Gillette and the Shaving Category
Founded in 1837 and boasting $67 Billion1 in revenue, P&G is an American Consumer product goods behemoth selling iconic brands such as Tide, Pampers, Bounty and Crest. Acquired by P&G in 2005 for $57 Billion2, Gillette has been the market leader in the blades and razors category ($2.2 Billion market size) but has faced intense competition by direct to consumer start-ups such as Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club (DSC) over the past few years. Combined with the trend of fewer shaving consumers, the competitive landscape has eroded Gillette sales and market share – declining from 71% in 2009 to 65% in 20174. The rapid growth of Harry’s and DSC has put significant pressure on Gillette, forcing it to find new ways to innovate quickly.
Figure 1: US Sales of Men’s Razors ($Billions)
3D Printing and Razors?
With the ability to test and revise designs at will, 3D printing has opened new doors to innovation in consumer products. The technology provides an unprecedented ability to customize products and respond quickly to shifts in market demand5. With 3D printing, complexity and variety are “free”; a 3D printer takes no more time, energy, or material to manufacture a complex shape than a simple one, and zero tooling means printing a variety of designs requires no extra production costs7.
Strategically, 3D printing can be a means by which Gillette and P&G can hold on to and grow its market leadership by offering customization at scale. Gillette has partnered with 3D-printing powerhouse Formlabs to offer a series of customizable 3D-printed handles, matching advanced manufacturing with consumers’ desire to have completely unique and personalized products6. Previously, Gillette had only applied 3D printing for prototyping, but advancements in materials and hardware have made the technology a viable option to produce end-use parts7.
Figure 2: 3D Printed Razor Maker Models
Launched in October, 2018, Razor Maker is a direct to consumer pilot concept only for US Customers. “The Razor Maker™ pilot furthers our commitment to place power in the hands of consumers and literally have them custom-make their razors exactly the way they want them – tailored to their grooming preference, budget, look, color and style” said Pankaj Bhalla, Director Gillette6. Typically, Gillette release 1-2 new designs per year; however, by leveraging this new technology Gillette is providing 48 blade designs across 7 different color schemes6. For Gillette, piloting Razor Maker is a crucial step in its customization journey where it is trying to blend a unique business model (Premium DTC) with a new technology (3D printing).
Longer term, Gillette is also experimenting with automating 3D printing production processes, working with Formlabs as one of the first testers of a technology demonstration exploring the future of 3D printing in production environments7. The technology removes the need for tooling, requiring no up-front investment in molds and eliminating the exponential costs of producing a variety of complex designs7. Given the modular nature of the technology, scaling custom manufacturing can be as easy as adding more printers.
Figure 3: Each Razor Maker handle is printed at Gillette’s Boston headquarters using Form 2 stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers.
In parallel to refining the 3D printing technology, Gillette needs to ensure that a viable market exists for customizable razors. To make the launch of Razor Maker bigger, Gillette should consider using its mega brand to advertise the concept to more consumers. Since razors are mostly used in private, Gillette needs to improve the observability and trialability of its Razor Maker line. Displaying prototypes in store next to its current offering could be a way for Gillette to expose the concept to more people and generate purchase interest. Over the medium-term Gillette should experiment more aggressively with additive manufacturing in its production facilities to reduce the time to execute innovation.
A couple of questions still remaining are as follows:
- Given the steep prices of razors and blades in the market today8 and the downward pricing pressure faced by P&G, will Razor Maker will be economically viable?
- Should P&G develop capabilities and expertise in house, given the competitive advantages of additive manufacturing?
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- Procter and Gamble, 2017 Annual Report, p. 37, https://www.pg.com/annualreport2018/static/PG-2018-Annual-Report.pdf, Accessed Nov 12, 2013
- Jack Neff, “WHY P&G’S $57 BILLION BET ON GILLETTE HASN’T PAID OFF BIG – YET,” adage.com, Feb 15, 2010, https://adage.com/article/news/marketing-p-g-s-57-billion-bet-gillette-years/142116/, Accessed Nov 12, 2018
- Andrea Cheng, “P&G’s Gillette Woes Have Translated To This Good News For Consumers”, Forbes, Jan 24, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/andriacheng/2018/01/24/pgs-gillette-woes-have-translated-to-this-good-news-for-consumers/#fbe32b57d54d, Accessed Nov 12, 2018
- Nathaniel Meyersohn, “Beards are back. That’s bad news for Gillette”, money.cnn.com, Aug 8, 2018, https://money.cnn.com/2018/08/08/news/companies/razors-shaving-blades-gillette-braun-harrys-dollar-shave-club/index.html, Accessed Nov 12, 2018
- Richard D’Aveni, “The 3-D Printing Playbook,” Harvard Business Review, July-Aug 2018 Issue https://hbr.org/2018/07/the-3-d-printing-playbook, Accessed Nov 12, 2018.
- “Gillette Partners with Formlabs – a Boston Startup Defining the 3D-Printing Industry – to Pilot Razor Maker™ Concept, Enabling Consumers to Personalize and 3D Print Razor Handles”, Business Wire, Oct 17, 2018, https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20181017005532/en/Gillette-Partners-Formlabs-%E2%80%93-Boston-Startup-Defining, Accessed Nov 12, 2018
- “Gillette Uses 3D Printing to Unlock Consumer Personalization,” FormLabs Blog, Oct 17, 2018, https://formlabs.com/blog/gillette-uses-3d-printing-to-unlock-consumer-personalization/, Accessed Nov 12, 2018.
- Sharon Terlep, “Gillette, Bleeding Market Share, Cuts Prices of Razors”, Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/rather-than-add-more-blades-to-its-razors-gillette-trims-prices-1511960400, Accessed Nov 12, 2018.