Gillette knows men. Not only does the company understand what products men desire for their grooming needs; it understands how to market to men in different countries, cultures, and languages around the world. Today, Gillette holds a commanding lead in the shaving and razor business with a 70 percent global market share and $8 billion in annual sales. More than 800 million men use Gillette products, helping to generate a brand value of $22.9 billion. Gillette’s mass appeal is a result of several factors, including high-quality innovation, extensive consumer research, and successful mass communications.
Since the invention of the safety razor by King C. Gillette in 1901, Gillette has made a number of breakthrough product innovations. These include the Trac II, the first twin-blade shaving system in 1971, a razor with a pivoting head called the Atra in 1977, and the first razor with spring-mounted twin blades dubbed the Sensor in 1989. In 1998, Gillette introduced the first triple-blade system, Mach3, which became a billion-dollar brand surpassed only by the 2006 launch of the six-blade Fusion, promoted as “the best shave on the planet.” Today, the Fusion and Fusion ProGlide account for approximately 45 percent of men’s razors sold in the United States.
While Gillette has launched high-quality products, the company’s impressive marketing knowledge and mass marketing campaigns have helped it achieve international success. Traditionally, it uses one global marketing message rather than individual targeted messages for each country or region. This message is backed by a wide spectrum of advertising support, including athletic sponsorships, television campaigns, in-store promotions, print ads, online advertising, and direct marketing.
Perhaps the most critical element is sports marketing. Gillette ads have featured baseball heroes such as Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, and Honus Wagner since 1910, and the company’s sponsorship of Major League Baseball dates to 1939. The brand’s natural fit with baseball and tradition has helped the company connect emotionally and literally with its core audience. Tim Brosnan, EVP for Major League Baseball, explains, “Gillette is a sports marketing pioneer that paved the way for modern day sports sponsorship and endorsements.” Gillette has formed strong ties to football as well. The company has sponsored the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Rose Bowl. Today, it spends $7 million annually to sponsor Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, and is a corporate sponsor of the NFL.
Gillette has also sponsored boxing matches, NCAA Basketball, NCAA Football, NASCAR, PGA Tour, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. Internationally, the company has sponsored events such as the FIFA World Cup, the UK Tri-Nations rugby tournament, the Gillette Cup in Cricket, and Formula One racing. Greg Via, Global Director of Sports Marketing, explains, “We have an 18-month cycle that starts with a brand strategy. We produce a lot of products on a global basis, and we try to holistically leverage our major partnerships. That requires a lot of planning and work. We’re not a company that is going to leverage a partnership with one commercial and one SKU. We wrap our arms around a partnership with TV, digital, social media and in-store promotions.” The company often integrates creativity into its sponsorships as well. For example, it transformed Zambonis into giant Fusion razors at NHL games to create the illusion that a Gillette razor had just given the ice a perfectly smooth shave.
Gillette also partners with individual athletes to communicate its marketing messages and reflect the brand’s image. In 2004, the company signed soccer star David Beckham to appear in its advertising and promotional campaigns around the world. In 2007, it launched the Gillette Champions program, highlighting the athletic accomplishments of Roger Federer, Thierry Henry, and Tiger Woods. It has featured baseball superstar Derek Jeter, soccer star Park Ji-Sung, motorcycle champion Kenan Sofuoglu, cricketer Rahul Dravid, and several NFL players.
While sports marketing is a critical element of Gillette’s marketing strategy, the brand aims to reach every man and therefore also aligns with musical acts, video games, and movies. In one James Bond film, Goldfinger, a Gillette razor contained a homing device.
Gillette’s advertising has resonated well with consumers over the years and left behind some of the most familiar taglines in advertising history. Two of the best known are “Look Sharp, Feel Sharp” and the current “The Best a Man Can Get.”
When Procter & Gamble acquired Gillette in 2005 for $57 billion (a record 5-times sales), it aimed to gain more than sales and profit. P&G, an expert on marketing to women, wanted to learn about marketing to men on a global scale, and no one tops Gillette. Today, shaving and grooming make up 9 percent of P&G’s total revenues, and razors are one of its most profitable businesses, with operating margins of 31 percent.
Source: Kotler Philip T., Keller Kevin Lane (2015), Marketing Management, Pearson; 15th Edition.