What Gillette Got Wrong

We know. The last thing the world needs is another razor brand weighing in on the debate. But we just can't help ourselves.

Last week, Gillette launched an advertisement on YouTube called “The Best Men Can Be,” in which they offer their perspective on modern day masculinity. The ad has generated very strong reactions on the twitters, with many customers boycotting the brand indefinitely. What's more, the video is now one of the most disliked videos of all time on YouTube - 1.2 million dislikes and counting.

But that's not the whole story. The video is quickly racking up likes and support on social media as well. Advocates for the ad believe that there's nothing wrong with a video that encourages men to be better. And if you have a problem with that, then you're likely contributing to the problem that the video seeks to address.

Gillette Toxic Masculinity Ad

At Supply, we believe the last thing the world needs is another shaving brand weighing in on the debate. That said, we do feel strongly the need to join in on the conversation. A lot has been said about the ad - but the most important point hasn't yet been discussed. 

In short, we believe that Gillette blew an amazing opportunity to drive home a message that everyone can get behind. And that's the fact that our world needs great men.

Frankly, we have no interest in joining the debate on whether the ad was a good one or not. We simply think it could have been a much better one. And behind that thought is a fundamental understanding of how men operate. It goes a little something like this:

Men respond amazingly well to calls of higher purpose. They respond less well to misplaced criticism.

That’s a really general (and somewhat vague) statement, so please stick with me. I'll explain what I mean.

Looking back at the ad, it would be hard to find anyone who disagrees with the general message towards the end of the video: the world needs men who stand up to bullies, treat women with respect, and set good examples for the next generation of men. I’ll be the first to raise both hands wholeheartedly in support of that message.

The beginning of the ad is a bit more controversial, but nobody would disagree with the general message it’s trying to make as well: reprehensible behaviors like sexual harassment and bullying must be stopped wherever and whenever they rear their ugly heads. 

But it’s right in the middle of the ad where Gillette screws the whole thing up. 

After demonstrating examples of disgusting patterns of behavior, Gillette goes on to tell us that they "believe in the best of men." In the same breath, they also tell us that “some” men are already acting in the right way, and “some” men are already saying the right things.  Finally, they say that “some” is not enough - implying that the rest of us need to start saying and doing the right things.

Gillette Toxic Masculinity Ad

It’s as if Gillette is drawing a line in the sand between men who are bullies, harassers, and misogynists - and those that are good fathers, protectors of women, and champions of kindness. They then make the bizarre decision to place “some” men on the first side - and by definition, most men on the other side. 

And this is where Gillette failed.

If you want to motivate a man to be a better version of himself, you don’t tell him that he’s a piece of trash and that he needs to do better. That works when you're training a Navy Seal. It doesn't work when you're trying to encourage a man to make the world a better place. 

If you want to motivate a man, you need to give him a calling of higher purpose. You need to show him what greatness looks like, and tell him to achieve that. And believe it or not, a lot of the time he will step up to the plate.

Yes, the ad did encourage men to be better - but only after it spent the majority of the time telling us that most men are disgusting (their implication, not mine). That is the pivotal difference that turned what could have been an amazing ad into a disappointing one.

We believe in the opposite approach. 

We believe that if you want to motivate a man, you show him the way to greatness. We believe in lifting up the men that have accomplished amazing things in this world - and encouraging the rest of us to follow suit. 

We believe in highlighting the stories of men like:

  • Adel Termos, a 32-year-old Lebanese car mechanic and father of two who sacrificed his life tackling a suicide bomber to save hundreds in a terrorist attack.
  • Lee Posey, an American philanthropist who donated millions of dollars and worked tirelessly to give tens of thousands of disadvantaged young women a chance at higher education.
  • Jack Swanson, a 7 year old boy from Texas who gave every penny of his $20 lifetime savings to a local mosque after being vandalized in a hate crime.
  • Maikael Campbell, a manager at Teach for America who serves as a community leader focused on building bridges between the community and the Police Department within his hometown of Tulsa.
  • Jonathan Blunk, a young man who at the age of 24 used his body as a human shield to protect his girlfriend from being killed in a movie theater mass shooting. 

The stories could go on, and on.

But here's the crux of it all: we believe that most men are good men who are constantly striving to become better men. And we believe that every man deserves a chance to become the best version of himself. 

Yes, we need to identify and rid the world of evil where it exists. And yes, it's right to condemn the disgusting and demonic acts of despicable men like Larry Nassar and Harvey Weinstein. But to lump the majority of men into the same category as them is just plain bizarre - and frankly not very helpful.

Look, we realize this is a complicated topic, and we're just barely scratching the surface of all that's going on in a short, 2 minute video - and more importantly, in the culture surrounding it. But it's our conviction that what the world needs more of right now is great men. And Gillette's attempt to build them up fell pretty flat.

