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Has The World Been Duped by “Big Razor, Inc.”?

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Since the inception of the original safety razor patents, Big Razor has sought to secure its market dominance by maintaining a very effective moat around its products. This moat includes consumer over-education, patent protection and broad-scale distribution.

Intellectual Property & Over-engineered Obsolescence

Once the original patents on the safety razor expired in 1921, Big Razor had no choice but to attempt to erect new fortifications against other potential market entrants. Additional patents ensued, each adding a new twist and additional technology on top of the original razor and blade design. With each added feature, the cost to the consumer escalated.

Additional engineering included greater marketing dollars and increased brand awareness. Branding and marketing created demand and a dominance in both distribution and therefore market share. In fact, the brand alone has been estimated to be worth some 25% or more of the total value of the business. With each iteration, Big Razor added additional features, patenting them all the while. Multiple blades went from one to five. Heating elements, vibrators and lubrication strips were included, all with the aim toward shave improvement.

But somewhere things went too far. Somewhere the public realized they were sold a bill of goods. It’s not that the shave was bad, it’s simply that the marginal cost no longer matched the marginal benefit and that the natural obsolescence of the razor and blades business model had been overengineered and overhyped.

In short, the consuming public began to realize that—at least when it comes to shaving—maybe less really is more.

Marketing & Distribution

When it comes to succeeding in mass-marketing, accessibility is nine tenths of the law. This is particularly true when it comes to purchasing replacement razor blades. Razor blades are frequently an afterthought purchase from the grocery or drug store. High brand awareness combined with distribution on a global scale creates a situation where the consumer has less of a choice than he thinks.

Luckily, distribution and accessibility models have changed greatly over the years, significantly benefiting the consumer. Direct-to-consumer ecommerce and subscription-based shaving clubs are providing quick delivery with a cult-like experience to the shaver.

But, you have to give credit where credit is due. Not only was Big Razor able to initially make a splash in the razor and blades market, they were able to continuously reinvent their product and their marketing to stay one step ahead of any would-be entrant that may wish to unseat that vast dominance. They did have a first-mover advantage, but maintaining the position of market leader has been well-executed. That is, until recently.
I particularly liked Eric’s response to my previous suggestions on penetrating wet shaving into the mainstream. He aptly stated:

There was a time when the bulk of us drank really weak, tasteless coffee because that’s what Folgers, Maxwell House, etc. wanted us drinking because it was profitable for them. We drank fairly bland beer from Budweiser, Miller, Coors because they profitably made a boatload of it and told us that’s what we liked.

Along came Starbucks and a few others who actually had the gall to sell us coffee that tasted good. Sam Adams and the likes gave us beer that actually was flavorful and we said give us more! Damned if they didn’t charge us a premium but we handed them more and more dollars until they “moved the needle” in their industries.

Us Baby Boomers and our kids did that. Took us years but we did it.

Now, how do get Millenials to give up their multi-bladed plastic creations and canned shaving goo? Yes, these are the young adults in skinny jeans, Jethro boots and haircuts I can’t even begin to describe but, if you’re going to move that needle, figure out how to sell to them because a) there’s a buttload of them and b) they have lots of money to spend and c) eventually they will reproduce and their kids will follow their lead (i.e. captive audience).

Eric’s analogies to beer and coffee in the 70’s and 80’s is a near-perfect fit. Getting past the marketing hype of Big Razor, Inc. may take us years too, Eric, but we will do it.

Getting Back to Classic Wet Shaving

When the marginal cost greatly oversteps the marginal benefit like it has so obviously done when it comes to the razor and blades industry, a market correction occurs. Upstarts like direct-to-consumer subscription shave clubs and wet shaving accoutrement websites continue to grow in popularity while Big Razor’s share of the overall pie is slipping and it’s not just because of price. The comeback of beards, goatees and mustaches has also made an impact on the demand for high-priced razors.

But there is no incentive for the largest shaving businesses to change the tune of their marketing message only to have it nearly cannibalize their existing revenue in a major way ($0.10 double edge safety razor blades vs. $4.00 cartridge blades would be a death sentence).

Fortunately—thanks to the internet’s information accessibility—the world is flatter than it has ever been. The problem is widespread education in the art of wet shaving without billion dollar ad budgets.

In the United States, a groundswell of cost and quality-conscious shavers have begun to adopt the age-old techniques of using single-blade straight and safety razors as their solutions of choice for hair removal, but much work remains. “Big Razor, Inc.” still maintains over 50% market share in an industry that still rakes in billions annually. In short, we are still buying what Big Razor is selling: a commoditized shave at an exorbitant price.

The argument to switch to wet shaving always includes one or more of the following:

  1. The shave is better. You will get the closest shave of your life with the proper hardware and technique than you can with multi-blade cartridges.
  2. The price is better. The blades can be 400% cheaper than the most expensive multi-blade cartridges.
  3. Less environmental impact. It is estimated that 2 billion multi-blade cartridge razors end up in US landfills each year. Double edge safety razor blades, on the other hand, are fully recyclable.


