June 28, 2009King of Shaves

The story of a successful product launch…

I hate paying for razor blades. But beards are for students and hippies, and I’m neither — any more. So when my old Wilkinson Sword broke, I nearly cried. ‘Another expense,’ I muttered, cursing the fact I’d have to fork out for a new razor on top of the usual mountain of blades it takes to trim my thick-and-fast stubble every month.

Hurrying through the toiletries aisle, my eyes were drawn straight to the King of Shaves, a relative newcomer to the market. I picked one up because of the price. They’re 1/3 off in Tesco at the moment. But there was more to my decision than just that.

I read an article about the King of Shaves quite recently. The truth is, I can’t remember where. I just know I read about it. That’s lesson #1. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where your brand recognition comes from, so long as your customer remembers your name. Then I checked the regular price. A pack of new blades is priced at about 15% cheaper than my usual brand. That’s lesson #2. If they were half the price, i.e. cheap, I’d probably have stayed away, reasoning that they’d probably only be half as good. But they were priced competitively. So I was reassured by the price and the brand, but still happy that I’d be saving a little money.

How was the shave? Actually, it was pretty bloody good. King of Shaves markets itself as a no-frills underdog — the plain design accentuates this point without making the razor feel cheap. Like other reviewers, I had a little trouble at first (got my first shaving cut in years) but that’s only because (and here comes lesson #3) this razor actually works. It’s the closest shave I’ve had in years, and with considerably less irritation. All in all, I’m a pretty happy customer.

King of Shaves is a perfect example of how to market a new product in a challenging environment. Gillette control about 70% of the market. Here’s a product that’s a potential giant-killer. The fundamentals are there: a good product at a good price. But the marketing’s spot on too. The name’s bold and brash and holds its own against the ludacrisly hyperbolic Mach 3! Fusion! Quattro Titanium Precision! et al that litter the shelves at the moment. It’s a confident looking product that inspired confidence in me. I even like the fact that the designer’s mug is splashed all over their marketing material. Again, it screams confidence.

The economist Geoff Riley probably puts it best, explaining King of Shaves’ success here:

King of Shaves as the challenger brand has benefited from its willingness to take risks, use smart marketing campaigns, and change the pricing model which had become embedded in the industry and from its commitment to innovation and top level engineering skills in designing and modifying new products to meet changing consumer needs and wants.

What he leaves out is the sheer confidence of the brand. As a rapidly expanding company they’ve gone for an unusual way of raising money, offering 5000 ‘shaving bonds‘ with a return of 6%pa for the next three years, direct to their customers.

This is a brand that has confidence written all over it. This is a brand that looks like it could take on the big names and win. But I’m sure you’ve got that message by now. It’s rare that I’m impressed by a marketing campaign, but I can really see this one going a long way. It doesn’t surprise me that Will King, the company’s founder, is a former ad man. In fact, looking at the evidence, it’s pretty obvious.

If I had a grand to spare right now, I’d probably buy one of those shaving bonds — even though they’re relatively untested.

I don’t have a grand to spare, alas. I’ll just have to make do with having the closest shave I’ve had in years. But that alone makes me think this brand will go far.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 28th, 2009 at 2:40 am and is filed under Blog, Branding. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Will King says:

    hi, many thanks for your post – i’ll tweet it out! appreciated, will

  2. […] a one-man outfit, or the boss of a much larger operation — it’s why I thought the promo campaign for the King of Shaves was so powerful. Sometimes, you have to be your own […]

  3. redwaz says:

    Ditto, to everything you said(wrote).

    Mainly price.

    One small irritation, pardon the pun, I have a beard and I drive a truck, so does my mate. We are neither students or hippies. So what does that make us? maybe we will just leave it shall we?

    Love this font.

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