Facing a declining share of the men’s razor market as new competitors like Harry’s and the Dollar Shave Club have entered the razor game, Gillette decided it was time to … risk alienating a large percentage of their potential customers with a politically charged declaration of war on the Left’s favorite bugaboo: “Toxic Masculinity.” The move has already triggered the response that any first-year marketing student could’ve predicted in today’s climate: a hashtag boycott movement by people fed up with identity politics, complete with images of people trashing their “anti-masculinity” razors.
The commercial, released by Procter & Gamble’s Gillette on Monday, asks, “Is this the best a man can get?” while video and audio clips focusing on sexual harassment, bullying and abuse play. At one point, a line of men standing with their arms crossed behind grills chant in response to all the awful behavior by men: “Boys will be boys!” The tone of the commercial shifts with the portrayal of the #MeToo movement as a turning point in our view of masculinity.
“But something finally changed,” says the narrator as a series of news clips about #MeToo allegations play. “And there will be no going back because we — we believe in the best in men. To say the right thing, to act the right way. Some already are — in ways big and small. But some is not enough because the boys watching today will become the men of tomorrow.”
The ad ends with text: “It’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best.”
“‘Boys will be boys’? Isn’t it time we stopped excusing bad behavior? Re-think and take action by joining us at http://TheBestMenCanBe.org,” Gillette tweeted Monday. “#TheBestMenCanBe.”
The instant response online was overwhelmingly negative. While a few thanked Gillette for taking a stand against “toxic masculinity,” many of the early responses contained versions of the sentiment expressed in the first reply to the tweet: “Hope it was worth losing thousands of customers for your stupid identity politics calling all men bad.”
Predictably, as the ad has gone viral (the video in the original tweet is now at about 20 million views), #BoycottGillette has gained momentum, and not just among men. A few examples:
The backlash doesn’t appear to be hurting Gillette on Wall Street thus far. In fact, some predict the campaign might end paying off, like Nike’s “woke” Colin Kaepernick ads, in part because it might appeal more to female customers than males — which some speculate may have been the plan all along, as more of the latter are choosing less expensive and more convenient brands like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club.
Gillette, meanwhile, insists that their “the [worst] men can be” ad is about effecting positive change in the culture rather than reversing the brand’s declining share of the razor market.
“This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own,” brand director for North America Pankaj Bhalla, the company’s North America brand director, told the The Wall Street Journal. “We are taking a realistic look at what’s happening today, and aiming to inspire change by acknowledging that the old saying ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is not an excuse. We want to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and hope all the men we serve will come along on that journey to find our ‘best’ together.”
Buying it? A lot of annoyed people say they aren’t, literally.