Shaving innovation

Consumers are stupid, and product marketing people feed their stupidity (and should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves and pursue a worthwhile career instead).

This thought occurred to me this morning when I was shaving in the bath.  My shaver is one of these 5 bladed things from Gillette*.  I noticed that the third blade had very few whiskers on it and the fourth and fifth blade were entirely clean.  It then occurred to me that I was paying 40% extra for blades that would never be used.  They could make these blades from jelly (jello for my American readers) and nobody would ever know.

In the olden days when the two bladed razor was invented, I thought this was a useful innovation.  I remember speculating that it would only be a matter of time until they came up with the 3-bladed razor.  Now a further 3 blades later, is it really possible that some marketing specialist will write a blog in a decade’s time saying how wonderful the new 10 bladed razor is?

My sister works for that bit of Procter & Gamble that used to be Gillette, so I pay for few of my razors.  Such is the expense of these refill razors that she has taken to giving me refills for birthday and Christmas presents.  Initially, I remember questioning why she was giving me something I would buy myself, but now it feels like someone has given me a gold ingot.

I’ve noticed that, as each blade is added, they change both the stem of the razor and the connector that joins the blade and the stem.  As with so many business models these days (for example, printers), the cost of the razor plus one blade is not too high.  Procter & Gamble make money solely from the sale of refill razors.  I assume also that the margins on these 5 bladed razors are also much higher for the retail outlet, which explains why you have to crawl on your hands and knees if you want a legacy refill of the “out-of-date” three bladed model.

I can’t really see the point of some of the innovations either.  My last two razors have been battery operated so that the razor buzzes and the razor itself presumably jags around a bit.  I don’t really understand why you want to simulate the shaving style you are going to have when you get Parkinson’s, but I still change the battery.  As for the strip that changes colour when you should change your blade, I believe this may be an innovation that benefits Gillette rather than the user.

A curse on Procter & Gamble’s house.   I hope a Taliban-inspired movement will deprive you of all your shaving business**

*6 if you include the useful one on the back

**This is a joke and in no way should be read as an endorsement for the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jon France on November 22, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    But the really, drive me out of my mind, chore is having to go to customers services at the supermarket to pick up the blades after checkout – not because it is a blade and kids might just give themselves a clean shave ‘elf n safety’ measure but because they are valuable and might get stolen ! I notice that the disposables are not treated in the same way – even though a pack of those (admittedly around 10) is the same price
    8 hours ago · Like


  2. Posted by Richard Turner on November 22, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Richard Turner I like innovation in razors as it allows me to continue to buy disposable refillable razors. I just wait for some ‘new’ invention and buy the ‘new’ razor which always starts out at half-price and considerably less than a packet of refills for my ‘old’ razor.

    The issue of blades is surely just a marketing one. What can be better than 2 blades? Three blades of course! I do wonder when it will end however, perhaps with a razor like a shark’s mouth with blades that move forwards when the old ones go blunt.

    I also am concerned by the fact that this marketing nonsense is moving to deodorants. First Lynx bring out a 24-hour spray and Sure follow suit. So then someone thinks what can be better than 24 hours? 48 hours of course! I don’t want to be with people that need 48 hour deodorant, i want to be with people who wash at least once a day.

    Incidentally, I currently have one of those razors that soaks unsuspecting joggers during use. I have to say it’s the best razor that I’ve ever used. Not for you though Julian, it’s made by the other side.


  3. Posted by Melville on November 22, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    I still have a single blade razor and a packet of blades, but I take your point on the superfluity of cutting edges, although I have only risen to the ranks of having three blades. When I was a young man in the army, where a close shave was de rigour I acquired the then new Wilkinson Sword razor with a packet of blades. That was a blade, I think one lasted me a year. That was not a marketing success.
    Going back a few more years one of my brothers had a Rolls Razor which was effective capable of being resharpened. The inventor (or seller) moved onto washing-machines and went bust. My father, like many of his age solved the problem by using a “cut-throat” razor resharpening it on a leather strop. That method really gives the closest shave, as no doubt you have experienced in lands where such luxuries are readily available and affordable.


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