When it comes to men’s grooming, especially shaving, one brand that cannot skip crossing our minds is Gillette, thanks to the amazing Gillette marketing strategy. And it is no surprise. After all, Gillette is the oldest brand associated with men’s grooming, with its history going back to a little more than 116 years, and the brand is still remembered fondly amongst its users.
At the start of the 21st century, Gillette held about 70% market share in the razors & blades market. It was acquired by Procter & Gamble in 2005 at a whopping $57 billion. Even after more than a decade of acquisition, it is still the largest acquisition of any consumer goods brand to date.
If you scratch your head to recall names other than Gillette when asked about shaving razors & blades, do not worry – you are just like most of us.
Let’s get more into detail about the Gillette marketing strategy in India.
Gillette entered Indian markets in 1984, an era when India was still getting into understanding the basics of western men’s hygiene. Being a large and raw market, India posed some serious problems to Gillette and taught it in the early days that the brand would have to innovate to survive in India.
Globally, Gillette’s products are used by more than 750 million men across the globe. But was it enough to launch it in India in the same manner as it did in the rest of the world? Well, not really. Surprisingly, the company’s main hurdle in India was the mindset of Indians rather than any brand or competition.
A typical Indian man was a middle to low-income customer who hesitated to use or even purchase Gillette’s premium-looking advertised products with a double-edged shaving system.
Firstly, these products were priced at a premium rate that only a few could afford regularly. Secondly, India had a traditional barber services system. The typical Indian man could get the same shaving experience and services at his local barbershop at a much lesser price.
Extensive market research revealed some striking issues that Indian consumers had regarding Gillette blades – besides skin irritation, it was time-consuming and an unpleasant experience to shave. This was a clear sign that the Gillette marketing team had to change its India strategy.
The global strategy of Gillette’s marketing and advertising included conducting extensive market research and development and formulating designs capable of catering to a global customer base via a single product.
However, this approach did not see success in the Indian market. Ultimately, the brand dropped its global strategy and started focusing on India specifically.
This was followed by the launch of various campaigns in India, which forced people to tickle their brains over very specific questions like “Are clean-shaven celebrities preferred in the country? Does success have to do anything with being a clean-shaven man?” Also, the bigger questions like: “Do women for relationships prefer clean-shaven men?”
Such questions made an average Indian man question his own choices and pushed him to put in efforts to look and feel better.”
Further market research revealed that while Indian customers wanted affordable products, they also wanted them to be safe and easy to use.
So, in 2010, Gillette set itself to deliver that, which led to the launch of Gillette Guard. This was a unique product created carefully for the Indian market and was priced at a nominal range of ₹15 per razor and ₹5 for the refill cartridge – easily affordable by the masses.
Next entered advertising to grab the attention of both men and women towards their products.
Unique taglines were chosen to grab everyone’s attention. For example, titles like “The best a man can get” were used to evoke a sense of responsibility. It urged individuals to become the best version of themselves and do their best in life by making the right choices and ultimately choosing Gillette.
Additionally, endorsements through young Indian celebrities helped the brand build an empowering image and attract a younger consumer base. Many ad films were released that evoked unshakeable feelings within their consumers.
One such example is an ad film with an army official talking about his close call during the war and proudly boasting his 7-inch battle scar and gliding his Gillette blade over it without any hesitation.
The brand created innovative campaigns like the Women Against Lazy Stubble (WALS), a campaign in which ladies were motivated to ask the men in their lives to shave, as the brand capitalized on the role of women as influencers in the daily lives of men.
This creative marketing method worked wonders as awareness of the brand grew multifold, which was reflected in sales numbers that grew by 38%. Moreover, the brand’s market share increased by 35%, which is an achievement in itself.
Many similar campaigns were run in subsequent years. A few notable are the “Men of Inner steel” campaign, the “best a fan can get” campaign, #shavingstereotypes ad campaign.
These campaigns helped Gillette stay on the edge of people’s minds. The brand also capitalized on events like International Men’s day and launched campaigns like “Man Enough,” which touched upon the point of why aren’t men allowed to show tears.
Challenging stereotypes against men gained huge popularity amongst the youth, both male and female, and this virality, in turn, led to even greater visibility for the brand.
The advertising journey of Gillette India is a classic case study of direct sales and storytelling. While the initial phase of Gillette’s marketing focused on familiarizing the customers with the product and popularizing its benefits, the latter part of their advertising strategy took a storytelling approach.
Here are some interesting marketing lessons from Gillette India, which you can take inspiration from.
