The internet is buzzing yet again. Only this time we’re not obsessing over the color of a dress, the president or even Ariana Grande’s heartbreaking split from Pete Davidson. We’re talking about Gillette’s “We Believe” ad, men and the damage caused by the ever present “boys will be boys” mentality. This ad has only been out for a few days, and it’s already getting a lot of backlash. The conversation is getting heated for two reasons. First, are brands allowed to have a POV on cultural, societal or political topics? And secondly, what is the intended purpose of Gillette’s latest commercial? Was it man-shaming or a call to action? So, let’s break these polarizing questions down.
Should brands be allowed to have an opinion in modern society? Of course! Brands work tirelessly to foster a two-way conversation with consumers. Developing an on-going relationship allows brands to better understand their audience, giving them the opportunity to tailor offerings to consumers wants and needs. These types of conversations only help to create a deeper and more meaningful dialogue between brand and consumer. Also, it seems only fitting given the way our culture is moving. Those with a voice and a platform aren’t comfortable sitting back any longer and simply coasting on the status quo. Actors are using their acceptance speeches to speak out about immigration reform. Athletes are using the National Anthem to give a voice to victims of police brutality. And everyday people, who might not have the visibility of a celebrity, are banding together to make sure that their stories are heard. Even if that means testifying in front of Congress, being harassed and having the shit scared out of them. These brave women and men are taking risks that can greatly impact their lives, futures and finances, because they are passionate about their messages. And what they’re saying needs to be heard and applied to our lives and behaviors.
My guess is that anyone who’s averse to listening to what these folks have to say have antiquated ways of thinking. Sadly, I’ve got bad news for them. They’re in the minority. Every day, we have the opportunity to make this world better, and I think most people are on board with that idea. Who doesn’t want to live in better world? A world where you can be on the football team and don’t have to worry about the fact that you’re gay. One where you clap back at an ignorant white man who tells one of your best friends that he doesn’t act “black enough.” A world where you insist that the dozens of strong women you’ve worked with are treated equally, because they’re just as talented and work just as hard as you do. These examples are all very personal to me, of course. But if you think about it for a second, I’m sure you’ll think of countless times where you wish you’d done better.
If your first response to a brand that makes a statement like Gillette’s is to boycott, then not only will you be left behind on our journey to the future, but you’ll also be left without your favorite razors, sneakers and iced lattes. Historically, boycotts haven’t proven to be an incredibly effective tool for a cultural/behavioral shift. Like it or not, brands are a part of our village. They’re no different than the doctor who tells you to cut back on carbs, the trainer that pushes us to work out more often or the loving partner that keeps us in check when our vision of reality becomes a little distorted. We might not like the message, but it’s in our best interest to hear them and then decide the best course of action. And we should view these messages from brands as constructive criticism to improve as people and as a community. Not an attack on our character.
Will an approach like this work for Gillette? That depends. The public is savvier than ever when it comes to marketing (and bullshit). It’s one thing for Gillette to make a bold statement. It’s another to make sure they can back up the goods. According to Fast Company, they’ve committed to donating $3 million over three years, but haven’t shared any plan for how those funds will be used to combat the issues highlighted in their ad. Or how they’ll measure success. Is that enough? Will it really help move the needle or are they simply riding the coat tails issue that’s front of mind for the public? Only time will tell…but my gut tells me it’s going to be a bit of a letdown. And it will most likely impact non-Gillette user’s opinion of the brand more than those who currently use their razors.
With that said, was “We Believe,” an attack on men? FUCK NO! And if you took it that way, it says more about your insecurities than it does about the brand. In no way is Gillette saying all men are bad. There’s a lot of good guys out there. I fancy myself to be among them. But let’s be real, there’s a lot of dicks out there too. What’s offensive about a brand saying that men can be a force of change when it comes to bullying, mansplaining, sexual harassment, toxic masculinity and sexism? How is inspiring a man to be the change he wants to see in the world a bad thing? And if you don’t think the things on that list are “real,” or that they don’t need to change, then my guess is that you’ve never been bullied, harassed, talked over or made to feel like you were less than. Just because you’ve never had a particular problem, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
So rather than writing scathing comments on social media and calling for boycotts that will have zero impact, dig a little deeper into the ad’s true meaning. This ad isn’t an attack. It’s an edict. To not only be the best men we can be, but to also illustrate how our behavior affects the next generation of young men. Gillette is saying that it’s not enough to accept the status quo or be a by-stander when we see these things playing out in the real world. They’re saying they believe in us and know that we can be better. They see our true potential and want us to realize it. It’s not enough to just raise the next generation of “woke” men. But we need to inspire them to be better and braver than we have. Let’s hold them to a higher standard that we know all men are capable of achieving. They’re asking men to help the world evolve into a better version of itself. And I am certainly up for that challenge. Who’s with me, gentlemen?