Gillette produced an advert that spoke about ‘toxic masculinity.’ The ad exploded. It's been the most talked about topic globally this week. Ostensibly, the goal was to play on a social justice trend, and to encourage men to ‘shave away’ toxic behaviours. 

It’s hard to determine whether or not this risky stunt worked. Personally, I hate it with a passion, and I’m unlikely ever to buy one of the brand’s products again. It also recently slid into the ‘top 10’ of the world’s most disliked YouTube videos. 

But it certainly got noticed, and for a great many people, the word ‘Gillette’ will now stand out in memory, and likely without connotations. So it may ultimately prove a sales-numbers success. I hope not. But it might. 

Men’s timepiece brand Egard Watch Company responded with a brilliant pro-man advert, and rose from relative obscurity to achieve a blip in the international consciousness. Smart move. 

So which way should you jump on this issue? I explore this trend of picking up on social themes in my book ‘What Makes Them Great?’, where I discuss Nike, and Kaepernick’s act of kneeling before the US flag. The conclusion I reach is that if you want to play with social justice themes, you need to at least be ‘on the side’ of your target market. The Gillette ad is not. 

Just for fun, Mercedes managed a non-controversial and rather brilliant meme based on the recent ’10 year challenge’ on Facebook. Their response was a masterpiece, showing (their) earliest automobile, side-by-side with a new S-Class, and the caption #133 year challenge.

For my money, if you want to create tribes of followers, and not shed fans the way the NFL and CNN have shed viewers over the past couple of years, the rule of thumb is this: Only make use of a trendy new theme if you can use it to be ‘on your followers’ side’. 

Douglas Kruger is the author of two books on expert positioning, two on innovation, and several more. He is an international keynote speaker on the business circuit. To book him as the motivational speaker for your next leadership conference or event, visit