Gillette: The Best An Ad Can Get?

Everyone’s talking about Gillette’s newest ‘The Best a Man Can Be’ short. The ad is dividing bloggers, influencers and celebrities the world over, and for good reason – gender roles, ‘mansplaining’ and the #MeToo movement are hot topics on everyone’s lips (and fingertips). At Blade, we want to talk about the value of disruption. And the one thing no one can deny: this ad is disrupting. And disruption can be great for business.

A Brief History of Razors

(We swear this is more interesting than it sounds)

In 1904, King C. Gillette patented the first ever safety ‘razor’ – very similar to the type of razor you see on shelves today. In the 115 years since, Gillette has enjoyed dominant market share in the razor industry without resorting to “cultural” disruption, even though their product innovation has been impressive. Seriously, how many blades can one fit onto one razor?!

Enter: The Internet.

In 2012, the Dollar Shave Club officially launched with Harry’s close on its heels. Both brands targeted young people by selling exclusively through online memberships; they offer affordable, to-your-door razors. The emergence of this new concept disrupted Gillette’s ecosystem in a radical way. Within 4 years, to-your-door razor sales had taken over 12% of the market and were quickly gaining momentum. Suddenly Gillette was facing an uncertain future that may have included irrelevancy in the industry they had largely created.

Gillette’s Scramble for Relevancy with Gen Z

Gillette seems to have recognized the looming threat that companies like DSC and Harry’s pose to them. These brands focus on a target that Gillette historically has not seemed to care about – the young, socially conscious, uber tech-savvy Gen Zers. These generations are going to make or break the sustainability of brands in the future, with Gen Z expected to account for roughly 40% of all consumers by 2020. (Adweek)

Keep these statistics in mind:

  • 76% of Gen Zers said they have or would consider purchasing a brand/product to show support for the issues the brand supported. (Forbes)
  • 67% of Gen Zers have stopped purchasing/would consider stopping purchasing if the company stood for something or behaved in a way that didn’t align with their values. (Forbes)
  • 38% of Gen Z respondents ‘strongly agreed’ that gender no longer defines a person as much as it used to. (Brandhouse)

Gillette has attempted to regain their footing with this younger demographic – such as targeting their to-your-door competitors directly in ads, revamping their online subscription services, and cutting retail prices.

Enter: Gender Politics.

The Best a Man Can Get – Err… Be.

2019 marks the 30th anniversary of Gillette’s ‘The Best a Man can Get’ slogan; and they’ve put a serious #2019 perspective on their self professed, outdated concept of masculinity.

Taking notes on the social issues that Gen Zers hold dear, including toxic masculinity, bullying, and the essential definition of gender, Gillette is speaking to the audience in a way they (and many other ‘traditional’ brands) never have before. They’re grooming (sorry) their emerging audience to believe they really care about the causes that they themselves are concerned with – breeding long term, loyal customers in the most densely populated emerging demographic of purchasers. It’s a calculated risk, given they may also alienate their brand community of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

Ironically, the very people who are up in arms about the ad may be propagating Gillette’s message in a constructive (for Gillette) way. Headlines like ‘Gillette advert prompts furious conservatives to throw away razors in protest’ (The Independent), and ‘New Gillette advert about ‘Toxic masculinity’ sparks furious Piers Morgan rant’ (Manchester Evening News) are exactly the type of headlines that disrupt Gen Zers into action (AKA purchase).

The enlightened Gen Zer is accustomed to their causes being protested by ‘the Man’ – he’s their biggest opponent and obstacle to sustainable change for the better, right?  Boomers and Gen Xers (like troglodytes akin to Piers Morgan) ARE ‘the man’ in the eyes of Gen Z – and Gen Z will do anything to disrupt them.

P.T. Barnum is credited with having coined the phrase “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Gillette has taken this concept to heart by ingeniously disrupting the razor market and creating a veritable media circus (not apologizing for that one) around their brand. Whether or not you’re ready to change the narrative around ‘what it means to be a man in 2019’ really isn’t the point. Getting people talking about your brand is.

Is the campaign little more than a cynical and empty attempt to curry favour? Gen Zers would say yes, if Gillette does nothing more than run a clever ad. If they don’t actually make a real investment in helping men wise up, while also helping to empower and support woman, all they’ll have left at the end of day is a disenchanted market segment, a super clever TV ad … and a lot of razors collecting dust on the shelf.

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