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Superbrands case studies: Gillette

Originally published in 'Consumer Superbrands Volume VI', July 2004. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

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Market

The male blades and razors category is now worth £205 million in the UK alone, an increase of 48% since 1995, making it one of the fastest growing sectors within the toiletries market. Furthermore, the male grooming market is predicted to experience even higher growth over the next five years.

The main catalyst for spectacular growth has been a fundamental change in men's attitudes to the grooming process over the last decade. The rise in popularity of 'lad mags' and influential sportsmen evolving into 'model-esque' icons, have made it acceptable for men to care about their appearance. Today 68% of men use aftershaves and out of the 73% of men who wet shave, 84% are using a shaving prep (excluding soap).

This trend has resulted in a massive influx of male grooming products onto store shelves, dramatically increasing choice for the male grooming regime. Moving into the new millennium, the male bathroom cabinet now rivals the females, both in size and choice.

Female grooming is also maturing into a very important part of the health and beauty category. It now equates to 19% of the total blades and razors sector and delivers retail sales of more than £47 million - up 152% since 1995. Women view the process of hair removal as very important in their beauty routine, with more than 46% removing hair at the slightest re-growth (twice a week or more). Wet shaving continues to be by far the most popular amongst 78% of women (Source: IRI Infoscan 52w/e January 2004 All outlets).

History

The Gillette Company was founded in Boston, USA in 1901 by travelling salesman King C Gillette. Frustrated with traditional cut-throat shaving, he started work on a model razor that was to revolutionise the shaving market. The Safety Razor.

It was at this time that Gillette's strong technological foundations were established. The 1903 launch of the Safety Razor was ground breaking, as new processes for tempering and hardening mass-produced steel were discovered. This resulted in the 'wafer thin' metal needed to create the razor, something that had previously been dubbed a 'technical impossibility' by Thomas Edison.

The success of the Safety Razor made Gillette a household name, with more than 90,000 Americans possessing one by the end of the second year of trading. The safety razor was a hit and was deemed to have changed the face of a nation. In order to keep up with the rapid growth, a factory was established in South Boston in 1905 under the new name of the Gillette Safety Razor Company.

Strong domestic growth prompted international expansion. Overseas operations commenced in 1905, with a manufacturing plant just outside Paris and a sales office in London. Annual blade sales had risen to more than 40 million units before the outbreak of World War I.

The next true innovation was the Techmatic razor, launched in 1967. This was the first system razor with a 'continuous band' meaning consumers would no longer have to touch the blade. The pace of innovation increased from 1971 onwards and Gillette saw a series of world firsts, including the release of GII, the first twin bladed razor in 1971. This was followed soon after in 1976 by the first twin bladed disposable razor and in 1977 the revolutionary pivot headed razor, Contour, was released.

While developments in the 1960s and 1970s focused mainly on blades, the 1980s and 1990s saw improved features for a smoother, more comfortable shave. Contour Plus, in 1985, heralded the first lubrastrip and 1990 saw the company's first ever Pan-Atlantic launch, with the introduction of Sensor in sixteen countries. Sensor featured the first spring mounted blades and shell-bearing pivot. Three years later SensorExcel was launched with soft, flexible microfins designed to sweep hair up, allowing the blade to cut closer. However, the true landmark year was 1998, with the launch of Mach3. Today over 90 million men worldwide use a Mach3 family razor. This revolutionary triple bladed shaving system was followed in January 2003 by Mach3Turbo, which presented a whole host of advancements to the Mach3 design, primarily, improved blade technology. Today, the company continues to be at the forefront of new innovation with 2004 set to see the male shaving category expand into a whole new segment - power wet shaving - with the launch of the M3Power razor.

Gillette also has a strong history of innovation in the female market, introducing the first ever razor for women 'Milady Decollete' in 1915 and the first disposable for women, Gillette Daisy, 60 years later in 1975. The 1990s heralded a period of huge change in female shaving with Gillette releasing Sensor for women in 1992, which was then surpassed by the new and very much improved SensorExcel for women. In 2000 Gillette unveiled Venus - a triple bladed razor, designed specifically for women. In 2002 Passion Venus was introduced, broadening the appeal of the product even further by offering Venus in a vibrant pink colour. The brand will be given a boost in performance with the launch of Venus Divine in 2004.

Gillette's portfolio has expanded significantly since the release of the original safety razor. Today the company's diverse grooming range has a product to meet the needs of all consumers, at all price points.

Gillette provides a fully integrated grooming solution for men with the shaving range extending from entry level disposables such as BlueII the basic twin blade razor, right through to Gillette's most advanced technology - Mach3Turbo. Gillette Series also provides shave gel and foam to enhance razor performance, along with after-shave cooling gel, after-shave balm and splash, anti-perspirants, deodorants and shower gels.

Despite this broad offering, the foundation of the male portfolio is the Mach3 shaving system, which proved to be not only the company's biggest technological breakthrough in recent years, but also its most successful product.

Mach3 is the world's first triple bladed razor - a concept made possible by the DLC coating, allowing blades to be thinner and stronger than ever before. The premise is that the three progressively aligned blades allow you to shave close, closer, closest, with the Advanced Indicator Lubricating strip, fading away to indicate less than optimal performance. Five rubber Microfins assist the blades by stretching the skin and lifting the hairs, while single point docking ensures blades are loaded without error. This ground-breaking technology has set the standard for shaving as we know it today, with three bladed razors now setting the precedent.