We'll have more to say about this in the coming weeks, but for now, I'll leave you to chew on one of my favorite quotes from author C.S. Lewis, somebody a lot smarter (and more eloquent) than me:

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

 

It's that last line that says it best, I think. You don't build great men by castrating them. You build great men by showing them the greatness inside of them - and bidding them to find it.

 

What do you think? Did you like the ad? Hate it? Do you think the world needs more masculinity, or less? Sound off in the comments below!

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Maury Marcus

About three years ago, Chivas Regal Scotch Whiskey aired several ads showing men who enjoyed Chivas as being chivalrous. The ads showed chivalrous guys doing positive things, e.g. when a rugby player gets knocked down, a chivalrous guy from the opposing team helps him up. The Gillette video showed negative behaviors and implied that men, as a class, are guilty of negatives. More Chivas please.

Stephen Cooper

I am grateful to God for the evidences of his Holy Spirit in you: in the way you conduct your business, in your personal character, and in your comments on this issue. Thank you for speaking boldly and truthfully on this issue.

John Hardy

I agree with George Heller (Jan 25) and others: Gillette is a shaving products company owned by a pharmaceutical company whose sole genuine interest is in its corporate bottomline. That is the sole extent of its corporate virtue or intelligence and the sum of the value of its contribution to ANY social moral or philosophical debate – ZERO. It is making the same error the movie stars make who believe that because they have a platform and an audience for their films this therefore somehow endows them with special intelligence and wisdom and makes their opinions on various important issues of great value and weight and worthy of inflicting on the entire world. They should just shut up and make movies — and Gillette should just shut up and sell razors.

As Patrick and Jennifer, you are unlike Gillette in that you are individuals with passions, interests and virtues. However, as Supply, you are still basically a mens’ products company and would be well advised not to wade into this particular bog in Gillette’s muddy wake.

Chris

Gillette tried to inspire passion in their potential customers to drive sales with a feel-good ad that blew up in their ingrown hair laden face. I understand what they were TRYING to say with their message, but clearly missed the mark in a way that probably drove as many folks away from their product and they drew in.

What I have liked about your brand is you’re trying to inspire passion in the experience of the shave AND see past the hype of most the new shaving tech. You guys don’t need to jump in on this subject to inspire the interest in your product. Trying to start making claims on the definition of a good “man” really is only likely to inspire politically charged debates that devolve into sludge that will only get you way more into comment moderating than you’ve already had to do. Regardless of where one falls on the spectrum of society’s idea of what kind of man they are, they probably have facial hair and you guys probably depend more on them being excited about your product for what it can do for their face than if they understand where you stand on the definition of manhood.

You’re welcome to plod further on into this sticky subject, however I see only risk and little reward. When products can speak for themselves and their quality, the creator doesn’t need to.

Ted Svensonson

All I need to see in an ad from a company that makes a glorified knife is why their product does a better job than the others. Seriously. Enough.

Devin

Well done, SUPPLY! 👍🏼

Hermann Stern

It’s great we have this discussion. Thank you, Gillette, for starting it, thank you, Supply, to keep it alive.

Eric

I ordered your razor because of the Gillette ad. I honestly don’t need your or Gillettes opinion on how I should run my life or carry myself. Please just focus on designing a good product and don’t spend another minute on this topic or I will move on again. I don’t look to a mens care product for guidance.

Ben Leonard

Just reading these responses should let you know that very few people are interested in anything anyone else thinks. Best wishes but I agree with the folks saying that making the best product you can make is enough.

Arnold Cohen

All of this aside, what Gillette really got wrong was the double edge razor and then the multi blade razor. If you look at the overwhelming numbe of razors now available, they are modeled after Gillettte’s major competitor, Schick, who made the predecessor to the Supply razor. Schick actually won that contest-conceptually at least. What more people are realizing is that multi blade razors only give you ingrown hairs. Wrong again.

As far as the message-real men are good men. Bullying, disrespect of woman or other men, etc were never part of being a real man. Gillette and many others have lost site of that. The downgrading of traditional male virtues only causes harm, weakens the structure of society and leads to dysfuntional males and unhappy females.

Arthur Zaretsky

I utterly dislike when a company pushes their version of the “truth”, or their social agenda. Target and Starbucks have committed the same error. I don’t go into Starbucks to be converted to their worldview, just want an overpriced cup of coffee.
Gillette needs to make products that are useful and affordable. That’s their financial mission. The concept that I must suffer through a moral lesson from a company that wants to sell me overpriced products is not useful. It has nothing to do with me desiring their products. Your advertising agency sold you a bill of goods. All publicity is not necessarily good publicity. Just make better products.

Les Dahlstedt

In the span of my lifetime, ‘feelings’ have displaced the reality of truth. When men and women begin to lose sight of their identities and rely upon input from warped sources, society suffers and we raise generations of confused, rudderless children. While Gillette’s message is far from perfect, I can’t fault their overall intention.

