To start 2019, Gillette kicked off the year by redefining “The Best A Man Can Get” with an ad that has sparked national controversy, causing many to boycott Gillette – but was it deserved?

If you haven’t yet seen the video, you can watch it below.

To start this conversation, we’ll start with a brief background on razors themselves. In the mid-1800s, we saw the start of what we know as the traditionally shaped razor, with Gillette innovating the design in 1895. In the 1960s, Gillette introduced stainless steel blades, bringing a blade that lasted much longer, and cost much more. It was since this time that Gillette became a major force in the razor blade industry, peaking at attaining 70% of the market share, followed by Schick. With few competitors, Gillette was able to charge increasingly higher and higher prices, building a multi-billion dollar company.

This trend remained up until recently when 2012 introduced a cheaper, subscription-based method of purchasing razor blades from companies like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s. Because there are so few razor manufacturers worldwide, the difference in design when compared to Gillette or Schick was minimal, leading to a loss in Gillette’s market share as they were still charging exponentially higher prices, from 70% to 50%.

Around this time, Gillette realized they needed to do something to add value to their brand – enter The Best Men Can Be campaign in January 2019. The video ad, published January 13th, 2019 was seemingly well-intentioned stating that there is a need to redefine masculinity, “promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man.” states Gillette.

To further this vision, Gillette has committed to donating $1 million per year for the next three years to United States non-profit organizations “executing the most interesting and impactful programs designed to help men of all ages achieve their personal best.”. The first organization they’ve chosen to support is The Boys & Girls Clubs Of America, in hopes that the positive communication and emotional skills taught will contribute to later success in the youths’ lives.

After the release of The Best Men Can Be ad, the company faced immense backlash having over 27 million views, with 1.3 million dislikes and only 741 thousand likes (though these numbers are still growing). Along with the threats of boycotting the brand came death threats to agency staff at Grey.

Some may be asking how can this be? There have been other ads that have pushed for a global cognitive shift, with examples like the Always #LikeAGirl campaign in an attempt to empower women, the Nike ‘Dream Crazy’ ad pushing people to believe in their “crazy” dreams, and Ariel Matic’s #ShareTheLoad ad, attempting to change the view of women’s household roles, stating that men should “Share The Load” in the household.

Overall, these example ads had relatively the same effect in the sense of sending a positive message of a change of view and were well received by the public when they were published – so why did Gillette get the backlash they received if they were attempting to send a similar message? Some have argued that the way the message was delivered by focusing primarily on the negative behaviours men have exhibited rubbed them the wrong way – contrary to how the other example ads had delivered their message – focusing more on the positive and/or the change they were seeking.

Whatever the reason for the backlash – it’s clear that this approach at creating a cognitive shift has sparked some debate and gained attention for the brand!

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