Gillette's female products range from BlueII disposables for women, Sensor and SensorExcel system razors, and Satin Care shave gels, right through to the most premium female system - Venus. This product combined pioneering innovation and proven technology to offer a far superior shave, significantly out-performing even SensorExcel for Women by a 3-to-1 margin. Furthermore, Venus has revolutionised the female shaving experience, ensuring skin stays smoother for longer.

Recent Developments

2003 saw the launch of Mach3Turbo, which built on the heritage of its predecessor, Mach3, giving an even further boost in shaving performance with new anti friction blades. In 2004 the Mach3 family was extended even further to include Mach3Turbo Champion, a vibrant red colour variant.

Four key innovations and improvements were made to the Mach3 design to produce the Mach3Turbo razor.

The most notable is the introduction of anti-friction, comfort coated blades, which reduce the force required to cut through hair, therefore reducing irritation and allowing men to shave against the grain. A true test of shaving performance. The Indicator Lubricating Strip has also been reformulated to release more lubrication over a greater number of shaves, resulting in improved razor glide. The number of Microfins has been increased to ten - twice as many as Mach3 - allowing the skin to be stretched more effectively, so the blades can shave evenly and effortlessly. Finally, the razor handle was redesigned to include textured rubber grips and metal grooves, for improving sureness of grip and providing better handling and control throughout the shave.

2004 also sees a wave of new innovation in the women's shaving market, with the Venus brand being enhanced with the launch of Venus Divine. Gillette have addressed female shaving concerns across the globe, and improved on the original Venus design by providing women with not only a close and safe shave, but also soft, moisturised skin.

Divine retains the distinctive elements of Venus, but also features significant improvements. Comfort coated blades have been enhanced with two new coating layers ensuring a more comfortable glide, and for the first time Venus Divine features a Lubrastrip before the blades, to prepare the skin and soften the hair. Two Lubrastips follow the shave to moisturise and replenish the skin, while elastomeric cushions now surround the blades, gently stretching the skin and lifting the hair.

Promotion

The Gillette brand has an incredibly high recognition rate, in no small part due to a strong investment in advertising. The hugely successful 'Best A Man Can Get' campaign of the 1980s had a massive influence on this, with today's consumers still recalling the catchy song. Despite this popularity, the launch of Mach3 founded a new wave of advertising for Gillette, focusing heavily on the brand values of innovation and cutting edge technology. The aim is to educate the consumer on product advancements and improved shaving performance.

However, 2004 is set to see a strategic shift back towards the original, emotive 'The Best A Man Can Get' advertising, with the campaign set to return with a new and enhanced look. Strong black and white imagery and an updated song, combine to create a far more emotional connection between the consumer and the Gillette brand. Product specific advertising will continue to run alongside this campaign, communicating the technological superiority of the products themselves.

Historically, Gillette has used sport as a major promotional vehicle and embarked on its first sponsorship deal with a radio broadcast of the US World Series back in 1939. Today this association remains strong, with sponsorship continuing to play a large part in Gillette's integrated communications strategy. In 2004 sponsorship of premiership football on Sky Sports' 'Gillette Soccer Saturday' will continue, as will that of the World Cup, making Gillette the longest running sponsor of the event.

Promotion

The Gillette brand has an incredibly high recognition rate, in no small part due to a strong investment in advertising. The hugely successful 'Best A Man Can Get' campaign of the 1980s had a massive influence on this, with today's consumers still recalling the catchy song. Despite this popularity, the launch of Mach3 founded a new wave of advertising for Gillette, focusing heavily on the brand values of innovation and cutting edge technology. The aim is to educate the consumer on product advancements and improved shaving performance.

However, 2004 is set to see a strategic shift back towards the original, emotive 'The Best A Man Can Get' advertising, with the campaign set to return with a new and enhanced look. Strong black and white imagery and an updated song, combine to create a far more emotional connection between the consumer and the Gillette brand. Product specific advertising will continue to run alongside this campaign, communicating the technological superiority of the products themselves.

Historically, Gillette has used sport as a major promotional vehicle and embarked on its first sponsorship deal with a radio broadcast of the US World Series back in 1939. Today this association remains strong, with sponsorship continuing to play a large part in Gillette's integrated communications strategy. In 2004 sponsorship of premiership football on Sky Sports' 'Gillette Soccer Saturday' will continue, as will that of the World Cup, making Gillette the longest running sponsor of the event.

Brand values

Gillette is dedicated to driving innovative technology that will develop and produce hair removal products that deliver a superior shave performance, both in closeness and comfort. Its male image is masculine, confident and well groomed, while the female image is fun, youthful and energetic. Gillette is positioned at the premium end of the market, offering superior quality products that set the grooming industry standard.

In essence, the Gillette Company celebrates world class products, world class brands and world class people. It is committed to growth through innovation to maintain the company's position as a world leader in the consumer products marketplace.

Things that you didn't know

  • In 1910 popular major league baseballers endorsed the Gillette razor, beginning a relationship between Gillette and sport that has lasted over 90 years.

  • Facial hair is 70% easier to cut if it has been soaked in warm water for 2-3 minutes before shaving.

  • In the UK, more than 1.6 billion men aged fifteen years and over remove facial hair.

  • The US government ordered 3.5 million Gillette razors and 36 million Gillette blades to supply the entire US armed forces during Word War 1.

  • The average man spends 3,500 hours of his life shaving. In this time, he removes about 30ft of whiskers from his face.

    © 2004 Superbrands Ltd

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