A Close Shave, But Gillette Deserves A Break

Before Christmas everyone was talking about Iceland's Orangutan, but now all debate in adland is centred on Gillette's attempt to get men to call out toxic masculinity. The ad is a rallying call, a sign of male support for the #MeToo movement, and it has seriously divided opinion.

On the one hand we have a Marketing Week columnist pointing out that this is brand purpose gone too far and potentially looks a little preachy. The ultimate result will be a trashing of sales that will see the ad turn out to be the worst marketing move of the year.

On the other we have many observers pointing out that if your masculinity is challenged by a brand telling you to do the decent thing, you may want to reset your moral compass.

Of course, we can't have a PC debate without reference to Piers Morgan. The tv presenter, well known on both sides of the Atlantic, waded in with a threat that such a PC message would see him consider changing brands. Just as with his comments against the baker Greggs launching a vegan sausage roll, Piers' tirade led to the brand he was berating beginning to trend on Twitter as people ran to support or oppose him.

Marketers are forever being told by gurus and strategists that brands have to stand for something, and so it's not too surprising to see Gillette pick a male-related topic. Not only is their strapline "A Best A Man Can Get," but they are also way out ahead as the top razor brand for women.

So, telling men to be nicer and end the toxic masculinity should play well to both markets. The fact that women buy razor blades -- for themselves or for a partner, or both -- seems to have been forgotten in the row that has erupted. 

Before entering the fray it seems to be a requirement to point out that only a knuckle-dragging oxygen thief would stand against a movement that says women shouldn't have to put up with abuse. It's then time to point out that as a father of two daughters, as well as a son, that it stands to reason any parent wants the best for all of their children.

Hopefully that buys enough goodwill to point out that the ad does come over as a little "preachy," if that word exists? I can't be the only one left thinking that when they show boys being mean to one another and cyberbullying that young girls are just as capable of mentally torturing their classmates. To present these forms of bad behaviour as a male issue seems way off the mark to me.

However, as far as brand communications goes, Gillette has already entered the direct-to-consumer market, so that hurdle and the message that they are taking on Harry's and the Dollar Shave Club has already been done. So picking a cause is not a bad way to move their messaging on from endless talk about an extra blade giving an even closer shave than the last time they added an extra blade to give you a closer shave.

For me, I would have thought green credentials might have been something to rally around. Maybe around recycling or how the components of a razor are sourced, perhaps?

However, it's a stretch to then attack Gillette over putting out a message that, to be honest, nobody can argue against. Anyone who has spent as much time as me on the sidelines of football games, running the line or helping with the coaching, can tell you that a lot of young lads are held back by -- and then pick up -- the toxic masculinity of spectators. A brand telling men there's a nicer way to be and that calling out bad behaviour is a good idea cannot really be too offensive, can it? How can reminding men that they are role models be offensive?

Could Gillette have chosen another subject to get behind? Absolutely? Would it have been more of a powerful message if it referenced an event or person, as Nike did with England football star, Raheem Sterling? Probably, yes. Does it come over as "preachy"? Undoubtedly.

But will it be looked back on as the worst marketing move of the year? I very much doubt it. Will men stop buying Gillette razors because the brand stood up for the #MeToo movement? I seriously doubt it. 

And the ultimate question is: does Gillette deserve the criticism it has received? Unequivocally not. As one tweet responding to Piers Morgan's rant laid bare, if your masculinity is offended by being told to stand up to bullies, you need a new brand of masculinity. 

1 comment about "A Close Shave, But Gillette Deserves A Break".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 17, 2019 at 2:10 p.m.

    You had me at "undoubtedly preachy"

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