Brands continually add new ingredients, flavoring and benefits to their products in order to get consumers to think they are new, different and worthy of their dollars. They know that consumers respond to innovation; they want “new news.” But for certain categories, there’s only so far they can go with innovation.
This idea struck me this morning as I was shaving, because let’s face it (pun intended): the need state of that category hasn’t changed in about a thousand years. Hair grows on face. Man solves problem by shaving hair off of his face. Hair still grows at the same speed. The desired effect hasn’t changed. Comfort has always been an issue, which is why – while you used to buy aftershave to soothe your skin — shavers now have lubricant built in. And whereas there used to only be one blade, now there are five, plus an extra one on back for precision (and yes, the extra blades DO make a difference). Unfortunately, no one can really own the idea of how many blades there are. So where to now? Gillette already tried putting a battery in their shaver and had to settle a class action lawsuit challenging their claims as false.
The truth is, razors don’t really need to be that different – which is why brands have made this into what I call a “confusion category.” Too much overcompensation to make every aspect of a product seem innovative only serves to confuse the consumer. To see what I mean, take a look at these offerings from Bic, Schick and Gillette. Notice how many brands and trademarks are layered on each product.
BIC® Comfort 3® Advance™ shavers
BIC® Soleil® Bella™ scented shaver
Schick® Xtreme3® FITstyle® refresh shavers
Schick® Quattro® Titanium® Trimmer shavers
Gillette® Fusion® ProGlide™ Power razor with MicroComb™
Gillette® Venus® Spa Breeze™ razor
Gillette® Fusion® ProGlide™ Hydra Smooth™ Shave Gel
Several other “confusion categories” come to mind: toothpaste, laundry detergent and cold remedies, to name a few. Is it really necessary for certain brands to force innovation? Or do you think it’s all leading to a dulling of these brands, instead of making them stand out on shelves?