Love it or hate it Gillette is getting people talking and that’s what matters_
Colleen Merwick Head of Brand Strategy at AgencyTK
By now you should have seen, or at least heard of the new Gillette ad and the backlash that has followed suit. It seems to be polarising both men and women into loving or hating the ad. And for many, the hate extends to the brand as well. Men on twitter exclaiming ‘I’ll never buy razors from you again’, ‘You’ve lost a loyal customer’ and ‘Why are you trying to alienate your customers’ and so on.
If you watched the ad and had any feelings of anger or disappointment in Gillette as a brand and have vowed never to buy their razors again, I think you’ve totally missed the point. It’s not about selling razors. It’s about standing for something bigger than razors. And when your tagline is “The best a man can get” it opens you up to criticism – criticism of not being with the times or even being insensitive to what is happening in the world. To continue with the same tagline like nothing has happened would also open Gillette up to backlash and criticism.
Why would anyone see that ad, full of positivity, and think anything but hope, progress and feel-good vibes? The only thing I can think of is fear. Fear stemming from inner voices, ‘you’re the bad guy (or your husband, partner etc is). Gillette doesn’t like guys like you.’
If this is your takeaway then you have failed to see the bigger picture. The ad isn’t about you, what you do or have done in the past. It’s about what men can do going forward, collectively, to support each other and be better humans. It’s about change. Changing mind-sets.
To create change you need to make a lot of noise. Those with courage and a voice step up and take action. Those in opposition usually turn away in silence, or make negative noise to discredit and distract.
The definition of masculinity and the roles men play in both families, and society, is evolving. With changing definitions comes blurred lines, uncertainty and different expectations from men to men, women to men, men to children and men at work. Men aren’t getting the short end of any stick here, society changes perspectives across the board and over time we have seen shifts from unacceptable to norm around HIV, the LBGT community, interracial marriages and many more. Every decade it seems society shifts to a new definition of beauty for women from Marilyn to Twiggy to Kate Moss to Ashley Graham.
This isn’t the first time masculinity has evolved nor will it be the last, it just might be the most public and noticeable. Many Millennial and Gen X men have consciously, or subconsciously, chosen to break away from the traditional definition of masculinity. While they have no issues with the men who embody this traditional mind-set and role, that doesn’t mean they want to be like him either. Instead many choose to be more emotional. More in-touch with what they want out of life. They aren’t afraid to be a different version of a ‘man’ even with the snide or petty comments that often ensue. This new type of ‘man’, while not mainstream, is making an impact and forcing many of us to adjust our expectations of men in general. My husband along with loads of other men out there happily enjoy cooking and choose to cook dinner every night. And with me working far away in London, and he working from home, he also takes on the main carer role with our daughter. This isn’t where you roll your eyes and call him a push-over, or say I wear the trousers, or tell me how lucky I am that I got ‘one of the good ones’. These reactions are the same narrow- minded ones that people are having to the Gillette ad. Men – if cooking or kids aren’t your thing then don’t shame someone else who enjoys those roles. Don’t belittle his choice in life by making me out to be a bad person who forces him to cook and take care of our daughter. And women don’t think I am special because it’s not what your man does.
I didn’t ‘get a good one’, I would never choose to be with any man who didn’t want to take an active role in the household and family. Because I want to be part of a team – I don’t want blue jobs and pink jobs. I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking that only mums do this and only dads do that.
Advertising for better or worse, affects us all on a sub-conscious level and helps form and reinforce our perceptions of men and women and their roles in society. Brands who advertise have the platform and the voice to make a difference in society so shouldn’t they be celebrated for trying to make a positive change? #Metoo and #Timesup highlighted that some men need to be held accountable for their actions. Gillette is helping give a blueprint of how we all can help ensure that those negative behaviours don’t have the ability to be ignored anymore. So yes there is bound to be backlash when people feel their life choices are being called out. But telling people they are wrong or that Gillette is losing a customer doesn’t stop the momentum. It doesn’t end the conversation, it only fuels the debate which is how it eventually becomes the new norm – because we have heard it so many times. The few who are brave enough to take a stance and believe in something so much so that they put themselves in a position to be ridiculed and criticised, are the ones that pave the way for others to change without any negative consequences.
Everyone is afraid of change, yet it never stops change from happening. It’s always better to stand for something than nothing. Ignorance isn’t bliss – it’s acceptance.