According to research conducted by razor giant, Schick, when men were young boys, they most looked forward to shaving and considered it a rite of passage. Developing the ultimate shaving tool has been a battle of the brands throughout recent history. The era of stockpiling arms, or blades in this case, occurred during the late 90s and continued throughout the past decade. There was Gillette’s Sensor Excel with two blades and the Schick Tracer FX. Then in 1998, Gillette introduced the Mach 3, the first three-blade razor. Rival Schick one-upped Gillette with the four-blade Quattro in 2003. “Where will it end?” consumers wondered. Five blades, that’s where. After Gillette launched the five-blade razor named the Fusion in 2005, comedy show parodies ensued and consumers started questioning whether the extra blades, and increased price points, were really worth it. Going back to consumer insights, both Gillette and Schick have discovered that despite the growing number of blade options, only three in ten men shave regularly, and the main reason for shave avoidance is irritation.
In April 2010, Schick launched the Hydro to add to its current line of razors. A reinvention of the classic cartridge razor, this new entry was rebuilt entirely with comfort in mind. Schick was the first-to-market with new, anti-irritation technologies like a gel reservoir and skin guards which offer men a more comfortable shave. Energizer-owned Schick is also challenging Gillette on the skin care front for the first time, offering a line of Schick Hydro shaving gels. Teaming up with JWT, a subsidiary of WPP, Schick created a traditional TV and magazine ad campaign involving men getting a refreshing splash instead of a painful soccer ball to the head. The company is also using a heavy dose of social media, and released an internal survey with facts stating that men who shave at least five times a week have more sex, earn more money and are less likely to live with parents than men who don’t. Schick also launched a YouTube station featuring two amateur athletes who tour the country and participate in extreme water sports. “It’s by far the biggest launch we’ve ever done, our largest capital commitment for R&D and marketing, and by far the best technology we’ve ever come up with,” stated Brad Harrison, a Schick brand manager.
Schick’s biggest rival, Gillette, a Procter & Gamble brand, was late to the game, but is fighting back with an all out marketing blitz to introduce the Fusion ProGlide. Gillette owns 66 percent of the non-disposable razor segment, and a whopping 83 percent of the $781 million replacement cartridge segment. The Fusion ProGlide is an extension of the Fusion five blade series and features seven comfort-related improvements to the original razor. The new model features thinner blades and a new friction-reducing coating that is designed to cause less “tug and pull” according to Stew Taub, associate director of male premium systems at Gillette.
Gillette continues to use its original advertising strategy by contracting with major sports athletes such as Derek Jeter, Landon Donovan, and Matt Ryan to endorse the product. P&G has also acquired the title sponsorship of the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500, a NASCAR event formerly named the Pocono 500. Just like Schick, Gillette interaction on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter has been fervently promoting the new razor. The Facebook fan page even showcased a video of the “Fusion ProGlide Ultimate Summer Job Contest” that features two “average Joes” who have been chosen to tour the country and convince other typical men that the ProGlide is the best razor yet.
With such similar innovations in a competitive product category, Gillette and Schick have their swords drawn and are ready to do battle once again. While both companies claim to have a superior product, it will once again be difficult for Schick to take down the goliath Gillette as the razor of choice. With its complete redesign, an ambitious ad campaign, new shaving products, and a cheaper price, Schick hopes to develop alliances with curious consumers who would consider changing blades. Have they tapped into what makes men switch razors? Only time will tell if Schick can shave off some of Gillette’s lead.