Whether it was the 2000s when Gillette entered the advertising space in India or the 2010s when Gillette saw its market share dropping, good market research and extensive consumer surveys brought it back to its feet.
Gillette’s marketing team completely shifted its focus to understanding its customers and the hurdles they were facing daily. This required spending hours of work to visit and interview the consumers to understand the role of grooming in their daily lives and their needs. Once the brand understood what its customers wanted, delivering it was a piece of cake.
Another thing that the brand understood was that knowing a customer is an ongoing thing. As the customer evolves over the years, so does a brand. Therefore, any brand, old or new, should conduct regular consumer surveys and focus group interviews to keep track of changing consumer behaviors.
Marketing and advertising only work if the product resonates with the target consumers’ needs. Therefore, it is imperative to get the product right.
When Gillette entered India with the US-developed razors, approximately 400 million were not happy with the company’s offerings. That’s when the brand knew that it would have to create a product specifically for the Indian markets. Hence, Gillette Guard was invented, which had fewer blades, therefore fewer parts, and was affordable.
As the first-ever product designed specifically for men in this segment, Gillette Guard is often mentioned as “one of the most significant product launches in Gillette history”.
Since India had a traditional barbershop shaving system, the Gillette branding team had to educate the Indian customers on the benefits of shaving in the comfort of their homes.
Gillette Mach3 promised “the closest shave ever in fewer strokes – with less irritation” to educate customers that it is possible to get a quick and pleasant shave at home.
Ads targeted at showing how smooth the razors were and how safe it was to use them while talking to your wife aimed to educate the end consumers.
Gillette identified early on the aspirations of an average Indian man. This average Indian man wanted to be successful and liked by others, especially women. Therefore, influencers from the film industry – actors who were well-loved by the country, especially women – showed in ads how being clean-shaven enriched their personalities.
Campaigns like “Women Against Lazy Stubbles” shed light on women’s role as one of the biggest influencers in their man’s lives. Actors like Arjun Kapoor and Neha Dhupia were roped in to extend the message further. Shaving routines of some popular online bloggers like Ranveer Allahbadia were shared all over their social media to attract young and growing target consumers.
Although a global brand, Gillette understood in the initial years that Indian consumers’ needs, attitudes, and cultures towards shaving activity are radically different from Western consumers.
However, instead of lowering performance, as many other global brands did in the past, Gillette decided to keep the valued customer at the core of its marketing strategy and geared up its R&D team to introduce an innovative value proposition for the middle-class customer of India.
A widespread mistake that most MNCs make in India is that they try to push global brands in a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. However, Gillette’s business strategy of spending time and resources understanding Indian consumers’ needs proved to be the key to its success.
The brand’s marketing efforts reflect on its sales, and it is no surprise that today, Gillette Guard accounted for two of three razors sold in India. If this is not a well-balanced saga, we don’t know what is.
With its great marketing and advertising efforts, Gillette shows no signs of stopping or slowing down anytime soon. With the brand’s market share as huge as it is, there is no other brand that is even in close comparison to Gillette.
Gillette’s ever-evolving marketing strategy and ability to adapt to any situation have helped them keep a smooth and neat track throughout the industry.
- For any brand to be a success, its marketing and advertising strategy should be ever-evolving and have the ability to adapt to any situation.
- Understanding the actual needs of the customer is a must. Before diving into a market with a standard product, do extensive market research.
- Analyzing the cause-and-effect of the product’s benefits and value proposition is important.
- Market research includes not just interviews but also comprehensive surveys, which help understand the behavioral aspects of customers.
- Never shy away from innovating and investing in R&D. The better customized the products, the better the consumer satisfaction score and the better revenues.
Gillette uses not just demographic but also psychographic segmentation strategies. To differentiate between the features of its products, the brand uses a differentiated targeting strategy.
Most people interested in Gillette are between 18-and 34 years old. Most are them being high school graduates, and the majority are single. The income levels of these individuals vary from intermediate to high.
Besides providing a customized product, the brand also ensured that the product was affordable to an average Indian consumer. Extensive market research and focus group interviews highlighted the major problems being faced by Indian men while they shave. Besides skin irritation, it was time-consuming and an unpleasant experience to shave.
Moreover, the barbershop experience was prevalent for too long, and customers didn’t want to budge from it unless they saw better options at home.
Gillette tapped into this market and taught them how cheap, safe, and easy it is to shave from home. With the help of influencers from the film industry and sports industry, it became easier to touch these consumers and appeal to the mass markets.
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