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Dear Gillette

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Dear Gillette,
Recently, I read a post about your Flexball Technology and how it has made your products “the most personalized shaving experience till date” This article, which was a sponsored ad written to look like a news article, touts the five years of research and development that has been invested in this product. More articulation in the head; thinner blades; new blade coating; stabilizers; trimmer blades; A whole host of innovations has been listed bare.


I caution you on advertising your product as “personalized,” when you really mean “works better.” Personalization is about choice. With the Flexball, I’m still required to use the same set up as before. The blades in the cartridge are new, but the cartridge is still proprietary. There’s no choice in this advancement, and therefore no personalization.
I left your products a while ago — it’s been over two years since I had to ask a store representative to open the case for me. For a year, I jumped ship to Harry’s. (Sidenote: If you insist on using a cartridge, check them out. They make really nice razors and have a great social responsibility outlook in their company charter).
A year later, I discovered traditional wet shaving. I had no idea that such a market still existed. It’s old school. Real old school. Electricity was still just a thought in most places when King Gillette debuted his replaceable blade razor. No, I don’t traditional shave for the hipster-vintage scene. I do it for, go figure, personalization.
Hundreds of blades. Soaps and creams galore. Post shave balms and splashes. Pre-shave oils and creams. Fragrances from England, India, China, Brazil, Italy, Germany, and the most creative minds fill my bathroom every morning. I can shave to the sweet scent of Anise, reminiscing about old fashioned licorice candy. Or I can shave to an icy margarita. I can shave to fougéres, lemons, any manner of wonderful fragrance. When I’m done, it’s an eclectic smorgasbord of aftershave choices.
No synthetic chemicals. No propellants, no FD&C colors, no generic “man scent.” And when I’m done, I’m comfortable. No razor burn, no ingrown hairs, no chemical sensation. It’s personalized to me. And you offer none of this.
Yes, you do produce the well regarded Gillette double edge blade line, but you hardly promote it. Rather, it seems buried in your catalog of products, not even being mentioned on your website. It’s as if you’re embarrassed of them; the cousin you never really wanted to send the birthday party invitation to. Yet, they’re your most personalized products of all — because, despite having a handful of choices in your double edge line, they’re still choices. 
Perhaps one day you’ll go the way of Keurig Green Mountain, who’s “lock them in” mentality has their stockholders looking for lifeboats. I hope, though, that you learn. I hope we see you return to truly “personalized” products. Blue Tips, Red Tips, Fatboys, Techs — do you remember? Is there anyone there who remembers the glory days? It wasn’t that long ago.
So, Dear Gillette,
Please stop confusing consumers. You used to be personalized. You can be again. But you’re not now.

Andrew Barton

Andrew Barton

9 thoughts on “Dear Gillette”

  1. Jerry-built Hustler

    Andrew’s post strikes me as typical cartridge/Gillette bashing, and is predictably misguided. He starts with a semantic (read: hair-splitting) argument about the meaning of “personalized,” as Gillette uses it within the context of one of its razor models, but quickly digresses into a general diatribe against the brand as a whole. I believe he misses the point: the ProGlide is a blade choice, like any other, and the Flexball is a handle choice, like any other. I could totally “personalize” its use if I wanted: I could choose a ProGlide manual cart or power cart, or opt for the older Fusion or Fusion power. I could then opt for the stock Flexball handle, or use one of the more upscale handle models offered by AOS, which include Flexball, stationary, or power; there are also plenty of non-Gillette Fusion handle offerings by other makers. That’s not even taking into account the many other cartridge and DE blade offerings by Gillette. And then, of course, I could use the razor in tandem with the brush/soap/cream/aftershave setup of my choice. Just because I might choose to use a ProGlide Flexball setup (which, in actuality, I don’t) doesn’t lock me into a whole cart-and-can regimen.
    Regarding Andrew’s criticism of Gillette’s failure to promote other options, how silly. Gillette has always promoted its latest and greatest. Why wouldn’t they? Those of us who really want to personalize our shaves are likely the types who populate online forums and blogs, and, as such, know where to find alternatives. Gillette’s marketing isn’t a bar to us getting what we want. I do agree Gillette’s pricing is high. Accordingly, I seek out the best deals I can, whether in-store, or online. Again, I have options.
    I believe Gillette puts out a superior product, and I am willing to pay for it. I know some would say I’m drinking the Kool Aid. They can think that. It makes no difference to me. After decades of trying different razors and brands, I know what I like.

  2. I heard from a manager at The Art of Shaving yesterday that they are working on coming out with new/old versions of the Gillette Fatboy safety razor as well as some other vintage models. Stay tuned…

  3. Very well said Andrew. Im so glad I discovered DE safety razor shaving a few years ago now. Mainly through Mark’s YouTube clips.
    I have saved a small fortune in not buying these multi blade razors anymore.
    My skin has never been better and my shaves have never been closer, thanks to my Merker HD 34 C and Feathers Razor blades.
    Not to mention the variety of quality shave creams and soaps that I now enjoy using in rotation.
    DE Safety Razor Shaving Rules!

