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Last week saw the official launch date of the Fusion ProGlide shaving system in the UK and after a brief exposure to the power of the Gillette marketing machine last week I would recommend that local shopkeepers stock it for their shoppers today – enough so that shoppers see it in your store.
Behind this recommendation lies two thoughts. The first is that the product is good. People who choose to upgrade from their previous razor are not likely to be disappointed. I am already trying to work out whether to write off my three new cartridges for my old razor – and they were not cheap. Already, after a week, I remember to press the button so the razor vibrates slightly so I “barely feel the blades”.
The second is the track record of Gillette, now owned by Procter & Gamble, which is celebrated in Jim Collins’. In his book, Mr Collins identifies that great companies are all powered by simple ideas. In the case of Gillette it was that it could be the best in the world at making “billions of low-cost, super-high-tolerance products (e.g. razor blades)” and at brand building and it would focus on cost per customer through repeat purchases and high profit per purchase – ProGlide not disposable razors.
At the press launch in London, the team from P&G were all very excited that the vice chairman for global beauty and grooming had flown from the USA to say a few words. The scientists that I met, a pharmacologist and a physicist, told me that P&G had invested a lot of money in setting up the production lines which validated their work (other scientists don’t get to see the product in action like they do) and also were confident that the quality of the ProGlide could not be copied in the far east.
Ed Shirley, the vice chairman, did not disappoint. He spoke quietly about the heritage of Gillette, now a 110 year old brand and the work put in by the team in Reading to develop the product. He said this launch is big, the biggest in Gillette and Procter & Gamble’s history. He told a story about when he first heard about how ProGlide would succeed Fusion (which was launched in 2006) and he asked himself how could they make it better? He had asked the same question when Sensor was launched in the early 1990s, when Mach 3 was launched in 1998 and when Fusion arrived. “But each time it is better. It is not a marketing ploy,” he said.
How do they test whether it is better? Gillette constantly tests new products on Fusion users and only launches when it gets a two to one vote in favour of the new system.
Fusion, launched in 2006, has 35 million users. Gillette keeps on supporting its old systems. Not every man will trade up. But it reckons enough will and it is investing in TV advertising to encourage this. At £9.99 for the manual razor and £12.99 for the power version, this is the sort of product that local shops may leave to the chemist and supermarket. But that would be a mistake. With millions of repeat customers and high margins, it is the sort of business you should be striving to win.
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