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GILLETTE READIES NEW RAZOR SYSTEM; SEES SUPER BOWL INTRODUCTION

Four-Bladed Unit Targets Rival Schick Quattro

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CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) -- Gillette Co. next week is preparing to announce the launch of its next-generation men’s razor system -- a four-bladed self-lubricating razor to ship in January, with ads breaking on or before the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, according to people familiar with the matter.
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Possible names
The executives would not disclose or had not been briefed on the brand name. Recent Gillette trademark filings for razor systems include Fusion and Icon. A Gillette spokesman declined to comment on the subject of the Sept. 14 conference for analysts and media in New York.

The much-anticipated system will be priced above Gillette’s current top-of-the-line system, Mach 3 and its M3 Power extension, the latter of which launched last May. The new system comes more than seven years after the rollout of the original Mach 3 system in 1998, which in turn followed the previous top-end line, Sensor, by eight years.

Buzz-building drill
In what’s become a well-practiced buzz-building drill around razor launches, Gillette executives have been providing teasing hints about the new system for the past year, with Chairman-CEO Jim Kilts acknowledging having used it for more than a year.

Omnicom Group’s BBDO Worldwide, New York, handles creative, with public relations by sibling Porter Novelli and media planning and buying by WPP Group’s MindShare, New York.

The launch comes as Procter & Gamble Co. awaits approval from the Federal Trade Commission of its $57 billion acquisition of Gillette, and the new system was a substantial part of the richest deal in industry history.

Some analysts expected the new system announcement wouldn’t come until after the deal closed, which the companies have said should come some time this fall. But apparently it couldn’t wait any longer: In recent years, Gillette has announced new razor initiatives at least four months prior to shipping.

P&G CEO in Boston
Closing or no, P&G Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley is still watching closely. He attended the Sept. 8 New England Patriots game at Gillette stadium in the company box with Gillette executives. That followed Gillette’s national sales meeting earlier in the day in Boston, where the rollout was discussed, said one person familiar with the matter.

The launch comes as Gillette fends off this month’s launch of a new vibrating version of Energizer Holdings’ four-bladed Schick Quattro, which Schick says outperforms M3 Power because the vibration occurs closer to the razor head.

Schick has been increasingly competitive since it was purchased by Energizer in 2003, launching two new systems, Quattro for men and Intuition for women.

Court ruling
Gillette blunted Schick’s gains with the 2004 launch of M3 Power and March launch of vibrating Venus Vibrance. But Gillette has given back some ground after a federal court sided with Energizer in June, issuing an injunction preventing Gillette from using ad claims that M3 Power could raise the hair on men’s faces for a better shave.

In the four weeks ended Aug. 7, Gillette’s commanding share of the $200 million razor category dropped 7.2 percentage points to 67.9%, according to Information Resources Inc. figures reported by Deutsche Bank. Its share of the $712 million replacement blade category dropped more modestly, 2.3 points to 80.6%. Schick was up 6.8 points to 29.8% in razors and 2.8 points to 16.4% in blades, even before impact of its new vibrating Quattro could be felt.

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