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One wish left for John Gray?

One wish left for John Gray?

Can a guy used to cleaning up in the garage find just as much market share in the kitchen and the bathroom? John Gray will soon find out.

Electric_Shaver

Like the Genie that used to be part of the corporate name until it was changed to Philips Home Products this last spring, John Gray has made every wish come true for his parent firm, North American Philips Corp.

It was John Gray who rescued Genie garage-door openers after their market share plunged to 17% in 1982. Two years later, it was 34%. In mid-1983 he bought Shelton Jet-Vac and turned a 6% market share into 17%.

But now John Gray must successfully introduce a high-priced line of small kitchen appliances and resurrect the once-high-flying Schick electric-shaver line while competing directly against his parent’s Norelco brand. That’s an assignment that might make even the most skilled marketeer shudder, particularly in the men’s electric-shaver market where Norelco’s market share is nearly 50%.

Yet if you see John Gray at the International Housewares Exposition in Chicago this week, don’t expect to see him retreating into Aladdin’s lamp. After three decades of marketing small appliances, the 50-year-old Philips president and CEO doesn’t frighten easily.

Although the moves into electric shavers and kitchen appliances are Philips’ first excursions outside the garage and come during a year in which sales have been flat, Mr. Gray oozes confidence in both the strategy and the specific task at hand. “Garage-door openers have a 30% penetration and are on a shallow curve to 40%,’ he explains. “We’re inclined to grow faster than that. Besides, we need product expansion to provide profitable new growth–without which I don’t think a company can survive.’

Since his arrival just over four years ago, shop vacuums, garage trash compactors, and keyless entry systems have joined the Genie line. And garagedoor openers are now only 70% of sales, down from 95%.

Gesturing at Schick shavers, he speaks disdainfully of the packaging he inherited from his parent firm–which in 1982 bought the brand two years after it had been discontinued. “It’s just awful,’ he says. “We are repackaging and repositioning the product line’ to the high end of the market. The intent: Upgrade the image of the Schick foil shaver by likening it to the wedgeshaped chisel used by the skilled sculptor.

“We can’t sell at the low end and generate the sales dollars we need to advertise on TV,’ he says. (Schick holds less than 10%–maybe as low as 6%–of the 7-million-unit-a-year men’s electric-shaver market.)

With appliances, Mr. Gray aims to build a high-quality, high-feature image. “There is an opportunity for a protected line,’ he says, now that rival Gillette’s Braun Inc. is moving toward the mass market and problems are plaguing Black & Decker in shifting from the GE name.

Look for John Gray to stick to his knitting and find niches as he diversifies.

Shortly after joining Genie in 1982, he squashed a plan to build kitchen trash compactors because the product didn’t meet Genie’s distribution network. But two years later he approved a portable garage compactor. He moved into shop vacuums because hardware stores had no viable product to compete with Sears, Roebuck. And to spur garage-door-opener sales, this fall he unveiled and Genie Genius, a model that offers extra home-security features.

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Would you buy a shaver from this man?

Remington

In the process of improving the firm’s financial condition, Mr. Kiam launched an aggressive advertising and marketing campaign, with last year’s ad budget topping $25 million.

Remington employees have responded as positively to Mr. Kiam’s advertising message as the public has. Employment has increased 75% since 1979, and the average Remington worker has been with the company for 14 years.

Now that the company is solidly back on the profit trail, Mr. Kiam thinks Remington can continue to expand its market share in its biggest cash cow–electric shavers. He sees further market expansion in the U. S., where electric-shaver market penetration is still well below that of other Western countries.

He is banking on growth from other consumer products as well, although industry experts point out that Remington’s recent attempts to enter new product areas have not made a major contribution to earnings. One of the latest offerings is a home haircut kit.

However, he expects to sustain growth by marketing the already established quality name associated with Remington. And, who else can better market its products than Mr. Kiam?

“When I started doing the shaver commercials in London, our advertising agency wanted to get an actor to do it. But I felt that if anyone was going to tell the Remington story, it had to be me,’ he recalls.

Remington has been profiting from that move ever since. Still, promoting your own company does have its pitfalls. It has placed further time contraints on Mr. Kiam’s schedule. He has to work harder and longer, and there are hours he spends on TV shots that might be better spent at the office.

