BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Through decades of ever-higher blade counts and inevitable ad parodies, Gillette ads never directly acknowledged growing consumer skepticism about its razors. And the brand once guarded new products prior to their launch like the Defense Department treated new weapons systems.
Those things changed big time as Procter & Gamble Co. this year launched Gillette Fusion ProGlide, its most expensive razor ever, into the maw of a deep recession and after a two-month head start for rival Energizer's Schick Hydro, a new system priced below existing Gillette products.
In April, as Hydro was hitting stores, Gillette was handing out samples of ProGlide razors to bloggers. It was also corralling men on the street (or in locker rooms) to have them try impromptu shaves with the new razor. Some of those product trials were used in ProGlide's "Turning Shaving Into Gliding and Skeptics Into Believers" TV and online ads from Omnicom's BBDO and Proximity BBDO. And it all helped ProGlide get off to a fast start despite the economy and strong competition.
While it's still early days, ProGlide sent Gillette's razor sales up 43% in the third quarter and its already commanding share up 3.4 points to 67.7% in the third quarter, according to SymphonyIRI data from Deutsche Bank. Schick, in the first full quarter of competition between Hydro and ProGlide, saw system sales surge 35% but still lost 0.1 share point.
Repeat purchases of highly profitable cartridges ultimately will be the key test, but P&G Chairman-CEO Bob McDonald said last month that P&G is selling three ProGlide cartridges for every one razor, while Hydro is only selling about one cartridge per razor. ProGlide had 76% brand awareness in August, 10 points ahead of forecast and 11 points ahead of the original 2006 Fusion launch.
"We put the campaign in the hands of the people, leveraged some skepticism and tackled it," said Michelle Potorski, associate marketing director for Gillette male shaving in North America. "Instead of Gillette telling people it was great, we asked people to try it and leveraged the social-media space."