Retaining Gillette’s Edge

Would you pay as much as $12.59 for a razor?

Procter & Gamble thinks so, expecting more of us will act less like money savers and more like moneyed shavers.

Meet the company’s Gillette ProGlide FlexBall.

“The FlexBall’s marketing material boasts that P&G spent years working on the handle to make sure that the razor head has ‘optimized stiffness’ and ‘damping’ so that just the right amount of force gets it to swivel and stop,” The Wall Street Journal recently reported. “Doing so, the company claims, means the blades miss 20% fewer hairs with each pass and that it can cut each whisker 23 microns shorter—about a quarter of the width of a strand of human hair.”

There is risk, of course—first and foremost that the company may wind up “alienating cost-conscious consumers” with the pricey FlexBall, according to the Journal.

But, as the paper explained, P&G CEO A.G. Lafley “sees an opening to squeeze more revenue out of the high end of the market for the products Americans use every day.”

Peter Drucker (who, as we’ve noted, was very close to Lafley) would have very likely seen the same opening.

Drucker (as we’ve also discussed) held up King Gillette as a master of pricing strategy. More than a century ago, Gillette sold a cheap razor so that men would then be locked into buying his disposable blades. The result “was much more pleasant than any shave they could have given themselves” with a standard straight-edge razor “and far cheaper than they could have got at the neighborhood barber’s,” Drucker explained.

Vintage Gillette razor Photo: Tommi Nummelin
Vintage Gillette razor | Photo: Tommi Nummelin

But now, Gillette is trying a different strategy: delivering value to the many men who gripe that they aren’t getting a close enough shave—the No. 1 complaint among shavers, according to P&G.

If P&G is right, price shouldn’t be much of an issue for these customers—a point that many tend to miss. “Every economics book points out that customers do not buy a ‘product,’ but what the product does for them,” Drucker observed in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “And then, every economics book promptly drops consideration of everything except the ‘price’ for the product.”

Yet in every case where companies actually succeed, “they were paid for giving their customers satisfaction, for giving their customers what the customers wanted to buy, in other words, for giving their customers their money’s worth.”

What do you think? Do you expect that you or someone in your household will buy a ProGlide FlexBall?