Mike Ward

You used a lot of words in this response when you could have simply written “not all men”. I hope your bid to capture market share from a very specific demographic works out for you, but count me out.

George Heller

Here’s a different perspective, Companies that sell to the public would be well advised to stop virtue signaling. Your customers span the whole spectrum of society and your purpose is to provide great products to them, not to preach your particular version of what’s right, it creates zero value for the customers nor the other stakeholders , live your beliefs, Incorporate them in your Governance practices, leave dogma to others. Gillette,Air B&B and others are joining the Hollywood set in thinking that having a platform somehow confers brilliant insight that must be shared with the great unwashed.

Gale Latimer

Patrick and Jennifer,
What a great job you did in focusing on the need for raising up great men and making men being a better version of who they are! I totally agree.

William Paul Bettis

I neither liked nor hated the commercial. I agree it missed the mark. I liked the C.S. Lewis quote. We’re using one of his books for our Sunday School right now.

Tom

Disappointing.

A grown man doesn’t need coddling. It shouldn’t damage one’s ego to receive the message that the world would be a better place if we put ourselves between the abusers and the abused.

If “most” of us were already doing that work, abuse wouldn’t be the rampant problem that it is. Face facts.

I don’t think this ad is some kind of major positive milestone. It’s one TV ad. But by the same token, the claim that it’s some kind of demoralizing attack on my manhood is some willfully childish nonsense.

Let’s grow up.

Paul R.

I like what you’ve said, and I agree on many points that you’ve raised. A calling to our better angels can certainly motivate us, as men in general, to be better. We (men and women alike) should always strive to be our best selves and to bring out the best in others.

That being said, I am not sure that I agree with your assumption that “some” on one side implies “most” on the other. “Some” and “most” are not antonyms by definition. I am guessing that the line “some is not enough” you are inferring that the not enough part implies that we need to get to a position where “most men are better”. We are currently in a time of great cultural upheaval. I think the first half of the commercial highlights this point. What was once acceptable or tolerated may not be acceptable or tolerated anymore. My take is that Gillette’s call to arms that “some is not enough” is seeking the ideal that we “ALL” be men of high character and integrity. We each should seek to be the best we can be, and in turn make those around us the best they can be.

Chris

Eh. I don’t see how anyone could have a problem with the ad unless they’re very sensitive or reading into it too much. I mean, if someone says “Techical people are a bunch of jerks,” I don’t assume they mean me, even though I’m a technical person. I also don’t take the time to defend technical people at large, because, again, I don’t have some kind of persecution complex that makes me think they mean me or the colleagues I know best,

Maybe the ad could have been better, but I think the hate it has generated is a product of a) bot accounts attempting to sow discord; and b) people who seem to somehow think Gillette was criticizing them personally. Get over yourselves, people. If an ad intended to sell razors makes you defensive about your masculinity, maybe examine why that is.

Michael

Yet another reason why I’m switching over to you guys. Thank you for solidifying that choice

Joseph

Thanks for your post. When I think of the statistics of sexual harassment or worse, I am reminded of a silly spin people put on dating. They say that 10% of people get 90% of the dates. In other words, the most attractive women or men get the overwhelming majority of the interest.

The reason I recall that is because I don’t feel like the overwhelming majority of men treat women the way that Gillette implies. I believe that 90% of the men are doing their best to survive, provide, protect, and excel. Whereas 10% of the men have their heads firmly up their asses and abuse their power, influence, position, etc. over women. And even then, for those 10% of men, are they 100% of the problem? It takes 2 to tango, so to blame all men everywhere for specific circumstances that were very unfortunate is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Most men are getting shit done daily, and don’t have time for this kind of bull.

Ralph

Well said….

Bobby P.

I agree. The world does need more “men”. I’m sick of the liberal media twisting what their definition of a man (and their worldview) is. I will find product alternatives whenever I shop when possible. That’s why I went with your razor.
I usually don’t sound off personally, but after the Gillette ad, NY abortion decision, and the radical “left” actions in general, I have just about had it. This man is sounding off. I love the Lord, I love my family, I love my country and have showed it by serving all three. There have been great men that have given all for what we have today.

Gregory Lawhorn

Spot on. Whatever"toxic masculinity" means, it won’t be cured by trying to get men to behave like women. The world needs doing, brave, selfless men who serve, protect, and give themselves for others.

Arthur Zaretsky

On the other hand, evil, stupidity and bravery are not owned by one sex. That’s what I find offensive and one sided.

Mike Thezier

Thank you. Completely right. What an awesome quote from C.S. Lewis too to sum it up. I appreciate you guys speaking up. You hit the nail on the head with this in every way.

alfred king

Excellent points, fully agree.