Gillette has learned the hard way that if you annoy your customer base, your business will suffer. Ever since it released its woke men-bashing ad earlier this year, its sales have slumped. Who’d have thought it? Telling men they’re disgusting bullies and sexual harassers — as Gillette’s ad did — will not endear you to men! Blokes walked away from Gillette. They stopped buying its razors. Turns out that calling your customers scum isn’t a good idea.
The ad was a transparent and nauseating attempt to win brownie points with the Twitterati and other woke folk in the #MeToo era. Out went the square-jawed studs of Gillette’s 1980s adverts, stroking their hairless chins as the jingle said ‘The best a man can get’, and in came troubled and abusive blokes behaving very badly. The ad’s narrator drones on about toxic masculinity and sexism as men are shown bullying each other and speaking over women. The ad could be whittled down to the slogan: ‘You are a dreadful person. Buy our product!’
Sales collapsed. As Marketing Week put it, ‘Gillette brand takes a hit’. There are various reasons for Gillette’s sales woes. Hip young men are growing beards and therefore have no need of razors. New razor rivals have arrived on the scene. But the spectacularly ill-thought-out ad definitely had an impact too. And so Gillette is changing tack. It’s going back to celebrating men as heroes rather than berating them as moronic sexist basket cases who probably need therapy more than they need a four-blade razor.
It says it is ‘shifting the spotlight from social issues to local heroes’. Gillette Australia has launched an ad featuring a firefighter and personal trainer. It says it wants to go back to ‘representing men at their best’.
A firefighter is a striking choice. My guess is that not even the wokest man-basher would complain about ‘toxic masculinity’ if their house caught fire and some strapping bloke climbed up a ladder to carry them to safety. It seems masculinity can be pretty helpful sometimes.
In fact, society cannot function without it. Erecting buildings, sorting sewage, fixing roads, fighting fires, fighting wars — the stuff that keeps society going would be impossible without the ‘toxic masculinity’ that is so shrilly denounced by SJWs.
Whether Gillette’s sudden rediscovery of the virtues of masculinity will be enough to reverse its decline remains to be seen. It’s idiotic dabbling in anti-bloke wokeness will not soon be forgotten. Some refer to this as a process of ‘Get woke, go broke’. This is when corporations go for woke advertising and in the process alienate half their customer base.
There was Nike’s dalliances with the knee-taking American football player Colin Kaepernick. There is Dove’s incessant body-positivity campaigns. There was Starbucks’ ridiculous ‘Race Together’ initiative where it encouraged its baristas to engage customers in conversations about race relations. Yeah, because what you really want as you’re hurriedly buying your morning macchiato is a lecture about Black Lives Matter. All these campaigns are cynical attempts to get people talking about brands, but they very often backfire.
Some companies are taking the wokeness to ridiculous levels. Holiday firm Hoseasons, which last year arranged holidays for 1.7m people at 660 destinations in the UK and Europe, has declared that it doesn’t want bigots using its services. ‘Hoseasons as a brand needed to stand for something’, said the chief portfolio officer of its parent company this week: ‘And I don’t want racist or homophobic customers booking with Hoseasons.’
There is something touchingly ridiculous about this. Mate, you’re a holiday firm, not Martin Luther King. You book hotels for people; you don’t put your necks on the line for social change. Perhaps Hoseasons will soon release a list of who exactly is allowed to use its services. What about Christians who oppose gay marriage? Or people who want restrictions on immigration? Will they be allowed? Perhaps everyone who goes on the Hoseasons website will be asked: ‘Are you now or have you ever been a homophobe…?’
These companies need to get over themselves. You’re capitalists. You sell things. And we will buy those things if they’re high quality, and we won’t buy them if they’re rubbish. That’s it. Stop fantasising about being woke warriors for progress. You might get a round of applause from small armies of woke people online but to the vast majority of us, you just look clueless, ridiculous and prejudiced.