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Xtreme 3

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Long a distant also-ran to Gillette Co., Schick had little to lose when it launched Xtreme 3 in spring 2002 as its first three-blade entry and the first brand in men's shaving to simultaneously launch in both refillable systems and disposables.

A year and a half later, the initiative headed by Marketing Director Adel Mekhail is paying big dividends.

Schick Xtreme 3 rang up sales of $77.3 million for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 5, according to Information Resources Inc.

Its success under a 3-year-old management team brought in by Pfizer helped convince Energizer Holdings to pay what some analysts considered top dollar of $930 million to buy the business in early 2003.

Xtreme 3 also helped convince Schick marketing executives they could compete effectively with Gillette despite their underdog status, says Michelle Stearns, group brand director for men's systems at Schick. That in turn has helped fuel bigger and possibly better launches with the back-to-back 2003 rollouts of the Intuition women's system and Quattro men's four-blade systems.

Even before those more heralded launches, Xtreme 3 forced Gillette to respond to a Schick initiative for the first time in recent memory. As Xtreme 3 cut into Gillette's much thinner lead in disposables, Gillette responded with its first major disposable initiative in more than a decade-Sensor3. According to a recent report by Morgan Stanley analyst Bill Peccoriello, Xtreme 3 disposables' repeat purchase rate rivals that of Gillette's high-end Mach3 systems and is beating Sensor3. Plus, 30% of the buyers of Gillette Sensor3 have come from Gillette's more profitable refillable business, he says.

An opening act in a new category drama, Xtreme 3 aided what Mr. Peccoriello terms Schick's transformation "from follower to challenger."

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