Last week, Gillette launched an advertisement on YouTube called “The Best Men Can Be,” in which they offer their perspective on modern day masculinity. The ad has generated very strong reactions on the twitters, with many customers boycotting the brand indefinitely. What's more, the video is now one of the most disliked videos of all time on YouTube - 1.2 million dislikes and counting.
But that's not the whole story. The video is quickly racking up likes and support on social media as well. Advocates for the ad believe that there's nothing wrong with a video that encourages men to be better. And if you have a problem with that, then you're likely contributing to the problem that the video seeks to address.
At Supply, we believe the last thing the world needs is another shaving brand weighing in on the debate. That said, we do feel strongly the need to join in on the conversation. A lot has been said about the ad - but the most important point hasn't yet been discussed.
In short, we believe that Gillette blew an amazing opportunity to drive home a message that everyone can get behind. And that's the fact that our world needs great men.
Frankly, we have no interest in joining the debate on whether the ad was a good one or not. We simply think it could have been a much better one. And behind that thought is a fundamental understanding of how men operate. It goes a little something like this:
Men respond amazingly well to calls of higher purpose. They respond less well to misplaced criticism.
That’s a really general (and somewhat vague) statement, so please stick with me. I'll explain what I mean.
Looking back at the ad, it would be hard to find anyone who disagrees with the general message towards the end of the video: the world needs men who stand up to bullies, treat women with respect, and set good examples for the next generation of men. I’ll be the first to raise both hands wholeheartedly in support of that message.
The beginning of the ad is a bit more controversial, but nobody would disagree with the general message it’s trying to make as well: reprehensible behaviors like sexual harassment and bullying must be stopped wherever and whenever they rear their ugly heads.
But it’s right in the middle of the ad where Gillette screws the whole thing up.
After demonstrating examples of disgusting patterns of behavior, Gillette goes on to tell us that they "believe in the best of men." In the same breath, they also tell us that “some” men are already acting in the right way, and “some” men are already saying the right things. Finally, they say that “some” is not enough - implying that the rest of us need to start saying and doing the right things.
It’s as if Gillette is drawing a line in the sand between men who are bullies, harassers, and misogynists - and those that are good fathers, protectors of women, and champions of kindness. They then make the bizarre decision to place “some” men on the first side - and by definition, most men on the other side.
And this is where Gillette failed.
If you want to motivate a man to be a better version of himself, you don’t tell him that he’s a piece of trash and that he needs to do better. That works when you're training a Navy Seal. It doesn't work when you're trying to encourage a man to make the world a better place.
If you want to motivate a man, you need to give him a calling of higher purpose. You need to show him what greatness looks like, and tell him to achieve that. And believe it or not, a lot of the time he will step up to the plate.
Yes, the ad did encourage men to be better - but only after it spent the majority of the time telling us that most men are disgusting (their implication, not mine). That is the pivotal difference that turned what could have been an amazing ad into a disappointing one.
We believe in the opposite approach.
We believe that if you want to motivate a man, you show him the way to greatness. We believe in lifting up the men that have accomplished amazing things in this world - and encouraging the rest of us to follow suit.
We believe in highlighting the stories of men like:
- Adel Termos, a 32-year-old Lebanese car mechanic and father of two who sacrificed his life tackling a suicide bomber to save hundreds in a terrorist attack.
- Lee Posey, an American philanthropist who donated millions of dollars and worked tirelessly to give tens of thousands of disadvantaged young women a chance at higher education.
- Jack Swanson, a 7 year old boy from Texas who gave every penny of his $20 lifetime savings to a local mosque after being vandalized in a hate crime.
- Maikael Campbell, a manager at Teach for America who serves as a community leader focused on building bridges between the community and the Police Department within his hometown of Tulsa.
- Jonathan Blunk, a young man who at the age of 24 used his body as a human shield to protect his girlfriend from being killed in a movie theater mass shooting.
The stories could go on, and on.
But here's the crux of it all: we believe that most men are good men who are constantly striving to become better men. And we believe that every man deserves a chance to become the best version of himself.
Yes, we need to identify and rid the world of evil where it exists. And yes, it's right to condemn the disgusting and demonic acts of despicable men like Larry Nassar and Harvey Weinstein. But to lump the majority of men into the same category as them is just plain bizarre - and frankly not very helpful.
Look, we realize this is a complicated topic, and we're just barely scratching the surface of all that's going on in a short, 2 minute video - and more importantly, in the culture surrounding it. But it's our conviction that what the world needs more of right now is great men. And Gillette's attempt to build them up fell pretty flat.
We'll have more to say about this in the coming weeks, but for now, I'll leave you to chew on one of my favorite quotes from author C.S. Lewis, somebody a lot smarter (and more eloquent) than me:
“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
It's that last line that says it best, I think. You don't build great men by castrating them. You build great men by showing them the greatness inside of them - and bidding them to find it.
What do you think? Did you like the ad? Hate it? Do you think the world needs more masculinity, or less? Sound off in the comments below!