation of consumers.
So why then, at the time of writing, does the video have 972K dislikes to its 522K likes on YouTube? Frankly, it beats me. This isn’t a personal blog, but let me just say that I have underestimated how defensive most men apparently are.
By the measure of those dislikes, you’d have to say that they have alienated a good chunk of their customer base. So then, is this a massive mistake from Gillette, a death knell for their business?
I don’t think so. Far from it. Sure, the ratio of likes to dislikes does not look good. However, the ad, and its subject matter, are now being talked about a lot. Also, you have to imagine that there are a great many women, and others outside of the ‘men under attack’ camp who will become new, loyal customers, should Gillette stick to their guns. And remember, this is a development in an ongoing trend for Gillette. Their 2017 ‘Handle with care’ campaign also took a different look at masculinity and won six awards at the Cannes Lions festival:
If I thought Gillette were going to run with different messaging in a couple of month’s time, I’d say that this would not end well for them. But, as long as Gillette now stick with this messaging and develop their brand story as they have been doing over the past few years, it should have positive results for a company attempting to battle back against the newer players in the market such as Harry's and Dollar Shave Club.
As has been demonstrated here, advertising can help to spread important and timely discussion. Sure, it might be nothing to do with shaving, but it’s what brands need to do to differentiate themselves in markets where their products are very similar to those of their rivals.