Energizer Schicks it to P&G in Razor War

Gillette's Fusion Brand Outspends Rival 4 to 1, but Keeps Losing Ground

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When Energizer Holdings' Schick prepared to battle a Gillette newly combined with Procter & Gamble Co., the bunny was supposed to get squashed by the 800-pound gorilla.

It hasn't happened that way, which has some industry observers marveling at how Schick's wildly successful defense keeps on going and going against Fusion, Gillette's biggest razor launch in eight years.

In the four weeks ended Sept. 10, Schick's share of the razor-handle market was up 10 percentage points as Gillette's fell 10 points. Though Fusion is giving Gillette a 6.5-point boost in repeat sales of refill cartridges, Schick also picked up 1.2 share points there as Gillette lost 0.4 points overall, according to Information Resources Inc.

For the latest 52 weeks, the story's different only by degree. Schick is up 1.9 points in razors and 0.8 points in blades-despite Gillette outspending Schick on measured media by more than 4 to 1 in the first half of 2006- $135.6 million to $30.9 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Fusion was expected to end three years of small but steady erosion of Gillette's dominant market shares since Energizer bought Schick. It hasn't. Though it might be natural to blame Gillette, some people familiar with both companies credit Energizer.

"I think they doubled down on trying to take advantage of the disarray" involved in P&G's Gillette integration, said one executive familiar with both companies.

Though Schick executives wouldn't comment for this article, their strategy has been a combination of classic guerrilla moves and marketing jujitsu.

First, Schick suppressed demand for Fusion months in advance of its launch with heavy free sampling of its Quattro men's razors. That included using P&G's own Tremor teen-buzz-marketing program to distribute a million coupons for free razors under a deal reached before P&G bought Gillette. Schick is handled by WPP Group's JWT.

new approach

As Fusion hit the market with a Super Bowl ad in February and a big blitz from Omnicom Group's BBDO, Schick stopped seriously contesting the men's market. Instead, it turned mainly to consumer and trade promotion of its Quattro for Women and Intuition Plus products as Gillette dialed back support for Venus women's razors to concentrate on Fusion. The result: Women's products accounted for almost all Quattro's share gain last month in blades and about 20% of its gains in razor handles.

Then Schick launched Quattro Titanium in June with a bit of sexual hyperbole, which was new to the category but familiar to young men from Unilever's Axe.

An ad from WPP Group's JWT, New York, shows a woman so taken with a man's close Titanium shave that she falls off a treadmill. And it brazenly claims that Titanium delivers a smoother shave than the "leading men's razor," which still happens to be Gillette's older Mach 3, not Fusion. That's helped Titanium account for most of Schick's big jump in new system sales.

"They've taken the exact copy point that Gillette used and turned it against them," said David Vinjamuri, professor-marketing at New York University, who's been predicting trouble for Fusion since before its launch.

But he also believes some of Fusion's problem may be that consumers finally are rebelling against pricey razors. The ads make Quattro Titanium seem to do better for less money than Fusion, he said. (On Walgreens.com, the Titanium is priced at $9.99 and four cartridges at $10.99. Fusion sells on the site for $11.99 and four cartridges at $14.49.)

The Axe-style ads may be crude, he said, "but it is nice to see someone in this category getting to an end benefit. It's not about your face being smooth. It's about why you want it smooth ... you plan to kiss someone."

"Anytime a new razor launches, there will be some interest," a Gillette spokeswoman said in an e-mail regarding the Quattro Titanium launch. "In Titanium's first two months post-launch, it sold only 15% as many razors as Fusion the first two months after its launch."

Fusion is still going strong after seven months, she said, with $221 million in consumer purchases to date and the largest new brand launched in North America this year.

But after a few months ago comparing Fusion favorably to the fabled Mach 3 launch of 1998, P&G recently started explaining why it's not fair to compare the two. Chief Financial Officer Clayton Daley noted in a recent investor talk that the women's market is bigger today, consumers have bigger inventories of razors because of club stores and Fusion launched at a different time of year than Mach 3.
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