Gillette: The Best a Meme Can Get

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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43 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Former Gillette CEO Gary Coombe says that there is no evidence that the $5.24 billion loss (or $2.12 per share) had any impact on his decision to spend more time with his family.Report

  2. Saul Degraw says:

    Gillette’s business model was based on selling cheap razors and expensive replacement blades. This worked until companies like dollar shave club came in as you noticed. What these kind of talking points represent to me is another form of tug of war in the endless battle of negative partisanship.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Funny thing, I shave with a variation of the razor pictured, with the old double edged blades and soap and brush, for the very reason that about 30 years ago I got tired of the amazing amount of waste that is disposable razors and cans of shave cream.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        I use one too, for the same reason. I shave my head with a HeadBlade, because the handle is much better for that kind of work, and since my hair is a lot finer than my beard (and there is a lot less of it), a single HeadBlade cartridge lasts for weeks (I buy a 4 back every 6 months or so).

        Plus I have a decent quality electric for keeping things smooth during the week (I use the double edged blade for those times when I’ve let the shave go too long).Report

  3. George Turner says:

    The sales of BIC razors went up 6.4% from 2018 to 2019. Guess they missed the memo about the shrinking market, or they’re targeting men who can still grow facial hair because they’re not on testosterone blockers. ^_^

    BIC 2019 half-year financial report (PDF)

    Schick (Edgewell for financial reporting), however, did see declines in the mid single digits in men’s wet shave products, but bigger declines in women’s shaving products.

    I’m also really glad I’m not sitting through meetings listening to hours of this:

    Now, let me turn to our segment results. Starting with our Wet Shave segment, organic net sales were down 0.6% in the quarter, an improvement over last quarter and better than recent trends. As expected, we see a bifurcation in performance between North America and the rest of the world. We had broad-based improvement across our International markets, which account for roughly 55% of our total Wet Shave as total organic net sales increased by 5.5% led by growth in Japan, China, and across Europe. We grew both Men’s and Women’s Systems, reflecting volume increases in Hydro Sense and Intuition f.a.b, and grew Private Label driven via new distribution.

    In North America, however, we declined 7%, largely a reflection of the competitive environment impacting volumes and price, particularly in Men’s and Women’s Systems in mass retailers. Globally, our Private Label men’s business grew organic net sales driven by new distribution in Europe, but we saw a decline in North America due to new competitive distribution in the U.S.

    I think Trump withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan should help sales, since returning soldiers and soldiers who were expecting deployment will start shaving again. A lot of people don’t realize the complex dynamics between our Middle East policies and men’s shaving products, but Bernie or Tulsi will probably bring it up at the next debate.Report

  4. Michael Cain says:

    Haven’t a bunch of Gillette patents expired in the last couple of years? For reasons related to the blade spacing and the open back, their Mach 3 product gives me the best combination of comfortable shaves and long life. My tickle file says that sometime this year I should be checking to see if there are generic versions available that have the same characteristics, but I failed to note why I thought it was the right time.Report

  5. Pinky says:

    The only Gillette product that I typically buy is dental floss. Thanks to their ads, I’ve gone generic. P&G makes so many products that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep them all straight, but I dropped a few. I usually don’t do the boycott thing, and that ad was only mildly annoying. But then they did that ad with the father teaching his daughter how to shave her face, and it just hit me that they’re the ones picking this fight.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Pinky says:

      What “fight” are they picking?Report

      • veronica d in reply to Kazzy says:

        Those posted a video where trans people exist and have healthy relationships with those we love. Obviously Gillette is out for blood.

        (Portions of this post might be ironic.)Report

      • Dave in reply to Kazzy says:

        They’re not picking a fight and it’s laughable to me to see people taking this woke capitalism crap seriously.

        As much as the anti-woke crowd believes it’s for objectivity, rationality, capitalism, etc., it’s amazing how thin-skinned they are when it comes to companies voluntarily making decisions they don’t like and take these decisions as a direct shot against their values.

        In that light, the Chicken Little crowd is really nothing more than the same type of right-wing trash grievance politics I’ve seen for well over 30 years now but instead of targeting liberalism or liberals directly they focus their ire on the “woke”.

        If the Social Justice crowd is a bunch of snowflakes, then these whiners are full blown blizzards.

        Plus, no one on Wall Street or in the business world focusing on corporate earnings give a flying crap about this ad. This is political hackery creating an “enemy” where none exists.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Pinky says:

      What specifically about their ads moved you to eschew their products?Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Pinky says:

      I just looked up that ad on youtube. That was delightful and heartwarming and I realize it’s mostly there to manipulate me into buying shaving products (which it won’t since I use a double edge safety razor and no cream).

