I can’t believe I’m going to write about it. That’s exactly what they want me to do.
The new Gillette Advert is fantastic. For those of you who have managed to avoid the controversy, let me explain. Last week the razor makers launched a new advert, replacing the old slogan “The Best A Man Can Get” with the more inward-looking “The Best Men Can Be”. The ad touched on prominent examples of toxic masculinity including the #MeToo movement and male violence, making a clear statement about the changing nature of men and masculinity.
Gillette was acknowledging that men in the 2010s don’t just want “stuff” they can “get” – instead we want to become a better version of ourselves.
And they’ve used that image to try to sell more razors.
It seems bound to work. The video went viral online and the Twittersphere exploded with analysis and anger. Some viewers praised the company for putting forward a positive vision of masculinity. Yet, there are others who criticised the campaign, seeing it as an unwarranted attack on men. These men, dubbed by one online wit as “the Gillette Jaunes”, even claimed that it was an attack upon the natural instinct of men and an attempt at emasculation. Piers Morgan insisted he would end his lifelong commitment to Gillette products. The more people promised to boycott products from the umbrella company Procter & Gamble, the more publicity the brands got.
Paul Smith, former Executive Director and Director of Consumer & Communications Research at Procter & Gamble, may have something to do with this powerful example of communication.
Smith wrote Lead With A Story, where he argues that motivating people depends on getting them to invest in the narrative you are telling. When he was working at Procter and Gamble he hired Hollywood directors to teach the company about telling a compelling story. He argues that inspiration, motivation, instilling values and setting vision are all best done through stories. They connect emotionally and stick in the mind.
And this is exactly what Gillette has done with the advert. Gillette has constructed a story about masculinity in the 21st century; the message is that we used to be all about getting, and it didn’t go well, but now its time to think about who we are, and what we can become. Gillette invites men to enter into that story, participate and live it.
As growing leaders within medicine, we too need to tell a story about what we are doing.
We need to recognise the context of where we come from, we need to know what journey we’re on, and we need to know where we are heading. We need to share that with the stakeholders, staff and managers, to make the case for change. And we need to remember that they can use this technique to get people to care about razors – but our narratives are about a better NHS, safer patient outcomes, and a thriving workforce. These are stories people want to hear, stories really worth telling.