  4. Through the last few years I have given up on several companies and grown fond of others. As far as Gillette goes I would say that they have a great selection of razors, cartridges, and accessories. If I had to buy modern I would chose their disposable twin blade over any of their cartridges because I prefer the fixed head design over a flex head, and that’s the personalization I see in their products. As far as the difference between a blue tip, black tip, as or travel, those are choices but so you can also chose between a flexball, Mach three, disposable, heck you can even still get a trac II blade (my first razor) and the choice are still there.
    As far as the other accoutrements you can use those for any shave. With practice you can get a bbs shave with any of the razors available. I learned how to properly shave in jr. High from my dad while using his Trac II with nonlubricated cartridge. I learned how to clean and lather and stroke smoothly, and I used to get smooth for my ladies. I used a Trac II blade up until I switched to DE. I tried the Mach 3 when they sent me a free one when I turned 18 and I didn’t like it. I’d rather at the time use a single blade disposable, but again I was able to personalize my shave for myself.
    All that to say, lets quit the bashing of a product just because it exits, and focus on the virtues of those that we trust and believe in. Try to be a bit more positive in all we do.

  5. I think in this case, “personalized” is probably best defined as “adapting to the face of the individual shaver”. Probably the biggest difference between DE and cartridge shaving is technique and how the tools adapt to it (or to its lack). To get the most out of the DE experience, the shaver must ultimately learn how to best shave his own face with his own razor; this means things like mastering the correct blade angle, amount of pressure, beard direction, etc. Cartridge shaving, on the other hand, is more about having the razor and blades deal with the details, letting the shaver just swipe away at his whiskers.
    Following up on the Keurig reference, I can make a decent cup of coffee by throwing a K-cup into my Keurig and pressing the button. I could probably make a better cup by grinding my own beans and carefully measuring them into a french press, but that requires a skill set that I don’t necessarily want to be bothered with. (FYI, I am a DE shaver, but use a Keurig.)
    As for the various creams, soaps, etc… that is the part of Wet Shaving that is the fun for many people. They are not incompatible, however, with cartridge shaving.
    Two final thoughts:
    1) While Gillette does still make some wonderful DE blades, they do not make them for the US market and, if the crackdown on resellers of the Gillette Guard is any indication, would not want to dilute their US cartridge sales by promoting them. (Though I would love to be able to pick up Gillette Silver Blues at Walgreens.)
    2) Andrew mentions such Gillette classics as the Blue and Red Tip SuperSpeed razors as something innovative, but is that really any different than, say, the current Mach 3 line?

  6. Gillette’s marketing is inauthentic? The horror!
    I can’t argue too much about that, as marketing and advertising, have become completely reprehensible for nearly all major companies. But I think you are missing the actual point when Gillette calls the Flexball a “personalized shaving experience”. I have yet to try the Flexball (I will), but I’m guessing they mean this particular razor conforms to your individual face, due to the adjustment technology.
    Also, let’s keep in mind you can cartridge shave and still personalize in all the other ways you mentioned: soaps, oils, fragrances, etc. (Gillette even makes some of these choices. I know they aren’t trendy or well respected by most here, but they are available.) I was a cartridge shaver for years, and still managed to find many of these wonderful products. The switch from using a Gillette Fusion Proglide Styler to a DE razor was the final move, and the one that had the least impact on my shave.
    For a couple years, I shaved exclusively with a DE razor. The Gillette cartridges sat, unused, on the shelf. But recently I’ve started incorporating the Fusion into my rotation. Maybe I use it one out of 9 or 10 shaves–on mornings when I’m seriously pressed for time. I can do a 1-pass with the Fusion and get a very socially acceptable shave. 2-passes and it’s nearly as good as any, more leisurely DE, shave. I’ll admit, it is rather non-eventful and boring. But when you think about it, non-eventful and boring is probably perfect for most men, who really don’t want to think all that much about their shave.
    And while most here don’t like what Gillette makes (or admit to it), or their business model, it’s hard to deny Gillette remains one of the few big companies actually trying to innovate in the shaving world. So if the Flexball provides a more personalized shave (due to it conforming to your face a bit better) with no additional effort, I’m guessing many men will be thrilled.
    Final thoughts: While I thought the Fusion shaved very well before switching to DE, I think the experience with DE shaving helped improved my cartridge shaving, too. And, while the cost of Proglide cartridges is very high, I get 10 shaves, or so, from each one. That’s a lot more than I used to get with any other cart, replaceable or disposable.

    1. Well put, Dean! I used the Fusion for many years and got 21 or more very good shaves out of each cartridge, making it cost about as much per shave as using a Feather. No irritation, one pass for business setting passable, two for smooth as most of my DE shaves. The Fusion gets a lot of undeserved hate, but for most men, it is the perfect solution for a morning shave if they have only five minutes and don’t want to concentrate too hard on the ritual. DE is more of a challenge, more fun (usually!), and feels like more of an achievement when you’re done, but if all you want is a smooth face quickly, the Fusion does a fine job.

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