How Gillette stay on top

Reading an article on developments in the UK shaving market reminded me of what a great job Gillette has done at growing their core business:
– Razor and blade business grew from £128 million in 2002 to £180 million in 2006
– Annual growth rate of 14%
– Value share over the same period grew from 60.1% to 67.9%
– All this despite a heavyweight attack from Wilkinson Sword in 2004 with the launch of their Quattro razor.


Here are a few of the things Gillette have done so well to produce such impressive growth:

1. Sausage & (a bit of) sizzle
Gillette are the ultimate sellers of sausage (functional product benefits). The brand has been built on delivering a superior, closer shave and constantly improving on the core benefit. In fact, the brand’s shavers are miracles of micro-engineering. The R&D on the Mach 3 razor alone was reported to be c. $1billion.

There has not been that much in the way of emotional sizzle, with some of the most cheesy, all-American ads of all time. Although I have to own up and admit I liked the life-style-y ad they did with David Beckham. It has some brilliant lines in it: "You’re unbeatable. You look (at the girl), they smile. You win, they go home."

But, who cares? Their formula works. And the purchase of Gillette by P&G is means the focus on product is likely to continue.

2. Relentlessly renovating the core
Like many other great product innovators, such as P&G and Frito Lay, Gillette never believe a product cannot be bettered. They go on and on and on raising the bar, or cutting closer in Gillette’s case. Each new razor has taken performance to a new level and with it charged a premium. Starting with the Sensor we then had Sensor Excel, Mach 3 and now the Fusion.

3. Remember what made you famous
Gillette have done best when they have focused on what made them famous: shaving. They have a leading share in shavers/razors, and in shaving gels. Each innovation draws on the trust consumers have in the brand’s shaving performance, at the same time as further reinforcing the brand’s equity.

In contrast, the brand has done less well when it has tried to become a "male grooming brand" and stretch beyond shaving into products like deodorants. Here, it has relied on the brand’s emotional values to add value, and lacked a product story. It has also had to fight Unilever for whom deodorant is a core business. The result has been a much lower share of this market. Things may change now that the brand is part of P&G which has several deo brands such as Secret and Old Spice.

For all these reasons, Gillette remain after all of these years one of my fave examples of brand-led business.