Just a few weeks after Procter & Gamble reported a sobering $8 billion writedown, Gillette has officially called off its war on “toxic masculinity.” The embattled brand has announced that it is now “shifting the spotlight from social issues to local heroes.”
While the brand is admitting that it’s reversing course on the social issues messaging, Gillette is presenting its new focus as simply a return to what it’s always done. “We will continue to represent men at their best,” Gillette said in a statement reported by News Corp Australia. Instead of the “social issues” focus, the brand will begin to highlight positive portrayals of “heroic” masculinity, as seen in its new ad starring Ben Ziekenheiner, an Australian firefighter and personal trainer.
Gillette’s “toxic masculinity” mess began in January when the brand released an ad accusing men of “excusing bad behavior” and portraying traditional masculinity in an entirely negative and stereotypical light.
“‘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,” the brand tweeted in mid-January. The ad features men engaged in all kinds of bad behavior, including bullying, catcalling and groping women, and violence — while a line of men behind grills declare the dismissive mantra “Boys will be boys” in one obstinate voice.
The ad presents the #MeToo movement as the moment when the alleged “toxic masculinity” culture “finally changed.” “There will be no going back because we — we believe in the best in men,” the narrator states. “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 backlash to the scolding and sexist ad was swift and strong, with many Gillette users taking to social media to announce they were done with the brand. For the next few months, Gillette responded by doubling down on the social justice messaging, releasing a “fat acceptance” ad as well as an ad showing a father’s first time teaching his female-to-male transgender child how to shave.
But as The Daily Wire reported, seven months after rolling out its “toxic” campaign, Gillette’s parent company Procter & Gamble found itself taking an $8 billion writedown for the brand. Despite positive performance overall for Procter & Gamble Co., who enjoyed better than expected profits last quarter, the company ended up reporting a net loss of over $5 billion. The reason: Gillette’s nosedive.
“Procter & Gamble Co’s (PG.N) quarterly revenue and adjusted profit beat Wall Street expectations on Tuesday, sending shares to a record-high even as the world’s No.1 personal goods company took an $8 billion charge on its Gillette shaving business,” Reuters reported in late July. Procter & Gamble “reported a net loss of about $5.24 billion, or $2.12 per share, for the quarter ended June 30, due to an $8 billion non-cash writedown of Gillette,” the news agency explained.
Gillette has given a number of explanations for its heavy losses, including currency fluctuations and “more competition over the past three years and a shrinking market for blades and razors as consumers in developed markets shave less frequently.” The razor industry, Reuters noted, has declined by 11% over the last 5 years. But critics say Gillette is leaving out a key factor: alienating a large percentage of its potential consumer base.