If you don't believe it, just ask Bob Baird, president-CEO of Philips Domestic Appliance & Personal Care division, about his manscaping regimen. Not only is he comfortable talking about taming his chest mane -- "I like the look. It's clean." -- he's downright aggressive about his own investigative reporting into the matter. He told a reporter during a recent interview: "I want to know whether you shave your legs."
Mr. Baird, who's riding high on the U.S. launch of the Philips Norelco Bodygroom, a below-the-neck electric razor aimed at men, has plenty of reason to laugh. The product was the top seller in the Amazon.com personal-care category for eight consecutive weeks and overall has tripled original sales expectations, though Philips isn't giving exact numbers.
Success at the cash register
The success at the cash register comes thanks to a risque viral-marketing assault that's helped forge a more liberated view of the hirsute, largely by making embarrassing tufts of shoulder and back hair something to laugh about-and then hack away.
At the center of the push is the Bodygroom guy, the white bathrobe-wearing gent who resides at shaveeverywhere.com and has been visited by more than 1.7 million unique visitors since the website's May launch. In a mock-smooth tone, he praised the virtues of trimming, delivering lines like "With a hair-free back, well-groomed shoulders and an extra optical inch on my [bleep, while an image of carrots flashes on the screen], life has gotten pretty darn cozy."
"We needed to find an ambassador who in his personality was disarming and comfortable and credible," says Steve Nesle, executive creative director at Tribal DDB, New York.
"He makes subject matter easy to talk about. At the end of day, the website was going to break the ice. Any kind of straight un-ironic approach would only create dialogue between brand and the consumer, not among consumers."
With a tiny media budget, getting consumers to spread the video was key.
And go viral it did, racking up about 500 blog mentions, many of which went out of their way to express support of the Philips ad team.
On the look out for backlash
That must have been a relief for Mr. Baird, who, by his own account, was watching on a minute-by-minute basis for adverse consumer reaction. "There was one consumer complaint after a week," he says. "Interestingly, the complaint was internal, and the person wasn't in our target group."
The campaign was also helped along when Howard Stern talked up the product on his Sirius satellite radio show, a placement that was courtesy of Philips' PR agency, Manning Selvage & Lee.
"This was a tough sell internally," Mr. Baird says. "We took an incredible risk in putting this out there. We were dancing on the line and pushing the barriers of this company. But you hire ad agencies for a reason, and you really have to trust their competence."