The best a razor company can get

I saw the Gillette ad a few days ago and here’s my analysis of it.

My first reaction was “yet another company that bashes men” and I made a decision to stop buying Gillette razors and products from Procter and Gamble. Then I contacted people who think like me and told them about the ad. My wife hated the ad too and wrote to P&G to tell them she’s not buying their products either. We both called their customer service phone, but my wife wasn’t able to go through, probably because their lines were busy. I didn’t post anything on social media about the ad, though, since I don’t like to post on political or controversial topics.

A few days later, I decided to analyze the ad from a marketing perspective, since I have an interest in marketing. Also, that’s a more neutral form of analyzing the ad.

The point of any ad or marketing campaign is to increase sales or to establish a brand in the mind of the consumer. I must say that this is where the true impact of the ad is to be seen. Controversy attracts eyeballs and multiplies the results of any given campaign. If the ad results in bigger sales and profits, it’ll be a success, no matter what other results of the controversy are.

While I can’t predict the future, I think the ad will eventually fail and it’ll be a prominent example in marketing text books of what not to do when designing a campaign. As its name implies, marketing implies focus on a market or markets. I believe the target market of Gillette and the ones the ad was aimed at is men. Gillette also has razors for women, but it’s clear from their Gillette Venus website that women are considered a different, maybe secondary, market for which Gillette has a different approach and a different strategy. That website shows a woman with some skin problem that nevertheless looks satisfied. The background shows an open space by the sea and her hair looks loose. The image obviously implies the modern, free woman who is happy in her own skin. I thus deduct that women are a different market than men for Gillette although I admit that this is just my own observation and might be wrong.

The new ad is directed at men. So, how does it fare with this market? Badly, it seems so far.

The ad opens with the words “#metoo” and “toxic masculinity,” while men at the mirror observe themselves in an insightful way. This is already something that’s going to rub a lot of men off the wrong way. It will also be upsetting to many women, but like I explained, they aren’t their target market. First of all, “metoo” is considered a political movement. Many men support it while other men consider it negative. The ad implies the rise of the “#metoo” movement as a necessity to cover abuses of women by men in the past.

The use of the words “toxic masculinity” is a poor choice. I know that in theory, the term doesn’t mean that masculinity is toxic. However, to most men, who haven’t studied feminist theory or gender studies, the term will make them think that masculinity is toxic. And some men who have actually read a definition of the term, still think that the term means that masculinity is toxic. Still, in marketing what counts is perception, not reality. So if men think that “toxic masculinity” means that masculinity is toxic, that’s what counts, regardless of the actual definition of the term.

This is where the words and the image set the mood for the rest of the commercial. The look of introspection of the men in the first seconds of the ad quickly becomes a “what have I done?” look of guilt. Thus the viewer quickly understands that there’s a serious problem in the world created by men, and specifically that YOU, the viewer, have had a part in it. So, while it can be argued that the ad doesn’t say all men are bad, YOU, the viewer, clearly are, since you’ve either contributed to the problem or failed to stop it.

The rest of the ad reinforces this message, which makes it coherent and effective at delivering its message. The rest of the images give evidence that there is a problem created by men, that this problem is serious and widespread, in fact, it is pretty much everywhere, it has been around for a long time, and that men have either contributed to it, approved of it (boys will be boys), or failed to act, specially the viewer.

So, what’s the solution to this widespread, serious problem? It’s for you the viewer to change your ways and to even stand up to other men and intervene. That’s the message that the ad delivers.

The only thing that I saw that was out of place with the tone of the add is the inclusion of Anna Kasparian from the Young Turks. This bit stands out because, unlike the rest of the message, it’s explicitly political, and specifically, liberal, so if you’re a conservative or a moderate, or even a moderate liberal, the inclusion of such a figure might turn you off.

With all this, it’s easy to understand why many men disliked the ad so strongly. They are portrayed as the ones at fault of this problem or that they have allowed it to go unchecked for a long time and they should think of what they have done and change their ways. Basically, the ad is saying “you shouldn’t be like this, you should change.” This message is neither empowering nor positive, in fact, it’s blaming.

Finally, after you change your ways, buy our razors.

As I said, all this analysis is irrelevant if the ad actually generates sales. But I doubt it. Many customers were stating publicly and explicitly that they were not going to buy Gillette razors anymore. Others, like me, contacted similarly minded people to inform them of the add, resulting in more men stopping buying the product. Moreover, the fact that I’m submitting this essay instead of a video and asking the person who is organizing the submissions to keep me anonymus indicates that there are other men who, like me, disliked the commercial but don’t want to suffer the backlash that disliking the ad publicly would entail.

However, there are a lot of men that have been raised by single mothers and haven’t had a masculine role in their lives, who believe in feminist theory, or simply follow the masculine instinct to protect others. In addition, the new generations of men have been raised to be more feminine and to feel bad about their masculinity or to feel guilty by association of the abuses of women by men in the past, which the ad and their upbringing have portrayed as widespread rather than rare. These men approve of the ad and will start buying Gillette. I do think this market is smaller than the men who felt insulted and most of them probably buy Gillette already or won’t switch, since they will not be as fired up, which means that they might not cause a significant raise in sales. However, I can only speculate about sales and I might be completely wrong about them. In the end, Gillette will act according to the behavior of their sales, and that’s that.

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