Still, it has had no effect on the way he manages his business, he says, and in many respects it enhances his ability to communicate the company’s message to Remington employees.

SELF-PROMOTER. Indeed, it takes a particular kind of manager to promote his own company. He can’t be introverted or tongue-tied, and he has to have something to say that no one else can say for him, Mr. Kiam suggests.

In Mr. Kiam’s case, he tells viewers he’ll give them their money back if they’re dissatisfied with the product. “Who else can say that to our customers?’ he asks.

Undoubtedly, placing yourself in the public eye as promoter of your own products places an executive in a unique situation. “All of a sudden you are no longer just an individual, you represent a company. And that kind of recognition just doesn’t fade away,’ he submits.

For example, Mr. Kiam tells the story of a desperate call from the president of a San Francisco publishing company who, like Mr. Kiam, had been doing TV commercials to promote his company. Unfortunately, the executive had been arrested for drunk driving. “He asked me what he should do, and I told him to get off the air quickly,’ Mr. Kiam emphasizes.

Then there’s always the risk of promoting a company as a one-man show. For one thing, the question arises, what happens once Mr. Kiam departs?

That’s anybody’s guess. However, Mr. Kiam himself doesn’t seem very concerned about that scenario because he’s not interested in retiring. “We have become a symbol of an LBO that really worked out well, and when you have a good company and a good product going for you, you don’t think about retiring,’ he asserts.

What he does think about, however, is how he can stimulate other managers to make more products in the U. S. and to expand their exports throughout the world. He has been known to espouse his faith in American workers on many occasions and he has called on U. S. managers to fight back against foreign competition instead of buckling under.

He has also made a lifetime crusade of promoting the entrepreneurial spirit in America, which he elaborates on extensively in his book, Going For It.

“I have a job to do and I try to do it well. All I can hope is that others do the same,’ Mr. Kiam says.

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Wilkinson steps up razor war

New technology is behind a challenge to the Sensor. Louise Atkinson reports

There wouldn’t appear to be much scope left for innovation in the razor market — chins have polarised over recent years between the wet shaved and the dry.

But now Wilkinson Sword is bringing out a hybrid, the Protector, which looks more like an ergonomically-styled toothbrush, and claims to incorporate the “no nicks” technology of the electric shaver with the closeness and freshness of a Bic disposable and a sink-full of soapy warm water.

The Wilkinson Sword marketing aim is to challenge the dominant position of arch-rival Gillette with a product to compete with its highly successful Sensor brand, which launched back in 1989, while making a bid for a share of the inflexibly ingrained dry-shave market.

electric razor

At the heart of Wilkinson Sword’s affrontery lies its belief in a “revolutionary” metal guard wire which covers the Protector’s twin blades to save the chin from the ruthless edge of a raw razor. It is difficult to imagine the blades working so efficiently through a stainless steel wire mesh, but the strands are only one tenth of a millimetre thick and cover just 3 per cent of the blade width.

“It acts in exactly the same way as the foil on an electric razor,” says Steve Griffin, the marketing manager of Wilkinson Sword. “Because of the thinness of the wire, and the way the swivel head moves around, the closeness of the wet shave isn’t compromised.”

Griffin is targeting the Protector at “people who chose dry shaving because they have found that a wet shave tends to irritate their skin, or that it is very easy to nick yourself, but who might be missing the wet shave ritual.”

  • “The younger age group is a big target,” he says, identifying the under-35s as those most prepared to admit to having a sensitive skin.
  • The second selling point is the Protector’s handle, designed, says Griffin, “in response to the three basic ways men hold a razor”.

Catching the first-shave adolescent market could win Wilkinson Sword customers, and if it can instil wet-shave loyalty before the young shavers pick-up their first electric razor it could end up with a serious challenge for Gillette.

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Shaving is a necessary evil, and any way to get it done more quickly is better. Hey, a faster shave can mean a few extra minutes of snoozing before you have to roll your butt out of bed for work in the morning. Have you using an electric shaver? It is really helpful for you.

