One of the rituals that my late father followed religiously was his morning shave.  A blue plastic mug was filled with hot water, a shaving brush wet and lathered with soap and then off he went, standing before a small mirror in his vest with braces hanging from his waist.

I was prompted to think about this recently when I encountered this in our bath bridge recently.  As the only male in our household, the shaving ritual might have been confined to me once upon a time, but now everyone needs a razor.  (It still doesn’t explain why there were five when there are only four of us though!)

What it does demonstrate is marketing power.  I’ll use razors as my example.  The scene I’ve described above probably remained unchanged for decades, but in 1971 shaving started on a slippery slope when Gillette introduced the Trac II, the first twin bladed razor.  A few years later the pivoting head made an appearance, then in 1990 spring-loaded blades joined the armoury.  Gillette’s first razor for women was launched then too.

In the years that have followed we’ve had micro-fins to stretch the skin, lubricating strips, three blades, four blades, five blades, and introduction of battery power to try to capture the electric shaver market too.

Of course all of these additional features cost money, so the price and doubtless the profitability of the simple razor goes up too.

Now I’m a believer in lean manufacturing, which states that any process that you build into the production of your product or service should be something the customer is willing to pay for, and doubtless the main razor manufacturers would say this is so.  My question is do we pay for it because it really improves the results or because we’re told that it does?

Personally I find the multi-bladed heads to large to properly get under my nose with the consequence that they get up my nose instead, but I might not mind so much if there was a real benefit in its place.  Now I’m sure some analyst at Procter & Gamble (Gillette’s owners) could provide data to demonstrate how many extra microns of beard are removed by a four blade razor rather than a five blade, but in a blind test could a punter (or their partner) really tell the difference.  Personally I doubt it, but of course you have to keep up with progress, so we’ll stop making those old and perfectly adequate razors that don’t cost so much to make sure you buy the new version anyway!

The best a man can get?  Hmmm.  It’s not just Gillette either.  Their main rival in the arms race Wilkinson Sword now sell their Hydra range featuring a hydrating gel.  Isn’t that what shaving foam is for?!??!?!?!?  Wonder what a marketing guru like Seth Godin would make of all this.

Anyway to accompany this rant I decided to photograph someone immune from this frustration and spotted Ryan who looked like he needed a distraction from the two girls who were giving him a hard time.  Here’s a man who doesn’t shave I thought as I raised the camera.  Then he took his hat off!


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