The Gillette Ad Is Full of Shit. Actually, Four of Them

What it takes to find one's purpose

An open letter to the leaders of Gillette: 

Please allow me to respond with an intentionally tone-deaf and sexist plaudit to the ad campaign you released yesterday: It takes a lot of balls to take a stand and find your purpose. I know that waking up this morning has come with a lot of blowback. There are those who are calling it "the worst marketing move ever." Mark Ritson termed the campaign "brand purpose hell." Wow. That's some strong reaction. I love it. And you should, too. Because you have shown the world that you give a shit. 

Actually, you have shown the world that you give four shits, not just one.

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film)

First of all, you as leaders have espoused true intentionality to help people first and grow profits second if you are to successfully lead your company into the future. Of course you must have read the studies from Edelman, Cone Communications, Deloitte, Harvard Business Review, etc., that show that people are demanding that companies create more positive social impact on their behalf. This work shows you give a shit. 

It also shows that you have found some good shit—namely, your heritage and 30-year tagline of "The Best a Man Can Get." In a bold marketing move reminiscent of the moves made by your founder King Gillette (who was a utopian socialist, by the way), you've changed it to "The Best Men Can Be." Bravo. You've found the good shit of the past and made it relevant in today's culture, causing a re-evaluation of both the tagline and the aspiration it espouses.

Outside of the ad itself, you are doing real shit, partnering with Building a Better Man Project and the Boys and Girls Club of America, as well as donating $3 million to U.S. charities that support men and men's issues. And you hired Kim Gehrig to direct the ad; she's been at the forefront of Free the Bid, a program that advocates for more female directors in the ad business. Adding to that, you've made a commitment that "effective immediately, Gillette will review all public-facing content against a set of defined standards meant to ensure we fully reflect the ideals of Respect, Accountability and Role Modeling in the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and more." This is some real shit, people.

Finally, you are taking a lot of shit. Your feeds are full of vitriol and disgust. So far, you've garnered almost 400,000 dislikes on YouTube compared to just 100,000 likes. Oof. That must hurt a bit. But don't worry, this only means that you are on the right path to purpose. Staying silent used to be the only surefire way to avoid offending anyone. Now, even silence itself speaks on a brand's behalf. In the way consumers relate to companies today, questions surrounding where you stand on social issues will come for you eventually. If not today, then tomorrow. Good on you for getting the jump on the rest. 

So, thanks for giving a shit. Thanks for giving four of them. You've got my business from now on.

Read Muse's original story about the campaign: Gillette's New Campaign Actually Takes Responsibility for Toxic Masculinity

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Max Lenderman
Max Lenderman is CEO of School, a Boulder-based, purpose-led strategic and creative consultancy.

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