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Gillette was one of the leading brands of razors and blades in the world, known for its tagline ‘The Best A

man Can Get’. Founded in 1901, the company was known for innovative devices that allowed men to get a

close shave at home.1 Gillette’s product mix in 2020 included seven razor lines: the Fusion5, Mach3, G5,

ProShield, ProGlide, SkinGuard, and disposable razors, as well as related grooming products such as

shaving creams and beard conditioner, among others2.

Although initially in independent firm, Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) acquired the Gillette brand in 20053,

adding it to their collection of major razors brands which included Braun and Venus. Of P&G’s razor

brands, the most successful was Gillette.4


In 2020, the major brands of men’s razors in the U.S. included Gillette, Dollar Shave Club (owned by

Unilever), as well as Schick and Harry’s (both owned by Edgewell Personal Care Co.). Of the major brands,

the most dominant were Gillette and Schick, which had the strongest brand recognitions and largest budgets

for consumer research and product innovation.5 Overall, P&G held approximately 47% of the US market

share, Edgewell Personal Care Co. held approximately 21% of the market share.6 Unilever held less than

10% of the US market share, and the remainder of the market share was distributed among smaller

independent brands.

Competition in the industry increased in the 2000’s due to the emergence of several new entrants with

innovative business models. Dollar Shave Club entered the market in 2009 as a direct, online, subscription

based option for razors – a business model that stood out in comparison to other brands. The subscription

service was very popular with users in the United States – by 2019 the Dollar Shave Club had over 4 million

users.7 Unilever purchased the brand for $1 billion in 20168. Like Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s – which

entered the market in 2012 – offered a subscription and primarily sold their products online, although they

were available in a limited number retail outlets. Schick offered a variety of razors which were sold via the

brand website and in traditional retail outlets.

P&G’s recent and projected industry revenues (in millions) were: 2015 ($1,510), 2016 ($1,180), 2017

($1,253), 2018 ($1,348), 2019 ($1,225) and 2020 (projected at $1,211).9 Edgewell Personal Care Co.’s

recent and projected industry revenues (in millions) were: 2015 ($614), 2016 ($600), 2017 ($573), 2018

($586), 2019 ($572) and 2020 (projected at $541).10 In 2010, 70% of razors sold in the U.S. Gillette razors

but by 2019 less than 50% of razors sold were Gillette razors.11 Analysts predicted that new entrants such

as Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s would continue to erode the market share of major brands, like Gillette

and Schick.12

1 Dr Karen Robson wrote this case solely to provide material for class discussion. The author does not intend to illustrate either effective or

ineffective handling of a managerial situation.


Most consumers of men’s razors and blades were young – specifically, Millennials accounted for 30-40%

of consumers, and Generation X accounted for about 30%13. In addition, although the users of Gillette

products were men, 45% of people who actually purchased Gillette products were women who purchased

razors and blades for male partners14.

Many men considered shaving a necessity, causing razors and shaving related products to be considered

non-discretionary purchases. 15 In deciding what brand of razor to purchase, consumers would often choose

a more expensive brand or product if they believed it would provide a higher quality shave. 16

In the 2000’s, men in the United States were shaving less frequently than had been the case in recent

decades. This trend was, in part, due to changing expectations regarding men’s physical appearances, and

in particular their facial hair, in the workplace. In the 1990’s and earlier, career-oriented men in the U.S.

were expected to be clean-shaven. However, facial hair had become much more acceptable in professional

settings, and more men were arriving to their workplaces with facial hair or stubble.17 Massimiliano

Menozzi, the VP of Gillette North America said: “Today, men are not judged negatively when they skip a

shave — it is not considered lazy or disrespectful”18. In addition, changes to trends in men’s facial hair also

required new grooming devices: in order to groom beards, more men were using specialty grooming

products and electric razors. 19

The new mentality towards men’s facial hair had an impact on grooming habits, with men shaving two

times less per month in 2018 than they did in 200820. In 2020 and 2021, the frequency of men’s shaving

was thought to have dropped even lower, as more men opted to grow beards amid stay at home orders

during the COVID-19 pandemic. 21


The Early Years: Gillette Promotions Prior to 2000

In the past, Gillette’s advertisements had included themes related to sports and masculinity. In the early

1900’s for example, Gillette featured baseball and football stars in its print ads22, as well as pictures of

regular men.

Gillette introduced its now-iconic tagline ‘The best a man can get’ in 1989; at the time, this tagline was

intended to target “the alpha male…working for Wall Street… [who] always got the girl in the end.” 23 For

example, one of the first video advertisements24 using this tagline celebrated men getting married, being

fathers, engaging in business activities and getting promotions, being involved in romantic encounters, and

playing sports.25 Gillette advertisements in the 1990’s contained similar themes.26

Gillette Promotions in 2000 and Beyond

Gillette advertisements since the year 2000 have featured major athletes, including soccer player David

Beckham, Tennis player Roger Federer, and golfer Tiger Woods27. In addition, their ads in the 2000’s often

touted the innovative technology behind Gillette razors and blades.28

Gillette Ads Featuring David Beckham and Roger Federer

In the late 2010’s Gillette pivoted, attempting to depict “a richer, more updated and relevant depiction of

men”.29 For instance, 2019 Gillette aired a video which showed a father teaching his transgender son how

to shave30, as well as their controversial ‘The Best Men Can Be’ ad.31 In their ‘The Best Men Can Be’ video,

boys and men were depicted bullying each other, and harassing women; after this, the video asked whether

this behaviour was “the best a man can get”. At the end, the ad called into question the adage of “boys being

boys”, saying that this notion was no longer acceptable as an excuse for the bad behaviours of men, and

saying that the future called for a higher standard of behaviour.

Viewers were divided in terms of their opinion of the Gillette ‘The Best Men Can Be’ video. Approximately

one month after the video became available on YouTube, it had been viewed over 31 million times and

gained approximately 800,000 likes compared to 1.5 million dislikes. Viewers who did not like the ad

suggested that it was patronizing and unfair towards many men whose behavior was not problematic32.

Comments that praised the ad often mentioned the fact that the ad confronted a harmful culture of male

privilege and toxic masculinity. Some defended the ad, saying that it was ‘pro-humanity’ rather than being

‘anti-man’.33 Some commented that people who were offended by the ad were likely the exact people who

engaged in bad behavior such as harassing women.34 Following calls for boycotts of the brand, Gillette

doubled down on its message and committed to donating $3 million to non-profits in the US that focused

on helping men become role models.35 A dedicated link to Gillette’s ‘The Best A Man Can Be’ initiative

remains on their U.S. website as of 2021.36

Case Questions

1. Referring to the advertisements that are linked throughout this document, compare and contrast Gillette’s advertisements in 1989, vs the 1990s, vs the 2010s. Throughout this period of time, what has (or has not) changed about Gillette’s advertisements? (To see the ads, please go to the links on BB).



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