What Gillette's controversial ad can teach you about marketing

You may have heard by now of Gillette’s controversial ad for its approach to one of today’s more sensitive topics; the role of men in society. If not, you can view it here.

Gillette is an iconic brand, known for its tagline “the best a man can get”. This tagline alone serves to strengthen their brand in ways their competitors can only dream of.

What many do not realise, is that Gillette don’t have an agenda beyond trying to sell more razors. The message they are trying to convey in their video is far more simple: beards are out and clean shaven is the new standard for masculinity.

At one point in time, the clean shaven look was the standard for respectability and masculinity. In those days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a man in a boardroom meeting without so much as a millimetre of stubble. Today, a more relaxed attitude to shaving has resulted in less need for razors.

Masculinity in the past 5 years (coinciding with the hipster trend) has shifted to a more rugged ideal, with many men’s fashion and style publications offering advice on how to grow and style their beards. Research has also suggested that women prefer men with beards because it separates the “men” from the “boys”.

Beards have undoubtedly taken over and this has caused razor sales to plummet significantly.

Studies have shown that the average number of times men shave per month has fallen from 3.7 to 3.2 over the last decade. That might not seem like a lot, but it is resulting in some serious problems for the razor industry, with sales falling 5.1 per cent by June 2018 compared to the previous year.

The clean shaven men at the end of the video represent the “new man”; the one who will “step up” and “do what’s right”.

This is aspirational marketing. It relies on establishing a new standard by which to live, framed by the social movements of today.

Let’s not forget that Gillette is also responsible for introducing women to shaving by making them feel bad for having underarm hair.

We may be more skeptical of marketing nowadays, which is why the techniques marketers use have become more sophisticated—but that doesn’t mean marketing no longer affects us. Considering the video has clocked in over 24 million views (as of writing) and has had countless articles written about it, I am sure Gillette will have the last laugh.

The Write Impact