In the last year alone, sales of men's grooming products grew by 11%, with men in America alone spending $10 billion on making themselves look good.
This isn't a new trend. It's been going on for over a decade, since the word "metrosexual" first became prominent. While women are actually spending less on their appearance since the recession hit, men are more willing than ever to pay the price to look good.
Gillette, a perennial leader in men's grooming products, wanted to make sure they weren't left behind; in 2010, they were intent on beating back other manufacturers like Schick, which had just introduced a new premium razor system, the Hydro, whose sales were beginning to top Gillette's.
When Gillette released its highest-priced razor system yet, the Fusion ProGlide, two months after the Hydro hit the stores, it was an unparalleled success; within ten weeks of its launch, the company had sold 2.5 million Fusion ProGlide razors, making it the world's best-selling razor. The Hydro had sold well—but the ProGlide sold more.
How did Gillette not only capitalize on a growing trend, but also conquer it? They put three key 21st-century branding success secrets into action:
* BUILD ON BRAND SUCCESS
Back in 2006, Gillette rolled out its Fusion sub-brand, in what was called its "most significant" launch up until that time. At the same time, it introduced a variety of new grooming products that were also branded under the Fusion name. The success of that launch and the Fusion line provided a springboard for Gillette to introduce its new premium razor, the Fusion ProGlide. They had already invested heavily to establish the Fusion name with its target market, and the ProGlide took advantage of that investment.
* ENGAGE YOUR CONSUMER BASE
Every boy in America has to register with the U.S. Selective Service, just in case the military draft is reactivated. Gillette purchased that list from the government in 2010. And soon, every teenage male turning eighteen found himself receiving a Happy Birthday note from Gillette, as well as a free Fusion ProGlide razor. For the razor's launch, Gillette also offered guys in the street and even in locker rooms a free impromptu shave with the razor. In short, it allowed its target market to easily sample its wares and get hooked on the Fusion ProGlide experience.
* LEVERAGE SOCIAL MEDIA
Gillette also gave away free razors to bloggers, so they could review it online. They posted online videos featuring some of the unscripted product trials they set up with average Joes across America. There was a concerted effort to let the people sell the product for Gillette. As Michelle Potorski, associate marketing director for Gillette male shaving in North America put it, "Instead of Gillette telling people it was great, we asked people to try it and leveraged the social media space."
A powerful brand strategy can bring about powerful results in the marketplace, especially if the product itself is a winner. Gillette, to paraphrase its 1950's advertising jingle, looked sharp and was sharp, and created a marketing system that motivated ProGlide's target customers to serve as the razor's biggest advocates.
[Image: Flickr user Dave Rutt]