Jan 22 2019

Shaving Down Toxic Masculinity

Thirty years ago, Gillette launched their tagline ‘The Best a Man Can Get’. Fast forward to today, January 2019: now, everyone’s talking about the release of the brand’s controversial short film We Believe: The Best Men Can Be, addressing ‘toxic masculinity’. You know, the one that people have implied as an attack on the male species. Yes, that one.


When viewing the 1:49 minutes of cinematic footage (that, from our POV, had clear intentions and wasn’t simply slapped together in response to some ‘fake news’ bs), scores of consumers had the same thought: “Who does this brand think they are, stepping outside of their typical product advertisement into our social/political debates and controversies? Brands are supposed to remain a supplier of the things I buy and use. Stick to [razors/sports/etc.]”


Well, what we often forget is that brands are more than makers and sellers of goods and services. We forget that the best brands have values and personalities and, most of all, that there are people behind the brand…and that the brand is those people. From this ad, it is clear where the people shaping the Gillette brand are planting their flag (at least in this instance): against toxic masculinity.


Some brands consider their social responsibility to be cleaning up the local parks and rivers or hosting events for at-risk youth. While these are heartwarming, measurable, impactful, and approachable options to social responsibility, they are not the ONLY options. Gillette is making its contribution by speaking up about (we’ll continue using their term/buzzword) ‘toxic masculinity’ to appeal to a broader population and, theoretically, make our society a better place.


What are the reactions, and who is reacting? At a glance, it definitely seems like the loudest comments take a negative jab at Gillette and their big step over personal boundaries. This is nothing new. In the era of the internet, it has become a knee-jerk reaction to hop on our social media platform of choice and speak through our thumbs about our great dissatisfaction of a new product purchased online or a controversial commercial. When we scroll through review pages, what we find are mostly negative, disgruntled customers carrying the mantle of truth-teller by warning future patrons about, say, their appalling mixed greens salad and how it wasn’t delivered to them a minute from when they ordered it, accompanied by a relaxing foot massage.


By contrast, how often do we post a pleasant photo or comment of a product we purchased online? A positive review? An unsolicited thumbs-up? Way more rarely – and for some people, probably never – but we are quick to call out things that have failed us.


Judging by the voracity and volume of comments that fall into the former category, it’s clear that Gillette hit a nerve.


It’s undeniable that with this film, Gillette has created a marketing campaign that cannot be ignored. Featured everywhere from NPR to CNN, Fox & Friends, USA Today, and approximately one zillion blogs, this story is inescapable. Whether you agree with the message or not, the campaign has absolutely jump-started (or continued) conversations on social media, in neighborhood coffee shops, bars, and offices, including here at [ 2 one 5 ] Creative.


The numbers are huge: the film has been viewed over 24M times and racked up over 343K comments, 668K likes, and 1.1M dislikes on YouTube. On Facebook, it has recorded 9.8M views and 241K shares. Though the positive support is less visible, it’s definitely there, especially in the form of celebrity backing – Chrissy Teigen, Rainn Wilson, Maria Shriver, and Jessica Chastain are few of many standing behind Gillette’s message.




Sure, #BoycottGillette will likely negatively impact the brand’s sales due to the protest of newly anti-Gillette guys and gals… but while they are hitting ‘thumbs down’ and commenting away on Facebook, those who agree with the campaign are simply nodding their heads in agreement and going on about their day, without a 5 o’clock shadow.


Looking to make a Gillette-worthy splash with your next campaign? Give us a ring.



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