Speed is the primary benefit of electric shavers – the average shave time with a rechargeable or plug-in is 3 1/2 minutes, a few minutes faster than the traditional razor-and-a-handful-of-foam method. No, they don’t give the same close shave you get the old-fashoned way, but they’re getting better through new technology.

If you do go electric, Milton Moore, a dermatologist and developer of Moore Unique Skin Collection, recommends using a cordless razor that you can use with water, which lends itself to better lubrication of the skin, providing a closer, smoother shave. Many electric shavers on the market these days are fully immersible in water.

So you’re up for a faster shave? Here are three other tips for getting the most out of your electric razor:

1) Prepare your skin by washing with a good cleanser, preferably an antibacterial one that will help reduce folliculltis (an irritation around the hair follicle that produces red bumps). Bob Gaines, a shaver category manager for Norelco, suggests using an alcohol-based pre-shave product to prepare skin for shaving. “A fluid [that contains alcohol] can help dry the skin to make it easier for the electric razor to capture [and cut] hair.,” he says.

2) Use a circular motion when shaving your face, as opposed to a straight upward or downward motion. “Shaving in a circular motion helps catch hairs that grow in different directions,” says Gaines. “And avoid too much pressure in the neck area. There is a tendency to have more irritation on the neck than anywhere else. The skin on the face is much tougher than the neck.”
3) After shaving, apply a moisturizer to help prevent redness and Irritation.

“Look for something very light that lubricates without clogging the skin or leaving the skin sticky,” says Moore. Avoid products that contain mineral oil, which clogs pores, and lanolin, an ingredient many people have allergic reactions to. “Products that have lanolin can cause some people to break out,” says Moore.

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Lowe is fighting to prevent a review of the pounds 40 million global creative assignment for Braun, the Gillette-owned electric shaver brand.

Braun

At a meeting with agency managers this week, Braun chiefs are said to have called for more cut-through creative work if the business is to stay.

Its loss would be a massive blow to Lowe London, from where the global account is run. Braun is one of its five top pieces of business, generating revenues of pounds 3 million a year.

It is unclear whether or not Gillette would invite other networks to pitch if Lowe fails to deliver or if it would consolidate Braun within BBDO, which already handles Braun’s Oral B range.

Nobody at Gillette was available for comment as Campaign went to press but sources close to the company said recent management changes within Braun’s marketing department were likely to lead to different approaches to advertising and agencies.

Matthew Bull, recently appointed as Lowe’s chief executive in London with a brief to halt a string of account losses and boost its new business, confirmed the agency had met with Braun but had been given no indication that the account would be reviewed.

‘We have a new team on board and so have they,’ he said. ‘We’ve been told there are things we have to work on and it’s up to us to get it right.’ Braun is understood not to have imposed a time limit for its requirements to be met.

Lowe handles creative work for Braun almost every everywhere except Japan, one of the largest markets for electric razors worldwide.

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Electric shavers a cut below

An electric shaver can be convenient when there’s no soap and water to be found, and you can avoid nicks, since the blades don’t touch your skin. But that’s about the limit of the good news we gathered during recent tests.Electric shavers

That said, if you’re a fan of electric shavers, we found a handful to make you happy.

How we tested. For tests of men’s shavers, each of which lasted one week, we asked six foil users to try all the foil shavers and eight rotary users to try the rotary models. Eight blade users tried one foil and one rotary for three weeks. We also enlisted 11 women, all blade users, to test each of four women’s shavers and two men’s at least twice. (Women’s shavers were generally lighter and cheaper, but we didn’t notice anything particularly womanly about them, and a woman can certainly use a man’s shaver.)Panelists filled out a questionnaire, and staff members assessed the closeness of the men’s shaves (yes, we have experts trained in those things), comparing faces to sandpapers of varying roughness.

What we found. Foil users will get the best mix of performance and price from the Braun FreeControl, a CR Best Buy at $40. It can be used with or without a cord. (The Braun 360[degrees] foil-type shaved closest of all but cost $170.) A low-priced, very good rotary: the Remington Microflex 600, a CR Best Buy at $70.

CR’s take. If you favor electric shavers, check the Ratings, where you’ll find some very good choices. Judging by our tests, though, none is apt to convert a blade user.

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