Ranting and Shaving: Schick’s “United We Shave” Campaign
(Disclaimer: I am currently the only partner at Boom Unit who does not have a beard. The views expressed here do not reflect those of my beard-sporting brethren, whose choice to model their grooming habits after Joaquin Phoenix, Shia Lebeouf, and Teen Wolf I fully support.)
It’s been a difficult couple of years for the razor industry. Besieged by an ever-growing legion of craft beer-sipping, beard-stroking urban dilettantes, chiseled jawlines have been replaced by dense facial foliage as the look du jour for trendy millennial males.
Unwilling to pander to the patchy-beard-and-pompadour crowd, razor manufacturer Schick’s latest campaign takes aim at that deck shoe-clad desecrator of the American way: the hairy-faced hipster.
United We Shave
A rallying cry for gainfully-employed, khaki-sporting suburban dudes everywhere (so basically Banana Republic’s entire mailing list), “United We Shave” follows clean-shaven, freedom-loving father “Joe” as he explains to his young son why real men shave everyday.
Affecting the rising cadence of a five-star general, Joe touches on the many ways in which wispy beards are watering down traditional American values: one pint of Sam Adams at a time.
In no particular order, Joe:
- Notes beards are best cultivated by lumberjacks, sea captains, and prospectors “panning for gold in the hills of North Carolina”
- Suggests that beards are a cry for help – a crutch for simpering, slack-jawed sissies
- Accuses bearded hipsters of hating freedom
- Threatens to drive a lawnmower through a vegan’s vegetable patch
An over-the-top treatise on manliness in modern America (“Land of the free, and home of the shaved”), “United We Shave” is harmless enough. The video does it’s best to avoid insulting Schick’s core audience, while at the same time poking fun at a trend that is likely on it’s way out.
Surely nobody would have any problems with that, right?
The inevitable bearded backlash
Not surprisingly, razor-averse Americans weren’t content to sit back and stroke their beards while their rights to life, liberty, and unkempt facial hair were infringed upon.
Apparently a well-read bunch (likely due to the disproportionate number of college professors in their midst), it didn’t take long for bearded America to start poking holes in Joe’s argument:
The unjust demonization of beards was also a sore spot:
And once religion came into the picture, things got messy:
The awkward art of beard baiting
Best described as “beard baiting”, Joe’s insights include:
You get the idea.
The campaign to shave face
So has baiting bearded hipsters paid dividends for Schick? Early returns suggest not.
The video currently has ~160,000 views on YouTube – respectable numbers, but likely not the viral success Schick was hoping for (as they used the video to launch their Quattro YouTube channel). Joe’s mini-rants on Twitter have also largely fallen on deaf beards.
That said, the video has caught the eye of some famous “clean-livin’, country-lovin’, square-jawed types” (most notably Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche), and inspired some sweet illustrations from artist Alex Fine:
Shaving: A couple of points
While well-produced and sharply written, there are several things working against “United We Shave”:
1. Shaving isn’t a catalyzing event
More of a daily nuisance than a cultural touchstone, most men don’t self-identify on the basis of their shaving habits. Case in point: while two thirds of our creative team at Boom Unit have beards, I generally don’t begrudge them their God-given right to dabble in boxcar chic.
This means that while most bearded guys won’t share the video because it’s poking fun at them, it’s equally unlikely that the clean-shaven crowd will feel strongly enough to click that all-important “share” button.
2. Mismatched medium and message
YouTube is by far the best way to reach 18-34 year-old males. So if you’re making a YouTube video you want men to share, your best bet is to focus on messages that will resonate with the medium’s primary demographic.
Unfortunately, the “United We Shave” campaign’s antiquated conception of masculinity is more likely to resonate with men over 40. Bearded or not, most millennial males don’t want to view themselves as just another SUV-driving, clock-punching suburban schmuck.
3. Bearded hipsters rule the Internet
While I have no hard numbers to back this up, it can safely be assumed that many male online influencers and creatives belong to the same beard-sporting, banjo-plucking, craft beer-making subculture that Schick is attempting to skewer. An informal poll conducted at Boom Unit Video confirms these assumptions (2:1 beardo to babyface ratio), suggesting Schick has limited its potential social reach significantly by adopting a “beards in the back” policy.
Which brings us back to point number one. You know what people generally don’t share on the Internet? Things that insult them or make them look foolish.
The trouble with stubble
At Boom Unit we’re all in agreement that the video itself is funny, but just how funny appears to be inversely proportional to the amount of facial hair one has.
While we like the idea (namely taking the piss out of a subculture known for taking itself a bit too seriously), there are a number of problems with how the key message is presented. For example: why not put Joe in jeans and a t-shirt? Wouldn’t that instantly make him a bit more relatable to the everyman?
Ultimately the success of rant-style commercials depends on their ability to resonate with broad sections of their target market. With this considered, it seems unlikely that “United We Shave” will succeed in thinning out the bearded population – regardless of how appealing the prospect of having 2.3 kids, a not-unattractive wife, and an ass sculpted for khakis may be.
What do you think of Schick’s “United We Shave” campaign? Do you think it’s all in good fun, or has Schick has gone too far with it’s beard-baiting?
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