The Gillette business model is now a legend selling an item inexpensively or giving it away for free, then selling customers a more profitable item that they need to keep that item going. Think of razors and disposable blades, inkjet printers and cartridges, or free mobile phones tied to long service contracts. Now Gillette is changing its time-honored business model a little, and selling the FlexBall razor, which accepts a variety of blade cartridges.
Maybe it says a lot about how silly the blade arms race has been that critics consider it an innovation when a major razor brand introduces a product that’s backwards-compatible to an older type of razor sold by that same company.
Anyway, the razor hits stores next Wednesday. Nobody will be lining up at midnight to buy it. The design is innovative: it pivots on a roller ball, sort of like a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Maybe people will like that. Will they pay a premium price to give it a try? By focusing on the razor itself instead of more or less giving away the razor and focusing on the blades, Gillette is gambling here.
Maybe this is a first step toward unlocked, platform-agnostic razors that accept plastic blades from any other brand. Or maybe the big brands feel like they need something more advanced in order to compete with the Dollar Shave Clubs of the world: indeed, Gillette does have its own blade subscription service. Gillette’s personal-grooming brands aren’t doing well for the first time in years, and it isn’t just because beards have come back in style.
Why Gillette’s New Razor Is Good for Procter & Gamble [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Gillette’s New Weapon in Razor Arms Race [Wall Street Journal]