Gillette Commercial: Toxic, Tragic, or Great Marketing?

Gillette set the Internet on fire on January 13, 2019, with their YouTube Commercial, We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film). Watch it, if you haven’t already. It asks, “Is this the best a man can get?” and has a new website at There are many on the Left and the Right that are commentating on the video, and that’s great because “conversation” and even “controversy” move our Democracy forward. It’s a process, and I hope that you have faith in that process as I do. I’m glad that Gillette released the video, but not because I agree with its message. Rather it’s a teachable moment on many fronts.

My Take

Political Commentary

Here are some links to commentaries on it:

  • An example from the Left from Slate, “The Boys Are Watching” – Guys who are offended by Gillette’s moralizing new ad don’t realize why we need its message more than ever.
  • And an example from the Right from Paul Joseph Watson, “Gillette: The Best an Incel can Get“.

‘Nuff said; it’s pretty predictable to predict who stands where, and of course please “make up your own mind.” The commentariate is hard at work getting everyone upset, confused, and in their respective corners. If controversy was Gillette’s intention, well, it’s working.

Marketing Commentary: the Video as a Social Media Marketing Moment

I’m not going to say where I stand politically on this video, but I do want to comment on it as a marketer. What’s going on “behind the scenes” here in terms of Gillette marketing? Let’s examine a few possibilities from it in terms of marketing:

  1. Gillette wants to sell more razors! It’s a for-profit business, not a social action committee. Sorry to be so crude, but ultimately for profit businesses do pretty much “whatever it takes” to make more money. So the big question is does aligning with a Social Justice theme help the business build its brand and sell more stuff? Isn’t that the ultimate marketing question here? To be crass, blunt, and pretty realistic about businesses. It’s a Darwinian struggle as a business and those who seek profit survive, and those who do not perish. Period, end of story.
  2. Does Gillette really want to revise its brand and motto, “Gillette: the Best a Man can Get” to fit more “with the times” and with the opinions of Millenials and Gen Z’s? If so, then –
    1. Does the video appeal to their mindsets? I.e., do they want more left-leaning #metoo type of men? That’s what the video implies. You can see the problem in the video by reading the tagline on the companion website, which says, “But turn on the news today and it’s easy to believe that men are not at their best.” Not “some men” or even “many men,” just “men” which implies (maybe wrongly) ALL men.
    2. Or, perhaps Gillette realizes that it’s women (not men) who buy razors and thus they want to appeal surreptitiously to women?
    3. This is interesting because the motto “The best a man can get” is a very strong brand identity, and very flexible. It can mean many things – from “macho” men to men who are stay at home dads. It’s weird that they seem to be uncomfortable with their brand image and you wonder whether they really thought this through very systematically.
  3. Did Gillette see the controversy coming? They are a big corporation with big and smart Ad Agencies, so you have to suspect that YES they wanted this controversy? But did they foresee that the video would get 14 million views, and already 740K (!) thumbs down vs. 350K (!) thumbs up at the time of this writing?
  4. Tone. Here’s where it gets interesting – Compare the video with the Nike, Dream Crazy, video which has 27 million views, 152K thumbs UP vs. only 20K thumbs down. Or compare it with Always #LikeAGirl at 66 million views, 279K thumbs Up and only 32K thumbs down? What explains this huge discrepancy with the Gillette commercial?

Gillette’s Marketing Miscalculation

I think that there is a huge marketing miscalculation here by Gillette and its agency. Why? Because the Gillette video – aiming at a core constituency of men – talks “down” to many men, as if we are “all” somehow to blame for the problems in our society, so it comes off as bossy and non-empowering. Another huge problem in the video is the implicit racism in it. Count the number of white men who are “bad” vs. the number of black men who are “good” in the video, and it’s pretty appalling. That alone speaks to some type of hidden agenda in the video that isn’t exactly as positive and upbeat as both the Nike Dream Crazy video and the Always LikeAGirl video, both of which are really more balanced, inspiring, and ultimately upbeat.

Both of those speak to POSITIVE things we can do, as opposed to pretty much just COMPLAINING about things we shouldn’t be doing (or rather things that SOME people or SOME men are doing).

The Dangers of Poor Imitation

Imitation is often the highest form of flattery and the Gillette video imitates two really great and really successful marketing videos, but falls very flat by talking down to all men “as if” all men are the problem. In summary, it’s not the BEST that Gillette can do or could have done, either in terms of the politics or in terms of the marketing.

Well, now I guess it’s time for me to go get a nice shave.


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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.