      But thanks for letting me know, I guess I’ll try to remember to buy Crest brand toothpaste next time we run out.

      If that’s Gillette “picking a fight” – well, I guess I’m willing to fight whoever it is they’re picking a fight with.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

      On one thread, I’m being told that ESPN is political because everything is political, and anything that doesn’t explicitly oppose the status quo implicitly supports it. On another thread, I see that no one in his right mind could possibly interpret a trans shaving ad as a battleground. I’m not persuaded by either position. As for the former, I find such a definition of politics to be so broad as to be almost meaningless. The one thing it does convey is that everything is a battleground. And the fact is that an ad that could not have existed a few years ago can’t be interpreted as Overton-neutral.

      All of us here on this opinion site would like to shift the Overton Window to some degree. It’s silly to pretend otherwise. I can acknowledge that, and even fight to the death for your right to make the effort, but still oppose particular movements you might support. And sometimes companies will support an effort one way or another, whether out of some person’s conviction or out of expected financial benefit. By all means we should continue to debate the specifics. But this coyness about the debate doesn’t accomplish anything.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

        The only question was the series of ads intended to be provocative? If so, I’ll repeat what I said back when we were discussing the Sports Illustrated Burkini issue:

        Is a Burkini a big deal? Not at all. Is putting a Burkini in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue a big deal? Not at all. Is communicating that this is being done deliberately in order to be provocative likely to provoke? Well… yeah. That’s what provocative means. Like the title to Dear White People, people were provoked by something provocative.

        But just like those being provoked ought to know the point of provocative art is to provoke people, the people spreading provocative art shouldn’t pull disingenuous crap when people get provoked.

        Now if Gillette wasn’t trying to be provocative with its ad campaign, this criticism doesn’t apply.

        But they probably should have a talk with someone who is better at giving the greenlight to ads that do better with the whole “this appears to be deliberately provocative when we’re just trying to start a conversation!” thing.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

          Its odd, though, in that the “provocations” here (the burkini, a trans person) aren’t behaviors, but that person’s mere existence.

          I wonder how any of us here would react if the powers that be pointed to us and said that they find our existence to be offensive.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            No, that’s not what the provocation is, Chip.

            Remember “Black Lives Matter” and pretending that all it was saying was “hey, Black Lives Matter”?

            And then college campuses started having “It’s OK to be White” signs showed up?

            It’s like that.

            The provocation is in the implied arguments that are perfectly deniable.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

              What is the implied argument with trans people shaving and a burkini?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                “Your culture is dead, old man.”

                That’s an overstatement that leaves out a great deal, but it gets to the gist.

                (It’s perfectly deniable, though so if you want to make arguments denying it, I’ll view them through the same lens that I view the arguments explaining that “It’s OK to be White” doesn’t mean anything but whether it’s OK to be White.)Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                You’re only emphasizing my point.

                If showing a trans person and burkini means my culture is dead, then my culture rests on the premise that these people must remain invisible.

                Again, their very existence is the affront here.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                So… we’re running with the “how could anyone be offended by someone pointing out that it’s OK to be white” defense?

                (And that’s not getting into the whole “that’s not what I said” issue but I suppose it doesn’t matter what I said. It only matters what my implied arguments are… right?)Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

                A vital lesson for shit-starters to learn is that you don’t get to pick the kind of shit that starts.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                Dammit if you guys cannot see the difference between “it’s okay to black/trans/etc.” and “it’s okay to be white” — then fuckit, you’re just jackasses.

                It’s about being a hated minority. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. White people are not a hated minority. Trans people and black people are. Messages to uplift hated minorities exist to counteract literal fucking hatred — yet you fuckheads keep stanning for the “it’s okay to be white” crowd, pretending to be oblivious to the underlying message.

                We see through you, you fucking bigots.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                You can’t even talk about the semiotics of “It’s OK to be White” without someone arguing against the hidden meaning of the phrase.

                But to mention that other phrases also have semiotics? Ah, for some reason that always results in people getting all wide-eyed and not comprehending that such a thing even exists. “It’s a surface level statement! How could you possibly argue against such a bland and obvious surface level statement?”Report

          • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            This comment is all wrong. 1) I’m not one of the powers that be. I’m just a person with opinions. 2) The provocation isn’t anyone’s existence, it’s the promoting of an agenda. In these cases, it’s companies making decisions that potentially go against their bottom line in service of a political agenda. 3) A burkini isn’t a person’s existence; putting it on is a behaviour. Likewise, transitioning is a behaviour.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

              I do get that seeing these people living as they wish to live threatens the old understanding of the “right ordering” of the universe.

