GILLETTE not changing the world, just saving its skin



The world has gone into meltdown over the last couple of days. No, I’m not talking about the heat, I’m talking about the new Gillette marketing campaign. You’ve probably seen it, you’ve probably liked it, you’ve probably shared it and you’ve probably commented on it. No doubt, it has been a viral sensation.

A million words have been written, a million salty bro-tears shed and a million ‘virtue-signalling’ platitudes given. Incels, MRAs and Proud Boys across the globe are throwing their Gillette in the bin and switching to Schick, while their ‘lefty snowflake’ counterparts are serving up schmaltzy drivel like ‘in the absence of moral leadership from our politicians, brands have taken up the mantle…

It’s probably worth stating that we should all take a deep breath, back up a little, let out a collective ‘sheesh’ and be mindful that Gillette is not our hero, nor our nemesis. Gillette is just a company that sells razors.

Sure, I’ve revelled in watching the online bro-sphere lose its collective shit (a guilty pleasure, I admit). But this campaign is not a social movement. It is however, a very clever marketing campaign for a company that is very good at staying out in front of the pack.

As for social movements, they can be hit and miss. They mostly flay about, sometimes rudderless and sometimes hitting their mark, but occasionally they erupt like a volcano and shift culture. And the eruption that is the #MeToo movement has blackened the skies so much so that the old model of masculinity, like the dinosaur it is, faces extinction.

For a company like Gillette, which for so long has tied itself to those traditional ideals of masculinity, the post #MeToo world has created a crisis and this campaign is its reply. But unlike those social movements that may or may not explode organically, brands – big brands, like Gillette – spend big bucks to accurately read their market and they rarely get it wrong.

I imagine the marketing gurus they employ, sitting around that big table they no doubt sit at, wondering how they can salvage the very thing that has stood them in good stead for generations. Their mission, to repackage the single sentence ‘The best a man can get.’

And there it is. When you own that sentence, you aren’t letting it go. It’s 2019 and suddenly the handsome guy, winning in the boardroom, winning on the field and winning with the girl while wearing the flash suit and driving the flash car looks like yesterday’s hero.

The best you can get is now being respectful to women, being available to your kids, being loving with your partner and being caring with your peers. The best you can get is curbing your darker self, and shaving that beard with a Gillette razor.

As a marketing strategy, it is top shelf. Regardless of the chatter it has unleashed, its job is done. Gillette has protected its brand values in a changing world by changing nothing but the aesthetic and I suspect this campaign will be studied with great enthusiasm and zeal by marketing students for decades to come.

As a piece of social commentary, it is less about changing the world and more about saving Gillette’s skin, so save your praise or scorn for others. Gillette isn’t a leader but a follower, a canary in the coalmine, signalling a shift in culture.

Alex Tricolas

Alex Tricolas is former editor of This is Canberra, now occasional freelance writer, part time renovator and full time flaneur.

One Comment

  1. I agree with what you have said but we can’t escape the individualistic, capitalist society that we live in. Of course part of their intentions are about sales, and retaining clientele. I don’t believe any company in this society is guided solely by morals or ethics, they can’t be if they want to survive. Part of any company’s intention has to be making sales. I think it’s amazing to see them jumping on the band wagon and we won’t see any change if companies, along with public figures, don’t do this even if it is for slightly selfish purpose. Of course they are not going to change the world with one ad but more messages like this surrounding us can start to make this value the societal norm, showing those who don’t agree that they’re out number.

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