King of Shaves takes on Wilkinette
Will King, Founder and CEO of the fast-growing King of Shaves brand gave a superb presentation to the National Conference for Economics Teachers in London last week. The business was founded in 1993 and sixteen years later King of Shaves is making significant in-roads into the market for male and female shaving and grooming products. The battle against Wilkinette is well and truly joined but - as with most entrepreneurial success stories - the challenge of establishing a foothold in an oligopolistic market dominated by two corporate giants has not been smooth.
The talk focused on the strategies adopted by King of Shaves to make the market for shaving products more contestable. Will King’s team has been at the forefront of using social connection technologies such as Facebook, Blogs and Twitter as a way of marketing their products to specific audiences, notable younger shavers who are completely at home with web 2.0 technology.
The barriers to entry in this market are huge - it takes six years to launch a new razor and over 20,000 patents surround the razor blade product space.
But King of Shaves as the challenger brand has benefitted from its willingness to take risks, use smart marketing campaigns, and change the pricing model which had become embedded in the industry and from its commitment to innovation and top level engineering skills in designing and modifying new products to meet changing consumer needs and wants.
Key to breaking into markets and changing the nature of demand has been to challenge the pricing tactic of using razor handles as a loss-leader and then fleecing the consumer with monopolistic pricing for the replacement cartridges. The new Azor razor uses cutting edge technology (sorry!) but the price of cartridges is less than half of the rival brands. Gillette and Wilkinson Sword have responded through aggressive price discounting for the handles (they are on almost permanent promotion in the supermarkets) but they seem unable and unwilling to move from their core strategy of huge margins on the cartridges.
It was so refreshing to hear from an entrepreneur who is at the heart of a British success story in an industry where innovation in all of its guises is critical to business survival and growth. With King of Shaves launching successfully in Japan and now looking towards the United States, this is a brand whose stock is firmly on an upward trajectory.