Now that the hype has died down, did we learn anything?
When Gillette’s “We Believe” advertisement went viral, was it really nothing more than a cynical marketing ploy? Did it really backfire like its critics say?
What did Gillette learn? What did we learn?
We learned that Gillette deleted an astounding 34 percent of the ad’s comments on YouTube, a figure that some consider the highest relative comment delete on any 1 million or more commented video in YouTube’s history.
We learned that Gillette’s sales haven’t been affected yet, though that’s hard to determine at this point. Razors are often bought on very long purchase cycles, so a definitive sales conclusion can’t fully be realized until months from now.
We learned that the pot does indeed call the kettle black. Thousands on social media pointed to a past Gillette sponsorship photo whereby women wore tight-fitting blue jumpsuits with Gillette’s logo featured across their behinds.
We learned that there have been calls for boycotts of Gillette. One has to wonder what fans and players of the New England Patriots think about their stadium being sponsored by Procter & Gamble’s top razor brand.
In the end, the campaign received considerable attention, but it also drew heavy criticism by suggesting that good men are in the minority. It even took aim at boys seeing bikinis on TV (like, think how all of us will be subjected to that during Super Bowl commercials) and roughhousing on the ground.
Caring isn’t feminine, and leadership isn’t masculine. The bad apples involved in the high-profile, celebrity #MeToo culture doesn’t mean that the entire bunch is spoiled. Everyone gets that toxic masculinity is a bad form of masculinity, but it’s not as prevalent as Gillette insinuates. Look around you, most men are decent men. And the boys of today are its customers of tomorrow.
The male-shaming of Gillette’s ad demoralizes and labels its very customer base. It’s hard to imagine a scenario whereby Gillette would run a similar female-shaming ad telling women they’re not good enough, and that they need to do better. Lost in Gillette’s well-intentioned piece was a message that stereotyped, emasculated and demeaned the far majority of an entire gender.
Gillette’s pledge “to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man” is a lofty one. It’s operated by a parent company that has a troubling history of ads and social media which thrive off old-fashioned notions of masculinity and femininity.
We learned that Gillette has work to do. And it starts today.