With its short film calling on men to police other men engaging in so-called acts of toxic masculinity, Gillette has stirred lots of controversy, with some people fervently in support and others saying the film leans on stereotypes and demeans men.
And that’s just the way the brand wants it.
“Our ultimate aim is to groom the next generation of men, and if any of this helps even in a little way we’ll consider that a success,” Pankaj Bhalla, North America brand director on Gillette, told the Associated Press.
As a legacy brand that sells razors and shaving cream, Gillette is in need of a brand update as it faces internet upstarts such as Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club. The short reminds us that Gillette’s tagline up to this point has been “The best a man can get.” With this campaign, that tagline is changing to “The best men can be.”
Such a campaign is always a risk. In 2017, Pepsi had to weather a firestorm of criticism after it released an ad starring Kendall Jenner that was supposed to be in support of Black Lives Matter. Critics called it cultural appropriation and said Pepsi’s attempt to join the conversation was tone deaf and featured the wrong star.
Last year, Nike released an ad starring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has become the poster boy for kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality against black people. The issue ended up rising to the top of the news cycle when President Donald Trump started pushing back, saying NFL players who knelt were unpatriotic and should be fired.
While that ad was on brand for Nike, it also rubbed some people the wrong way.
While Gillette isn’t under the same scrutiny as Pepsi was in 2017, it also faces a similar problem: turning around a legacy brand. If it’s done all at once, like this campaign does, that turn can be perceived as abrupt and insincere.
“Treating people with respect, who can argue with that, but they’re kind of late to the party here, that’s the biggest problem,” Larry Chiagouris, marketing professor at Pace University, told the AP. “It’s gratuitous and self-serving.”
Still, the effort has gained some traction for Gillette. Since the short film was released Monday, it has garnered nearly 13.4 million views on YouTube.
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