Gillette's Virtue Signaling Yields Razor Burn

After targeting "toxic masculinity," the company finds that men might be less inclined to buy.

Jordan Candler · Aug. 2, 2019

Early this year, Gillette made the edgy decision to produce an advertisement denigrating “toxic masculinity.” Males are Gillette’s target demographic, so what could possibly go wrong?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course. So you’ll not be stunned to learn that Gillette is reaping what it sowed.

According to Reuters, “Procter & Gamble Co’s [Gillette’s parent company] … quarterly revenue and adjusted profit beat Wall Street expectations on Tuesday, sending shares to a record-high even as the world’s No.1 personal goods company took an $8 billion charge on its Gillette shaving business. P&G reported a net loss of about $5.24 billion, or $2.12 per share, for the quarter ended June 30, due to an $8 billion non-cash writedown of Gillette [emphasis added].”

The report continues, “P&G … said the writedown was due primarily to currency fluctuations — enduring strength in the U.S. economy in recent years has strengthened the dollar. The charge was also driven by more competition over the past three years and a shrinking market for blades and razors as consumers in developed markets shave less frequently. Net sales in the grooming business, which includes Gillette, have declined in 11 out of the last 12 quarters.”

There’s some element of truth to this. Competition by virtue of the free market can lead to a reduction in sales, especially when your competitors are producing a superior product and/or value. And a net-sales reduction in the grooming business affects everybody. “But the continued negativity surrounding Gillette suggests that’s not the full story,” says The Daily Wire’s James Barrett. “Gillette politically charged itself in January when it released a commercial offering a new twist on its ‘best a man can get slogan’ that instantly went viral, in large part for exactly the wrong reasons.” Furthermore, “The company has since released a ‘fat acceptance’ ad and another that features a father teaching his female-to-male transgender child how to shave.”

It would be more ridiculous to suggest the write-down isn’t related to PR fallout than it would be to disregard currency fluctuations and competition. Gillette opted to virtue signal, and by doing so it was cutting it close. Too close, it turns out.

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