Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Innovation + H2O = A Really Close Shave

There’s Yiddish saying: “Being great at what a man does is a lot like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow.” And let’s face it, daily shaving for some men can be a ritual. For others, a requirement, and for still others a chore. But, according to our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, when it comes to the shaving category, the highest expectation men have for a razor is “a really close shave.” OK, not a Boy’s Club or trade secret, we admit. Some things are what they are: primacy of product.

The thing is, men’s expectations for this have not been generally met, which explains why men are willing to try a new razor every so often, figuring the razor brand has finally gotten it right, or at least closer to “right.” Manufacturers have responded to men’s search for “a really close shave” (and along the way some sense of brand differentiation) by innovating. This has mostly showed up by increasing the number of blades, although experts have indicated that after a while more than 3 blades becomes superfluous. And for those of you buying razor cartridges with more than 3 blades, that’s a great example of perception versus reality. But here’s some real reality: a razor with more blades usually costs more than one with fewer blades, and costs a lot more than really cheap razors à la online monthly subscriptions.

While it’s undeniable that men have different shaving standards and razors have come a long way since the straight edge, from the safety razor to ones with up to 6 blades and a lubricating strip, men continue to look to innovation to help meet those expectations for a really close shave. And one brand – King of Shaves – has come up with something truly innovative.

No, not another blade, or vibrating handle. Something called Hyperglide. It’s a razor that has a patented super-hydrophilic self-lubricating cartridge. The cartridge, which by the way, looks super-cool, creates a HydroGel on your face – wait for it – when it comes into contact with water.  You don’t need foam or cream or gel, just plain H2O. The true innovation behind the lubricating cartridge on the Hyperglide is an ultra-thin polymer that is chemically-bonded to it and when it gets wet, it creates a lubrication layer with friction levels lower than that of Teflon. It’s a razor that creates its own lubricant.

And when it does, it feels totally different than any razor you’ve ever used and gives you an incredibly close shave. Sure, lubricating strips have been around for a while, but because of some manufacturing magic King of Shaves came up with, you don’t have to worry about the strip peeling off or leaving residue or catching on your skin. The Hyperglide has a flexible head, so you can move your hand however you’ve become used to shaving, and you end up with that really close shave men have been expecting all these years.

There’s an amazing ad for the Hyperglide entitled “Toothbrush” (you’ll see why) from Tiger’s Eye Advertising, masterminded and directed by one of London’s inspired creative directors, Tiger Savage, that puts all the scientific stuff into a kind-of real-world perspective, and we invite you to take a look.

When it comes to market share of men’s razors and blades, Gillette (66%) and Schick-Wilkinson Sword (19%) have the lion’s share of the market and distribution in the United States. But you can find the Hyperglide at Target and online shopping platforms like

Is the battle of the beards over? Well, Americans spent close to $4 billion on razors, blades, and shaving accouterments for the year ending January 2014. That’s down about 2% from last year, as men have favored the Hollywood unshaven look, with some shifting to the online-only subscription services at much lower prices. But expectations for “a really close shave” continue to increase.

While the Hyperglide feels like an iPhone moment in shaving, Gillette is preparing to roll out a razor called the ProGlide FlexBall. It apparently comes with a swiveling ball-socket handle that’s supposed to permit the blade to pivot and catch stray hairs in hard to get to places. You’ll end up paying a premium for the new hardware, but the new handle is supposed to help cut hairs shorter, miss 20% fewer hairs, and will work with current Fusion blades. Gillette’s razors and blades generates about 9% of Procter & Gamble’s annual sales, and is one of their highest margin divisions, so they’re not giving up so easily. The new model is supposed to ship in time for Father’s Day.

Pulitzer-prize winning humorist Dave Barry, once wrote “one day soon the Gillette company will announce the development of a razor that, thanks to a computer microchip, can actually travel ahead in time and shave beard hairs that don’t even exist yet.” Until then, give the King of Shaves’ Hyperglide a try. 

Your face (and your Father) will thank you.

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