Making value explicit in innovation: Gillette razors last five weeks

If you spent 1 Billion $ in product development in a low-tech category like shaving razors with a powerful brand like Gillette,  the shaving experience should be enough.It was true till the economy slowed. And Gillette market share dropped 3% between 2010 and 2012. And now Gillette is apparently revealing a razor industry secret, i.e.  how long a shaving razor lasts according to Fortune. If you are wondering, its five weeks….

Is there really a need for a two blade,three blade and five blade razor or is this just a case of building a better mouse-trap? Challenging the premium pricing of big brands is that has founder Mike reminding folks in a hilarious video that Grandfather shaved with one blade….. It turns out though, that only 10% men change blades on a calendar and the rest do so by the rough feel of the shave. But Gillette has been able to grow the market hugely going by the number of national brands like Bic,Schick  and store brands that you see on shelves even for multi-blade razors. At the premium end of the shaving market is the Art of Shaving, that moves shaving to well – an art form.

Since multi blade razors don’t seem to have manufacturing constraints, Gillette has decided to make the 5 week value claim and hopes that the large mid-market will not mind the very expensive cartridge refills. If 90% of shavers do not change blades by calendar, it is unlikely that they’ll track a 5 cartridge Gillette blade refill pack to see if it really did last for 6 months going by the 5 week per blade logic.

So the question is whether Gillette should have clarified the long life of its blades at the time of the launch of the famous Billion $ new product development budget Mach 3 ? Had it done so in the last seventeen years then it could have perhaps retained its luxury position and pricing. Unlike Dyson vaccuum cleaners the customer tends to shave every day and it’s hard to not try a less well known brand that comes at about half the price. Changing blades whenever you like feels like an indulgence that you can afford. An interesting thought for the weekend.

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