The wrestling scene sparked a lot of controversy because people said it stopped boys being boys.
The wrestling scene sparked a lot of controversy because people said it stopped boys being boys.

What we missed in Gillette controversy

WITH the way people are carrying on about the latest Gillette ad, anyone would think "toxic masculinity" was a new term coined to shame men.

But let's rewind a little.

Gillette isn't the first men's brand to redefine its image, a process that actually started months before the world went crazy this week over the shaving company's new ad.

The culture change actually started with Lynx, once known for the bloke's culture it created. For years the brand had tried to tell men that if they used its products, "the Lynx effect" would get them laid.

As experts pointed out, Lynx was best known for the unapologetic objectification of women who could not resist the sweet smell of a man wearing Lynx.

But in 2016, in response to building accusations of degradation and sexism, the deodorant brand slowly started phasing out that image.

It launched its "Find your magic" campaign encouraging young men to embrace their differences, spending the past few years tackling toxic ideals of masculinity and highlighting issues around male mental health.

At the time experts said the brand redefined masculinity and it was lauded for leading the way for modern male brands.

However it didn't resonate in the UK as well as it did in other markets.

In 2017, Lynx's "Men in Progress" campaign won the chairman's award at The Drum's Marketing Can Change The World Awards.

That campaign set out to find what it took to be a man in 2016.

"In our Men In Progress series we dig deep and ask about relationships, body image, emotions, mates - and everything in between," Lynx said.

While Australia got a new $9.99 cologne range in 2016, we didn't hit peak ad frenzy until Julian Dennison went viral in January last year for his role in our lighthearted Aussie-versus-Kiwi rivalry creation.

Now, a year later, Gillette's ad has gone viral at the complete other end of the scale.

There has been an outpouring of anger and calls for a boycott of the brand after it released a two-minute video on Tuesday on the contentious "toxic masculinity" topic, calling for men to be the best they can be.

The clip, attacked by men's rights activists, media commentators and even a Hollywood actor, encourages men to shrug off expectations of manhood, from not showing emotion to being aggressive or violent.

But Gillette's ad was only the latest spin on a campaign rebrand that started last year when ad agency Grey London put a fresh twist on the brand's longstanding line "The best a man can get" by questioning what a man's best means today.

"The campaign challenges conventional ideals of masculinity, and celebrates modern male virtues: self-expression, internal and external wellbeing, camaraderie and dependability," the agency said.

"The strategy is designed to reflect Gillette's relevance to the modern man, demonstrating Gillette's understanding of what being the 'best' means for men in 2018, as the brand has done for its 117 year history."

The ad ends by telling men: "Because what you're made of makes a difference."

That was launched in August.

While it did not have such a hard approach, Gillette's line then was not that far removed from its statement this week, saying it wanted to present an "aspirational" statement for men, many of whom might feel they are "not at their best" lately.

"While it is clear that changes are needed, where and how we can start to affect that change is less obvious for many," the company said.

"Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve."

Fernando Desouches, former senior global brand director for Lynx, was recruited last year to set up a new agency unit called New Macho to "identify and capitalise on the huge opportunity that exists for culture-changing brands and agencies to shift the narrative that currently defines what it means to 'be a man'".

Mr Desouches was behind its moved away from the "Lynx effect".

"Through extensive experience in marketing to men, we have identified that there are typically differences in how they react and engage with communications and yet the approach tends to be homogenous," Desouches said at the time.

"There's a huge opportunity for brands to maintain their relevance by not just shifting their narrative but also execution of their positioning."

Jason Foo, chief executive at BBD Perfect Storm, said men being told to "man up" and "be tough" made it difficult for men to express their feelings.

"We think it is fundamentally important to tackle this for many social reasons and we believe that there is a significant commercial opportunity in taking brands down this path," he said.

 

The wrestling scene sparked a lot of controversy because people said it stopped boys being boys.
The wrestling scene sparked a lot of controversy because people said it stopped boys being boys.

Nicola Kemp wrote in advertising publication Campaign this week that angering UK firebrand Piers Morgan was a valid marketing strategy for Gillette.

"It has been 30 years since Gillette launched its 'The best a man can get' strapline and it's clear that, to be relevant, the brand has to change, just as masculinity is evolving," she said.

"Consider, for example, the way in which Lynx has successfully shifted its positioning away from objectifying women to celebrating men for their individuality.

"Just like Lynx, Gillette is a brand that needed to evolve, not just to better reflect the evolution of culture but to ensure long-term business success."

She said it wasn't about pitching men against women, commercially or culturally.

"Gillette is a brand for men but which in many markets is often purchased by women," she said.

"Far from being part of a global assault on masculinity, Gillette's campaign is part of the cultural change addressing the crisis in masculinity in which boys must conform to punishing and suffocating gender ideals.

"It is a challenging message and one that is clearly unpalatable for some, but Gillette's ad is a timely reminder that brave brands recognise that they can be agents of change."



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