The marketer will combine its women's razors, blades and shaving gels -- now under the Sensor and Satin Care brands -- under one umbrella line called Gillette for Women Fashion Collection.
The rollout will be backed by a global campaign from BBDO Worldwide, New York, and will include print, TV and in-store displays. Extensive sampling and direct marketing will be handled by Bronnercom, Boston.
"We'll bring all the clout Gillette has to bear on this market," said Mary Ann Pesce, Gillette's VP-female shaving.
Executives wouldn't discuss creative, but Gary Cohen, business director-business management at Gillette, said ads will break in April or May.
IN BACK SEAT UNTIL NOW
Women's shaving products traditionally have taken a backseat to their male counterparts. Although many marketers peddle separate lines of women's shavers or shaving accessories, none produces a complete line.
Women's products comprise less than a third of razor sales in the U.S., according to ACNielsen Corp. figures compiled by J.P. Morgan Securities.
The top brands of razors -- Sensor and Sensor Excel for Women and Warner-Lambert Co.'s Schick Silk Effects, Silk Effects Plus and Personal Touch -- together add up to only 28.2% of the $181 million market.
As the race for market share has tightened, however, marketers have sought out the women's category. Schick this summer introduced Silk Effects Plus, a razor with a lubricating strip and wire-wrapped blades to prevent nicks, and sold with a holder that attaches to shower walls with a suction cup.
Universal Group, a maker of private-label razors, this month began shipping a line of Noxzema Skin Fitness women's razors in a licensing deal with Procter & Gamble Co. That line includes a triple-blade razor meant to compete against Gillette's upcoming Mach3 for women (AA, Nov. 29).
The Mach3 for women is expected in the U.S. during the second half of 2000, backed by a separate $40 million campaign from BBDO.
Mr. Cohen wouldn't discuss that launch, but said Gillette isn't worried about cannibalizing the Fashion Collection, as happened with its men's Sensor when Mach3 arrived.
STRATEGY: TRADE UP
Company strategy is to capture consumers and get them to trade up, Mr. Cohen said. If women are willing to move to the premium-price product, it will just follow trend, he said.
Gillette dominates the $1.1 billion U.S. blade and razor market. It also leads the women's shaving category.
The two Sensor models together have the largest share, but they've been feeling the heat from the introduction of Silk Effects Plus.
According to the Nielsen figures, the combined share for the two Sensors dropped to 15.1% for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 2, from 17.3% a year earlier, while Silk Effects Plus took 5.6%.
Women's razors are not a summer-only business, as commonly believed, Ms. Pesce said. Although business does pick up substantially in warm-weather months, it doesn't vanish in the cold, she said.
"It's no question: The more you show, the more you shave. But [women] are not going into hibernation in the winter," Ms. Pesce noted.
The Fashion Collection's flagship will be a version of the Sensor Excel for Women in pink, blue and silver colors. The line also includes moisturizing shaving gels under the Satin Care name, with floral and fruit scents.