The first thing you notice about this razor is the weight.
The handle’s got heft.
Comprised of five pieces of metal, it immediately feels more throwback than throwaway. This is exactly what Shavelogic is aiming for.
Launching this week, Shavelogic is the newest entrant into the $11 billion global shaving and razor market. It’s not a subscription club, nor does it have a hilariously viral marketing launch video a la Dollar Shave Club. Instead, the startup is relying on an almost fanatical dedication to R&D and patents that it believes will give it an advantage over the current market leaders.
“What we see here is the ability to compete on product, instead of price,” says Shavelogic CEO and cofounder Rob Wilson. “The new competitors [like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s] came in and competed on price, but just introduced a product that was inferior to what was already out there, or the same as the lower-tier stuff.”
Between its handle and its blades—which attach to the handle via a magnet—the company has filed 158 patents around the world, and established a new razor factory in Illinois, which Wilson believes positions it to deliver a better product for a comparable price to Gillette’s top razor. (Gillette’s ProGlide Shield costs $22 with four blades; ShaveLogic’s intro pack with four blades is $25.)
Even though Shavelogic is just launching this week, the Dallas-based company has been battling Gillette in both court and patent offices for years.
Back in January 2015, Proctor & Gamble’s Gillette filed suit against the then-unknown company and four of its current employees (all Gillette vets), seeking an injunction to stop the former employees from disclosures involving its confidential information and trade secrets. The shaving goliath, which sells more than $7 billion annually in personal grooming products, requested a jury trial and unspecified damages against the startup which had yet to sell a single razor.
In 2017, a Massachusetts judge dismissed the suit and allowed a Shavelogic countersuit to continue against P&G, claiming that Gillette intentionally interfered with its prospective business relations and violated the consumer protection statute of Massachusetts. Shavelogic’s fight with Gillette wasn’t confined to Massachusetts either. The company was also forced to defend its intellectual property at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
“We had revenues of zero, and we were challenged by a $350 billion market cap company,” says Wilson. “What we got out of it was validation of our IP [intellectual property]. Being able to withstand the challenge like that brought the company together and really made us so strong.”
Wilson says Shavelogic’s brand is based on two pillars. One, the shave. “This is the best shave of your life, guaranteed,” he says. “We know that what hasn’t been brought to the space is an improvement in shave quality.”
And second, is the gear. “We lean in on the quality and the craftsmanship,” says Wilson. “That’s a bit of a lost art. We guarantee the handle for life. If you don’t find this is the best shave of your life, send it back and we’ll give you your money back. If you ever have a problem with this handle, we’ll send you a new one.”
Of course, quality of shave is incredibly subjective. This guy’s got a thick beard and angled face. This other guy’s got chubby cheeks and peach fuzz. Over there’s a chin dimple you could smuggle a grape in. Or the Adam’s apple that looks like he swallowed an avocado whole. You can have a laundry list of patents for everything from certain blade positions, blade spans, and blade pivoting (and Shavelogic does), but the experience ultimately depends on a guy’s face. Wilson’s best ever claim is basically its own form of marketing—and it evokes Gillette’s marketing playbook since it launched the Sensor in 1990, the first razor with spring-loaded blades—but at least he’s backing it up with a money back guarantee.
All this patent and tech talk is a far cry from the back-to-simplicity message ushered in by Dollar Shave Club (“Your handsome-ass grandfather had one blade and polio!”) and Harry’s, which brought back the halcyon days of the three-blade late ’90s. Nor is it targeting a specifically underserved market like Tristan Walker‘s Bevel (which he sold to P&G in 2018). Shavelogic also isn’t an explicitly direct-to-consumer model, as it’s starting with online sales but already has plans to get into retail by the end of the year.
Columbia Business School marketing professor Olivier Toubia says Shavelogic’s approach, like the weight of its handle, is a throwback. “In a way what they’re doing is how innovation is supposed to work and has worked for centuries—you invest in R&D, you create IP, you get patents for protection, and that’s how you get market share to get a return on your investment,” says Toubia. “Even though this is something we’re less used to in recent years, when it’s been about marketing, positioning, and new business models, what they’re doing is kind of a traditional way of innovation around just making better products.”
That said, Toubia warns that simply having a better product is seldom enough to take on industry leaders, particularly ones the size of Gillette that commands up to 60% of the global market. It was here where Dollar Shave Club had an advantage. It pitched itself as the anti-Gillette and made it easy to get its products, bypassing traditional marketing and distribution channels. “It’s not common to see startups these days with new technology they patent and trying to compete head to head with incumbents on their own turf,” says Toubia.
Wilson sees this as Shavelogic’s primary differentiator. Forget the gimmicks, his . . . er, logic is that people are sick of buying into marketing hype only to be let down by the product. “We are not a DTC company. We’re not a club. We are a maker, not a marketer,” he says. “What we have is this robust patent portfolio of inventions, and our job is to make sure to commercialize those inventions the best way we can.”
To do that, the company has advertising hall of famer Stan Richards, founder of The Richards Group, on its board. The tagline at launch is, “Defy Convention” pushing hard to attract potential customers that will be swayed by the tech and performance claims. “Engineers will use it to get a better shave and then study it to become better engineers,” says Wilson, reciting another tagline.
Shavelogic has spent so long battling Gillette behind the scenes, but now, finally, the razor fight will be right in front of our faces.