              At one time the idea of men becoming women seemed bizarre to me, some upside down version of how I understood things to be.

              But then again, lots of things are like that, other cultures which seem unfathomably odd to me.

              But don’t you think that’s the whole point of liberal democracy, that we strive to give each other as much freedom as we can, and that we struggle to develop a sense of solidarity and kinship with others?Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                So it is a provocation, then?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck says:

                If “your existence infuriates me” is a provocation, then yes.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I just pointed out the difference between one’s existence and one’s behaviour. Was I wrong? If so, how?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                Imagine it was a man wearing a yarmulke, and I said I was offended by his behavior?
                A Catholic woman wearing a veil?Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I’d think your judgment of their behaviour was wrong, and I’d fight to the death for your right to think it and say it. Of course. This isn’t even a question.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                Right, and no one is saying people are not allowed to be disagree with the wearing of yarmulkes, burkinis or transitioning.

                But we are saying that our liberal democracy is made more robust and free by people striving to reduce the amount of offense and trying to become as accommodating of each other as we can possibly be.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I’m all about liberal democracy and the marketplace of ideas. I want open debate, the goal of which is truth. And we can talk about that. But since we’re on the subject of existence versus behaviour, and since an hour ago you thought that your religion example would stump me, could we finish that up? Can you tell me where I’m wrong in the distinction I’m making?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                You mean the distinction between existence and behavior?

                I think in this circumstance its a distinction without a difference.

                Asking someone to stop wearing a yarmulke or burkini is tantamount to asking them to stop being who they are.

                That’s why we talk about the “free expression” of religion, not “free belief”.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I’m glad you stated that explicitly, but it seems to me patently false. My existence is not contained by my behaviours or beliefs. I don’t exist as a Catholic or a hetero; I exist as a human, and therefore I have human rights. You can criticize my religion all you want and it doesn’t constitute a denial of my existence. At an extreme case, you may criticize my religion to such an extent that a mob rises up and kills me, but that’s obviously different in kind, not in degree. It would be self-centered to treat every criticism of my beliefs or behaviours as an assault on my existence.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Pinky says:

        Oh sure – to the extent that there are still two sides fighting, it’s a battle ground.

        You can define the sides fairly easily by completing the sentence “trans people should ____” in two contradictory ways. Gillette has chosen something along the lines of “… exist in a welcoming society and have the loving support of their families” with that ad.

        So if you decide to boycott them because you’re on team contradictory completion of that sentence – well, that’s a choice of sides alright.

        If you choose to boycott them because it’s more offensive to you that Gillette said their completion of the sentence out loud Ryan that the other completion of the sentence is real to too many teams people – that is as you say, no different from a choice of sides for the other completion.Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:


          … boycott them because it’s more offensive to you that Gillette said their completion of the sentence out loud *than* that the other completion of the sentence is real to too many *trans* people …Report

        • Jaybird in reply to dragonfrog says:

          Eh, by itself, it’d be a fine commercial saying “hey, our razors are for *EVERYBODY* who wants to shave!”

          As part of an ad campaign discussing “toxic masculinity”, at best it’s a cynical setting up a defense against losses that were going to happen anyway (“you can’t fire me as CEO just because we suffered massive losses! You’ll be sexist if you do!”) and, at worst, it’s provocative, performative wokeness as an ad campaign that will be defended by pointing out that its critics are awful and there is no evidence that the ad campaign itself resulted in the losses that were, to be sure, inevitable given America’s toxic masculinity problem (that also manifests as beardedness).


          • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

            ” at best it’s a cynical setting up a defense against losses that were going to happen anyway (“you can’t fire me as CEO just because we suffered massive losses! You’ll be sexist if you do!”) ”

            Haw. Maybe he should have taken a knee when they played the National Anthem. Or hired some dudes to beat him up.Report

  6. Is stubble in again these days? I can’t keep track.Report

  7. Mark says:

    Old man’s faulty recollections:
    I have had facial hair for sixty years. Sixty years ago Gillette owned the market with Shick as a minor challenger. Gillette’s main marketing strategy was advertising, and they neglected technology and product development. About 55 years ago, a British company, Wilkerson, came along with stainless steel razor blades which were a lot sharper and lasted longer. Guys started bragging about how many shaves they got from one blade in the same tones as their brags about car horsepower. Cheap disposable razors were developed by BIC. Now, razors are a generic commodity, and I don’t have a brand preference.
    If you have a market dominant product, spend as much energy developing the next generation of that product as on marketing. If you don’t, the other guy will.Report

  8. blake says:

    And now Gillette has flipped back.

    I presume this changes no one’s mind about anything.Report