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Gillette – Why Innovation May Not Be Enough Essay

King Camp Gillette, who, at a very early age had learned the importance of self-sufficiency (having lost his family home in the Chicago fire of 1871), innovation and invention, founded Gillette in the year 1901. Gillette has been known for its innovation in product development and marketing strategy from the inception of the brand. It revolutionized the wet-shaving market throughout the world through continuous evolution in their product line over the years.

In 1895, Gillette started its journey with the brilliant idea of a razor with a safe, inexpensive and disposable blade. However the innovative ‘Gillette Safety Razor’ was successfully developed in 1901 with the technical partnership of MIT graduate William Nickerson and it finally established the foundation for the Gillette Safety Razor Company. After gaining a fair share in the razor market, Gillette slowed down its product innovation and focused on extending its product line by acquiring existing product lines.

After the acquisitions proved to be unsuccessful and Gillette finally faced some competition in 1962 by the introduction of the stainless steel blade by Wilkinson Sword, Gillette moved back to focusing on product development under the leadership of Ziegler. Gillette introduced the Cricket disposable lighters and Soft & Dry antiperspirant. Furthermore, it introduced the Gillette Track II razor which was a huge success and dominated the market for a long time.

Other successful product developments came under the leadership of Colman Mockler who implemented a lower cost strategy and focused on advertising and promotion. The most successful and innovative products were launched in this time starting from the Atra Razor, the Good News! Disposable Razor, and Daisy Razor for women. These products were innovative and had disposable blades and lubricating strips. Gillette then diversified into the personal care segment with the Aapri facial care products, Bare elegance Body Lotion, Mink Difference Hairspray, White Rain Hair care products, and Silkience shampoo and moisturizers.

It further diversified its market with the introduction of Eraser Mate, erasable and disposable pens. After the decline of Trac II and Atra market share during the Razor wars, Gillette came up with its Mach3 in 1998 which was recognized for its innovative design of blades on tiny springs. Subsequently the Mach3 Turbo and Venus series for women were launched which gained a lot of popularity and market share. The most memorable innovation happened in 2006 with the launch of Fusion- the world’s 1st 5+1 blade razor.

In 2010, after realizing that men still experienced discomfort during and after shaving, Gillette introduced the Gillette Fusion ProGlide shaving system which was named the Best Razor of 2011 by Men’s Health Magazine. In many ways Gillette has been a victim of its own success – although they were coming up with innovative products, they were “cannibalizing” their own successful products. While their new inventions drove up their sales, it often took away from the sales of its previous products and often was counter-productive in terms of market share. Gillette continued to diversify their product line, but was met with mixed success.

It was at that time that Gillette gained even more dominance in its market as a result of their continuous product development. It began continuously attacking its own products. From the Trac II to Atra to Sensor to Mach3 to Fusion, Gillette kept on innovating and attacking its own products. The advertising of Mach3 , “The best a man can get” and “The world’s best shave” were misleading and led to trouble for Fusion as the critics pointed out and questioned why 5 blades were needed when Gillette had touted it’s 3 bladed mach3 to be “The best a man can get”.

Furthermore, Gillette found out that their products were treated as “novelty” products with very low loyalty and with a lack of staying power. The repurchase rate of razors was much more than cartridge refills. We do not feel product innovation in the wet-shaving market has come to an end, however it has grown stagnant in the recent years. The five blade Fusion did nothing significantly different from their own Mach3 and Schick’s Quattro. It also says something when introducing each new product, sales of the initial razor were higher than refill cartridges.

People are eager to try to the new product, but may be they aren’t pleased enough to buy refills, they like their old product better, or they felt they were too expensive to continue to use them. Because razors and blades are in the maturity stage of their product life cycle, as a consequence, rather than focusing on producing a six or seven razor blade, Gillette’s focus should be on enhancing current products, developing complementary products, and strengthening the brand as a whole using its successful marketing strategy.

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