Gillette’s highly marketable and functionally useful product idea

I used to shave every day when I indulged in the 9-6 rigmarole of full-time employment till early-2018. And I used to hate that task. I shave once a week now 🙂

To be fair, the devices we use to shave these days are far easier to use and comfortable. Like most men, I have a Gillette safety razor that has ‘many’ blades. The blade count of a safety razor is competing with the camera count in a smartphone – the respective industries keep increasing the number to entice more uses year after year.

But, because it was a daily task, it became a chore. And chores are monotonous and boring. If shaving self was a boring chore, I considered if I have ever shaved someone else. No, not that I could ever recall!

In India, given the number of barbershops in almost every road/area, getting a shave is not a big deal. But what if the person who needs a shave cannot go to a barbershop? That’s not a big deal too, at least in India – you could call the barber home and many of them come home and do it for whoever needs a shave.

All this played on my mind when I came across Gillette Treo, the world’s first razor built for assisted shaving!

From what I understand, the idea came from the advertising agency Grey (which has now been merged with AKQA. In fact, Proctor & Gamble’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard has sought “demanded reassurance the Grey brand won’t be completely retired“!) back in 2017, and it even entered TIME Magazine’s “Inventions of the Year” that year.

Treo looks very unique. I stumbled on it through a news report about P&G’s new blue-bottled disinfectant that became a hit during the pandemic, in The Wall Street Journal. The publication had added the photo of Treo and I couldn’t look past it given that unique shape and design.

Grey and Gillette Innovation and Research & Design worked together to take a fresh look at how a razor is designed. The razor has always been designed for self-use, never as a tool for someone to shave someone else! For that, the professionals (barbers) use a shaving blade, even today.

But what if that someone is not a professional, and is simply a daughter or a wife or a son of an older person who is unable to shave by himself for some reason (there could be any number of reasons – age-related problems with motor functions, coordination; being bed-ridden among others).

One option, if they could afford it, is to use an electric shaver. There are many brands of electric shavers these days, both for dry and wet shaving. But, for a normal shave without involving an electric shaver or a shaving blade, there are no shaving razors designed for assisted shaving.

The product’s design does have a lot of thought.

The blade comes with a safety comb, that supposedly helps protect against nicks and cuts (particularly the ones the actual user won’t be able to feel!). The blade does not face inward, as it does in standard razors – it faces outward!

The handle seems chunky, unlike a standard razor’s thin handles, and seems to have the perspective flipped, like that of a painter’s instrument. The handle’s body also contains non-foaming gel (that can also be used as an after-shave) in the same device so that a single device works as a full-fledged unit for the entire task.

The shaver is supposed to hold the razor like a painting brush, with one finger on the prominent white circle in the handle, and shave. From what I see, it has a single blade layer, and it is disposable after a shave (the primary business model of Gillette is selling consumables—blades—is the business model).

The larger question is this, though – is this such a big enough need that a specific innovation is required? It may not, or it may be, depending on how we crunch data in specific geographies, but the idea is brilliantly PR’able and marketable.

The headline, “world’s first razor built for assisted shaving” has an alluring ring to it that leads to the whats, whys and hows almost instantly. That it is also a perfectly useable/functional product is a bonus that could win new users who may not have known that they were waiting for a product like this.

Gillette and Grey frame the entire idea under ‘dignity’, by extending the need to shave as a way to gain/restore the self-image and dignity of a man who is unable to shave by himself and is forced to seek assistance. That’s a fair context-setting given how an unshaven face has been long promoted in our societies as unkempt, untidy, and lacking civility.

This is one of those very-advertising, very-PR ideas that crosses the communications-threshold and moves successfully into the functionally useful realm because of the thought lavished in the actual design and usability.

It doesn’t look like Gillette has launched the product in India yet.

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