Gillette Pop Up Emphasizes Fatherhood and Healthy Masculinity
Gillette had the same slogan for 30 years: “The Best A Man Can Get.” Then, in January of 2019, the brand switched to “The Best A Man Can Be.”
“As one of the biggest, if not the biggest men’s brand in the world that advertises every day, we portray and characterize men in our advertising, and with that power – and it is power – comes a responsibility that we take very seriously. We can reinforce negative, bad stereotypes, or we can portray men in a more progressive light, helping make society better. We prefer the latter,” Gary Coombe, CEO of Gillette, said in an interview with Adweek.
That focus was on display over the 2019 Father’s Day weekend when Gillette partnered with the online parenting advice website Fatherly to create a pop up that examined what it means to be a father, role model, and “good” man. Located in a New York City gallery, the activation was called “Sincerely,.”
One of the most prominent features of the pop up was the Letter Wall, a series of notes written by both famous and not-famous men. The messages are directed to boys and young men and provide advice on a range of topics, such as civic duty and self-worth. Some of the authors include actors Terry Crews and Luis Guzman, rapper Common, “Top Chef” contestant Edward Lee, professional skier and BASE jumper Matthias Girard, former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb, and James Vlahos, who, in 2017, based a chatbot on his father who was dying of cancer.
“The letters we gathered, from everyone from Common and Terry Crews to the children of Cesar Chavez and Garry Trudeau, are so incredibly moving that we literally wanted to blow them up, frame and parade them for the world to see. So that’s, in fact, what we did. Our Letters to Boys initiative with Gillette is about promoting conversation in the real world, so we thought an experiential program was most appropriate for creating actual space for reflection and dialogue,” Michael Rothman, CEO and Founder of Fatherly, said in an interview with Event Marketer.
Many of the thoughts from these letters were brought to life in the “TV Mirrors” section. Utilizing a highly reflective film, a viewer would see themselves surrounded by animated inspirational messages. The final message asked the viewer, “Are you the best that you can be?”
There was also a Listening Station where attendees could hear voicemails from Fatherly readers who answered the question, “What would you tell a boy growing up today?” According to Ad Week, some of the responses included, “happiness ‘can’t be found in a product that someone sells you,’ ‘don’t ever break someone’s trust,’ and be a ‘gentle warrior.’”
The Poetry Society of New York was also available throughout the weekend to provide attendees with complimentary personalized Father’s Day poems.
“We thought it would be appropriate to make this a bit of a brand moment and to talk specifically about how men can step up and have often-difficult conversations with the boys in their life. About what it means to be a good dude, or even why be a good dude in a world that often challenges conventional thinking,” Rothman said to Adweek.
The pop up launched with a preview night where Rothman sat down with Coombe to discuss several issues. One of the topics they discussed was the decision to change Gillette’s slogan from “The Best A Man Can Get” to “The Best A Man Can Be.”
The preview night also featured a panel discussion that covered various aspects of fatherhood and raising boys, self-reflection, and ways to be a positive role model. The symposium was moderated by the editor-at-large at Fatherly, Joshua David Stein. Participants included:
· Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, Senior Education Policy Advisor of the NYC Mayor’s Office
· Dr. Michael Reichert, a psychologist and author of “How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men”
· Roy Wood Jr., a comedian and “Daily Show” correspondent
· Mark Herzlich, a former Giants linebacker
This pop up is not the first instance of Gillette addressing the topic of masculinity. In a two-minute ad from January 2019, Gillette showed a group of boys and young men engaging in discrimination, fighting, bullying, and sexual harassment. All while men in their mid-30s to late-40s looked on and dismissed the actions by saying, “Boys will be boys.”
“Is this the best a man can get?” the ad asks and directly references the #MeToo movement. Eventually, men break away from the chant and kindly save a bullied child, stop a fight, and confront a catcaller. The ad closes with a reminder that “the boys of today will be the men of tomorrow.”
Response to the ad was mixed, with the most passionate opinions seeming to come from the opposition. However, data analysis by Crimson Hexagon shows that the ad was successful, especially with women, a previously neglected opportunity for Gillette.
“This is a huge topic, and it's highly sensitive, and I don't think P&G (Procter & Gamble, which owns Gillette) had done anything as explosive as this could be,” Dean Crutchfield, Chief Executive of the brand advisory firm Crutchfield & Partners said in an interview with The New York Times. “If this is just a quick campaign to get some attention, not something they're weaving into the fabric of their company going forward, it's going to blow up in their face.”
Clearly, this is a topic that is important to the brand as it has continued to weave it into the fabric of the company. In addition to the pop up with Fatherly, Gillette recently posted a new commercial featuring a father helping a young man shave for the first time. The man is transgender artist Samson Bonkeabantu Brown.
“I always knew I was different. I didn't know there was a term for the type of person that I was,” Brown says in the ad. “Growing up, I was always trying to figure out what kind of man I wanted to become.”
That’s the question that every boy must ask at some point. Perhaps, by continuing to create pop ups and messages that ask men to reframe conventional ideas about masculinity, Gillette may help those conversations become a little easier for everybody.