Any industry that thinks themselves immune to innovation needs to take heed of what’s going on now between Gillette and Dollar Shave Club. In the past, Gillette was the ruler of the water-closet, king of the loo, master of the throne room, the industry gold standard. Innovation was slow. Perhaps a new stronger material comes along, sharper blade, pivoting neck or maybe a moisturizer strip. Life was good and there was peace in the kingdom. Then, out of the bleach filled air came a simple question: “Why is this simple device SO DAMN EXPENSIVE?” The simple answer — because you need it.
If you gave me enough time, we could go into a huge economic discussion. Talk about variable pricing models, distribution channels and market demand until all of our razors have gone dull. That still doesn’t make me feel any better about paying $20 for razors when its time to hit the grocery store and I doubt it does any better for you. The industry became comfortable with their margins and production standards, which should have been the first of many red flags.
You graduated from your liberal arts college with high hopes of greatness. Then the mail comes in and it’s time to pay the piper. Student loans and a crowded job market leave you contemplating how you an slash expenses without losing your social life or your apartment. Time to hit the dollar store and grab some cheap razors so that you’re presentable for your job interview. That’s a smart decision right there! This grown-up thing isn’t so hard after all! That is, until you show up to your job interview looking like you shaved in the dark with an old lawnmower blade. Now you don’t have a job to pay your loans and people keep asking you if you picked a fight with a raccoon, all because you wanted to save a $15 dollars and not get the good razors. Why does a good razor have to be an expensive razor?
Along comes Dollar Shave Club and their now famous viral sensation “Our Blades are F*cking Great!” Just looking at the title itself, you can tell who they’re targeting. The founder/spokesman has his tie let down, a pair of jeans and tennis shoes — he didn’t just leave the boardroom, he’s hanging out in the warehouse! He cuts right the chase, no frills here -$1 a month and we’ll send you blades right to your door! You sir, have my undivided attention.
Now let’s look at Gillette’s most recent advertising. The camera angles are close, no people in these ads to clutter up the shot. Quick cuts between running water, shave gel coming out of the can and other impeccably clean bathroom images. Close scene — “The best a man can get.” That’s the same thing they told your dad, and probably his dad as well. Still, that’s a sexy ad!
Personally, if they didn’t lead with the razor I would have thought it was a beautiful ad for Kohler, trying to sell me a bathroom sink or fixtures. That must be an amazing razor! But wait, it’s still just a Gillette…I found those in the aisle at CVS while 3 small children played with the blood pressure machine not five feet away. Suddenly that sheen is starting to wear off.
Now I’m faced with three options:
- I can head over to the mall and check out the tech at World of Shaving. I’ll admit, I’m partial to the sandalwood shave cream, but I can’t justify spending over $100 on a stainless steel safety razor or straight razor despite how cool the latter may be. Realistically, I know that’s the quickest way to slit my own throat and I don’t think I’ve got it in me standup the inevitable mockery that my friends would lay on me should I survive the incident.
- I can continue an indifferent family tradition of buying the same razor as my father before me and his father before him. Somehow that’s just not as intriguing as driving the same car or rooting for the same football team. Unfortunately for Gillette, no family gathering ever contains that story.
- I can jump on the Dollar Shave Club list, save myself a LOT of money and still get a good razor. Pardon me, a f*cking GREAT razor. Not only that, I don’t have to spend the gas to go to the store to get them every month. They’re hand delivered to me!
(Ok, fine. They’re thrown indiscriminately from the truck, but my point still stands.)
Option 1 has a small, but probably devout following, so we can ignore them for now. Option 2 and 3, however, are of comparable quality as far as any standard shaver is concerned and one is far more economical and convenient.
Currently, Gillette has a lawsuit out against Dollar Shave Club claiming that they infringed on their designs. To anyone watching, this looks like a last ditch effort to push around a competitor who clearly has the incumbents number. Gillette is nervous, as well they should be.