The shaving brand's innovation-driven strategy has suffered in the recession, writes Jeremy Lee.

The transgressions of two Gillette brand spokesmen, Thierry Henry and Tiger Woods, proved something of a sideshow for the shaving brand.

While Gillette vowed to stand by Henry, whose handball led to Ireland's failure to reach the World Cup finals, its response to Woods, whose infidelities resulted in a backlash from his other sponsors, was to say it would limit his future use. Of its trinity of spokesmen, only Roger Federer managed to end 2009 escaping any public scandal.

The knock-on effect of the tabloid headlines seemed to sum up what has been a disappointing year for the Procter & Gamble-owned brand.

It suffered a dramatic decline in share for its market-leading Gillette Mach 3 line, and, while cash-conscious consumers might have sought to cut the expense of razor blades or make them last longer, drops for its Fusion Power and Fusion variants against a big increase in share for arch-rival Wilkinson Sword Quattro showed the rest of its portfolio was struggling too. In fact, the only good news came from its Gillette Venus range for women.

Gillette's previous strategy of cannibalisation by launching extensive, and arguably unnecessary, NPD also looks out of kilter with the prevailing mood of austerity.

What should Gillette do next? We asked Jonathan Bottomley, head of planning at BBH London, who works on the Lynx/Axe account, and Greggs customer and marketing director Scott Jefferson, who has previously worked on the Avon and Sensodyne brands.


Two industry experts suggest how Gillette can sharpen up its act


Gillette has successfully unlocked more value from the razor market for years, moving guys from one razor platform to another at mach speed.

However, its strategy of continuously persuading men to upgrade their razor to a technically better piece of kit has recently been blunted, as a bout of innovation mania has coincided with the recession.

Even the most gadget-obsessed guy is likely to be asking himself whether it's really worth paying more for on-board microchips, precision trimmers and batteries when there are simpler, high-quality alternatives such as Wilkinson Sword's Quattro on offer.

Many of the recent innovations feel more like peripheral gimmicks than necessities, meaning that the brand has failed to create a platform convincing enough to kill off either the competition or its predecessor.

The attempt to create a new, high value, battery-driven wet shave segment has also shifted focus away from the brand's core competence - innovative, high-performance razor blades.


- In the short term, win back ground at the heart of the category by refocusing on the brand's core competence - the razor blades.

- Continue to innovate, but work harder to position new features in a way that adds value to the consumer, especially around core functional benefits such as durability, safety and smoothness.

- Develop a deeper relationship with existing consumers and develop the market with them - create an eCRM programme to educate users of the more basic products, actively evolve their shaving behaviour and incentivise them to upgrade.


Cards on the table - I don't buy Gillette razors. I don't buy Wilkinson Sword razors. In fact, I don't buy razors at all, because I'm an electric shaver man. So I'm looking at this from a fresh perspective.

So, what are my category perceptions?

Wet shaving is a hassle. Two blades are better than one. Wet shaving gives you a closer shave. Three blades are better than two. Wet shaving rips your face to shreds. Four blades are better than three. The best a man can get.

Five blades are better than four. Advertise a lot on Sky Sports. Six blades are better than five. David Beckham. Thierry Henry. Tiger Woods. Seven blades are better than six. Fusion. Fusion Power. Turbo. Quattro. Mach 3.

There's a theme here. I can see the next campaign now. 'New Gillette Cheetah. With 16 blades and a clip-on nuclear reactor, this razor is so effective and so simple - it's not shaving, it's cheating!'

Backed by a posse of celebs (allegedly) cheating on their wife, cheating a rival football team out of a World Cup place and cheating at Scrabble, this has the potential to propel Gillette's share into the stratosphere.


- The Gillette brand needs to get more in touch with its feminine side.

- Move from the functional to the emotional.

- Celebrate the ritual of shaving. Create 'me time' for blokes - because we're worth it.

- Go all retro and launch a single blade cut-throat razor.

- Drop the expensive sporting celebrities.


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