Gillette’s Controversial Ad is Nothing New

Gillette’s Controversial Ad is Nothing New
Gillette’s Controversial Ad is Nothing New

Gillette’s “We Believe” campaign has ruffled more than a few well trimmed feathers, with the one-minute, 49-second ad all but taking over online discussion this week. Among its supporters, Gillette has nailed its attempt in providing some much-needed commentary on so-called “toxic masculinity”, while the campaign’s detractors are calling the ad offensive to men.

The latter camp seems to be winning. Gillette’s ad has garnered more than 13 million views on YouTube, and “dislike” reactions are so far double those that gave the video a thumbs up. Some critics are going as far as to call for a company boycott, with #BoycottGillette making the rounds on social media. Consumers in the male grooming market, the pushback argues, should take their money elsewhere.

“@Gillette you just lost a customer,” wrote one enraged Twitter user, “don’t play with identity politics and propaganda serving the identitarian left is a dire mistake #BoycottGillette.”

“when [sic] did it happen that being a Male in AMERICA is WRONG…ESPECIALLY WHEN GRILLING. I grill and I’m a woman so I guess I’m a disgusting person as well! #BoycottGillette.” wrote another.

Enter the Dollar Shave Club. The once-boutique startup, which has since been acquired by Unilever, launched a similar campaign in the summer of 2017. The “defining masculinity” campaign ran with the the #isitokforguys hashtag in a bid to “break the cycle of toxic masculinity”. The day Gillette ran its controversial ad, Dollar Shave Club posted four words on Twitter that have since been liked over 16 thousand times: “Welcome to the Club.”

Indeed, the club of “woke” male grooming firms seems to be growing. In October 2018, industry player Schick hired NBA basketball star Kevin Love to take part in the firm’s “The Man I Am” campaign, designed as an education initiative where masculinity is a spectrum rather than binary. Like Dollar Shave Club, Schick is still in business today.

The news for Gillette gets better: though the backlash to the firm’s shift to the left may look intense, it is also, for the most part, overstated. Morning Consult surveyed 2,201 American adults this week in relation to the “We Believe” campaign; combined with brand-tracking data from the firm’s software platform Brand Intelligence, the data indicates an almost 30 percent increase in consumers who now rate Gillette as “socially responsible.”

Among individuals who count themselves as consumers of Dollar Shave Club and similar “boutique” brands, more than half said they would be more likely to buy from Gillette after watching the commercial. Less than one fifth said they would be less likely to purchase Gillette products.

In Gillette’s case, then, taking a stand still appears to have some purchase with consumers in 2019. WIth 65 percent of Americans reporting they would consider purchasing products from the firm, this razor giant looks to have ridden the transition to a more millennial crowd with grace.

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