Razors are commodities, but that hasn’t stopped Gillette et al., from trying to find ways to extract marginally more money from innovation-hungry consumers. We started down that path in fairly defensible fashion, with Trac II razors that did, demonstrably, shave better than single-bladed razors.
But that innovation merely created an arms race, so to speak. If two blades are better, then how about three blades (Gillette’s Mach3), or even four blades (Schick’s Quattro)? If consumers want and are willing to pay for more blades, then razor providers are happy to provide more blades.
The trouble is, at some point the “just add blades” game becomes a loser. After all, in the limit, to borrow some calculus, as the number of blades increases to infinity — or maybe just to six or seven — the razor’s face becomes all blade. There just isn’t enough room on a razor to keep on adding blades ad infinitum.
Which bring us to the latest news from Gillette. According to a piece in Forbes, the company on Thursday will likely announce a men’s razor with a vibrating handle and maybe even a self-heating blade. Granted, these sound like baffling innovations — what, precisely, does a vibrating handle do for me: give me more tactile feedback while shaving? — but count on Gillette to come up with a magnificently urgent unmet need that is newly met by Gillette’s soon-to-be-announced razor thingie.
Silliness aside, there is some sense here. Both new features require power, and given that you’re dousing the razor with water, power means batteries. Guess what? Gillette owns Duracell. The upshot is that the old marketing saw may finally have to change: It’s no longer that you give away the handle and make your money selling razorblades; now you give away the blade and the handle and then try to make it up on batteries. Isn’t capitalism fun?