A recent YouTube upload from a prominent brand had all the smoothness of a dry shave with a rusty blade.
Gillette’s new advertisement is trending – that’s one way of looking at it.
But another is to say the company has gone from being a pretty capable manufacturer of razors and shaving equipment to a champion of social justice in one fell swoop. The bigger question is, should they have?
It only took one minute and forty-eight seconds for the company to make a polarizing statement which still has the like/dislike bar on YouTube swaying back and forth.
The advertisement was targeted at men – a sizable portion of their customer base. Referencing the familiar slogan “the best a man can get,” the film mused that the phrase “boys will be boys” was used as a crutch to explain some deviant behaviors of sinister man-mess.
What was perhaps intended as a call for men to be respectful to women (and other men, for that matter), instead came off like a warning sign that men were potential ticking timebombs, and that the demographic as a whole was responsible for the spread of “toxic masculinity.”
Issues like bullying, sexual harassment, and the Me Too movement were all brought up – with the underlying tone being that because of the demographic they were born into, men were more predisposed to certain negative and harmful behaviors. The problem is plugging any segment of the population into a role of collective responsibility would be sure to ignite a firestorm – but maybe that’s what Gillette wanted?
NBC News spoke with Sarah Banet-Weiser, a professor from the London School of Economics. She said the company wasn’t doing anything new but were simply making an appeal to a market segment. “They know they’re going to alienate some, so they’re making a decision on who they are appealing to.”
Perhaps the company is targeting millennials and others who are typically believed to care heavily about “social issues” and could switch brands because of it.
But what could’ve been portrayed as a wholesome, upbeat message for men to “be the best” by treating others well was instead seen as an alienating statement. Perhaps akin to: Your kind is predisposed to this kind of behavior – so don’t let your barbarous trends overtake you.
Men flirting with women and young boys rough-housing were treated as catastrophic issues, which had to be stopped before the toxicity could spread.
Gillette’s share of the market has already been dropping in years prior, so making such a polarizing statement is one thing – but doing it with a critical market segment could be a critical error.
Businesses and social issues go together about as well as ketchup and ice cream. They each have their own place, but they don’t mesh well.
The risky move could backfire – people have already been ditching their Gillette razors in droves. It could be a great move for companies like Dollar Shave Club, Shaveology, and Phillips Norelco, who are already industry juggernauts looking to gain more of the market.