Gillette is no stranger to talking about social causes in its marketing. Earlier this year the brand released an ad called “The Best Men Can Be” which sought to take aim at toxic masculinity in the aftermath of #MeToo.
Unfortunately for Gillette, the ad was a flop, facing a serious backlash from the public, who labelled it as nothing more than corporate wokeness with the sole intention of capitalising on a social movement.
The problem was that the ad tried to take on too complex an issue in too little time and its message became suppressed. Honestly, it felt more like a public service announcement attacking Gillette’s target audience than a well-thought out approach to a deeply embedded societal issue, with a variety of underlying contributing problems.
So, when Gillette released the newest addition to its campaign earlier this month people questioned whether the brand had learnt from its past mistakes. Surely it wasn’t about to half-heartedly tackle another monumental tension in society.
Well, it did and to the brand’s credit, it did it well. Gillette’s newest ad sees a young trans man named Samson shaving for the first time under the guidance of his proud father. The ad challenges traditional perceptions of masculinity. It does this by redefining what it means to be a man through its depiction of a scene that many in its target audience can empathise with, the milestone moment of a first shave.
In the ad, Samson is portrayed as being the best a man can be because of his resilience in the face of adversity, similarly, his father is the best a man can be because of his unrelenting support and acceptance. The ad poignantly shows that being a man isn’t just about being physically strong and that there’s no prescriptive way of defining masculinity. What’s more, the ad feels much more authentic than Gillette’s original attempt in January because its more inherently linked to the brand and its products.
Ultimately, the ad positions the brand as playing an important role in these journeys by facilitating the experience. Whether you view the link as tenuous or not, it can’t be denied that the ad is powerful, emotional and relatable. Perhaps more importantly though, it positively reinforces the idea of acceptance without attacking any part of its target audience, as Gillette did in the first part of its campaign.