On the 14th of Jan, 2019, men’s razor brand Gillette released a video on social media called ‘We Believe’. Owned by FMCG giant Proctor & Gamble, the brand’s attempt to speak out against toxic masculinity was in fact a gamble, one that hasn’t necessarily paid out.

While few have praised the ad, a significant majority of men around the world have bashed the effort as condescending and clumsy. Some have even gone as far as boycotting the brand by sharing photos of them throwing their razors away. The reaction was similar to the one experienced by Nike in September of 2018, when conservative U.S. customers shared images and videos of burning Nike shoes after the brand featured activist and American footballer Colin Kaepernick in their ‘Just Do It’ campaign.

In an attempt to reframe its slogan, “The Best a Man Can Get”, the almost 2-minute-long video opens with voiceovers from the news saying the words “bullying”, “the MeToo movement against sexual harassment” and “masculinity”. It counters this with the statement, “Is this the best a man can get?”

The ad goes on to show us a group of young boys running through different scenes that showcase bullying, abuse and a defeated woman in a boardroom. The voiceover speaks out against men making excuses with the old adage, ‘boys will be boys’.

It highlights the #MeToo movement as the point in culture when things changed and features a clip of the Hollywood actor Terry Crews speaking out in front of the senate. The ad goes on to show scenes of men taking a stand against abuse and preventing other men from engaging in “toxic” behavior. It ends by challenging men to change and do more.

In just a few days the video has garnered millions of views with a disproportionately higher number of dislikes to likes. The (over) 200,000 comments are almost entirely men bashing the multi-national for doling out moral advice, emasculating men, falsely accusing them and taking advantage of the #MeToo movement. Most people have commented about boycotting the brand, never buying a Gillette product again and moving on to other razor brands.

Shortly after the video’s release, renowned marketing professor and columnist Mark Ritson wrote a piece in Marketing Week calling the campaign the year’s worst marketing move and how it will destroy the brand’s leading market share this year.

Echoing the sentiment of scores of men, he writes, “This week, Gillette decided that what men really need in 2019 is not just a clean shave and an aspirational brand image. Oh no. The brand, owned by Procter & Gamble (P&G), decided that what will keep men buying Gillette is being told they are not good enough and they need to improve.”

He goes on to write, “Gillette’s ad feels like a tedious, politically correct public health video – the kind of film we were forced to watch in school about road safety before they invented the internet. Never mind making me hate Gillette, it makes me feel bad about pretty much everything.”

Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the few who praised the campaign, writing, “This commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity. And it demonstrates that character can step up to change conditions.”

Catch more of the conversation on the #GilletteAd hashtag on Twitter.


We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film)

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Written by Vickram Agarwal

Scene at the 2011 Easter Races at Zandvoort: Gillette-Kruidvat grid girls show their Gillette sides on the podium.

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