What Gillette Got Wrong

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.

Gillette Toxic Masculinity Ad

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.

Gillette Toxic Masculinity Ad

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!

27 comments

Maury Marcus

About three years ago, Chivas Regal Scotch Whiskey aired several ads showing men who enjoyed Chivas as being chivalrous. The ads showed chivalrous guys doing positive things, e.g. when a rugby player gets knocked down, a chivalrous guy from the opposing team helps him up. The Gillette video showed negative behaviors and implied that men, as a class, are guilty of negatives. More Chivas please.

Stephen Cooper

I am grateful to God for the evidences of his Holy Spirit in you: in the way you conduct your business, in your personal character, and in your comments on this issue. Thank you for speaking boldly and truthfully on this issue.

John Hardy

I agree with George Heller (Jan 25) and others: Gillette is a shaving products company owned by a pharmaceutical company whose sole genuine interest is in its corporate bottomline. That is the sole extent of its corporate virtue or intelligence and the sum of the value of its contribution to ANY social moral or philosophical debate – ZERO. It is making the same error the movie stars make who believe that because they have a platform and an audience for their films this therefore somehow endows them with special intelligence and wisdom and makes their opinions on various important issues of great value and weight and worthy of inflicting on the entire world. They should just shut up and make movies — and Gillette should just shut up and sell razors.

As Patrick and Jennifer, you are unlike Gillette in that you are individuals with passions, interests and virtues. However, as Supply, you are still basically a mens’ products company and would be well advised not to wade into this particular bog in Gillette’s muddy wake.

Chris

Gillette tried to inspire passion in their potential customers to drive sales with a feel-good ad that blew up in their ingrown hair laden face. I understand what they were TRYING to say with their message, but clearly missed the mark in a way that probably drove as many folks away from their product and they drew in.

What I have liked about your brand is you’re trying to inspire passion in the experience of the shave AND see past the hype of most the new shaving tech. You guys don’t need to jump in on this subject to inspire the interest in your product. Trying to start making claims on the definition of a good “man” really is only likely to inspire politically charged debates that devolve into sludge that will only get you way more into comment moderating than you’ve already had to do. Regardless of where one falls on the spectrum of society’s idea of what kind of man they are, they probably have facial hair and you guys probably depend more on them being excited about your product for what it can do for their face than if they understand where you stand on the definition of manhood.

You’re welcome to plod further on into this sticky subject, however I see only risk and little reward. When products can speak for themselves and their quality, the creator doesn’t need to.

Ted Svensonson

All I need to see in an ad from a company that makes a glorified knife is why their product does a better job than the others. Seriously. Enough.

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