Doing your part in the promulgation and proliferation of traditional classic shaving is likely going to continue to require the grassroots efforts of bloggers, wet shaving Youtube enthusiasts and word-of-mouth hustle. There is not going to be an advertising budget for a wet shaving company at the Super Bowl or the World Cup. Even more than paying it forward by telling a friend, classic shavers are even best served by buying their friends a safety razor and some blades, teaching them how to use it and encouraging them to spread the love.

Joshua Chou is with, a provider of various wet shaving supplies. Josh is a longtime wet shaving enthusiast, safety razor evangelist, marketing manager and operations herder extraordinaire.

Joshua Chou

Joshua Chou

7 thoughts on “Has The World Been Duped by “Big Razor, Inc.”?”

  1. My experience was that it was not an investment in hours/days/weeks to get a good shave when I went to a DE from cartridge razors. I almost never draw blood even from a weeper. I think there is a perception that DE shaving is more of an art than it has to be. The cart shaves described above sound like my DE shaves. I use a straight most days but use the DE when I’m in a rush. We should not make DE shaving mystical.

  2. The trouble is people are working longer hours, more unsociable hours and the real benefit of cartridge razors is convenience.
    An average person is not going to get anything close to the quality of a good cartridge without putting in many many hours, weeks and months honing those techniques with alternatives.
    Just like many people will pay over the odds for food to be delivered rather than spend hours cooking something that may well be tastier and better for them, people will pay over the odds for a quality shave without the hassle.

    1. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean)

      Shane you hit the nail on the head. This is just the typical snobbery that comes with those who become “aficionados” of just about everything. Most guys I know can’t figure out why I would spend ANY time talking about, working on, my shave. Their shaves are just fine for them, thank you very much. Yes, they complain about the cost of cartridges. But it isn’t like they go back to using Track II or Mach 3 carts (which BTW the much maligned Gillette still continues to sell, I believe). They’ve moved on to the newer models.
      Why? I’m sure marketing helps push some to make the change. But also because they are improvements for them. I know I still like my Fusion, though I rarely use it. (Haven’t gotten the Flex yet, but I probably will try it when it’s on a super sale.) I mean, if the Fusion wasn’t an improvement for one, why wouldn’t one just go back to using your previous cartridge razor? By the tone of some of these critical articles, you’d think Gillette discontinued their old cartridge products and they were not longer available.
      I’m no fan of Robert Kraft, but before I turned to DE shaving, I always said, “Every great shave improvement has come from Gillette.” That’s probably an overstatement, but it isn’t far from the truth. When it comes to cartridge razors, and easily available off the shelf stuff for the “regular guy” not concerned with scents, or nostalgia (is there a worse reason to obsess on something?) or getting a BBS shave (seriously?).
      Now, as a semi-retired guy I almost never use my Fusion. I simply like the ritual and since I only shave about twice a week, it’s really no issue for me. But on occasion, if I’m a REAL rush and really think I need to shave, I might whip out my Fusion. I use the same prep (though not quite as extensive) and products I use for a DE shave. Same pressure and strokes, and usually two passes. But it happens in about 30 seconds. No need for form. No need to avoid the mole on my cheek. No irritation.
      But I suppose there is something wrong with that.

      1. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean)

        The last sentence of the 3rd paragraph is missing the final fragment. But I think you get the drift.

  3. I have tried various DE razors and various cartridges over 50 years of shaving and I will never give up my Gillette Fusion cartridge. The writer seems obsessed with the idea of some evil corporate bogey man manipulating poor ignorant consumers. Bullfeathers!
    Effective, even devious, marketers may get you to buy their product once. Once you have tried it the product either sells itself or dies on its own.
    Is it more expensive? Marginally, yes, but not as grossly as stated. I usually pay $2.75 per blade in bulk. For me the blades last about 12 to 15 shaves using a cartridge strop. That comes out to less then 23 cents a shave. Call me profligate but I’ll splurge for the extra 20 cents. Since I don’t shave every day it comes out to about 10 cents a day. In today’s times nothing costs 10 cents.
    But for me the prime reason I choose the cart over the DE is that I never draw blood. With the DE I never didn’t bleed. Maybe there is a reason why “Big Razor” produces the cartridge that is not sinister or manipulative. Maybe there is a reason why people keep buying it over and over again. Maybe because it’s, dare I say, “better”. It’s not the macho image of the straight razor, nor the historical cache of the DE razor, but for me it is just “better”.
    I don’t care who makes it, except of course Nazis or ISIS, I just want the best tool out there.

    1. Saul,
      Ask a few of your friends and male relatives about shaving. What they use and what they think about it. I guarantee you they will mostly say that they ‘hate shaving’ and then go on to complain about the exorbitant prices of the latest vibrating hunk of plastic Gillette is hawking.
      Proctor & Gamble is BY FAR the worlds biggest advertizer, spending about $9 billion per year on advertizing. To put that staggering figure in perspective, Michael kors, the biggest advertizer in Great Britain, spends roughly $100 million on marketing a far wider range of products.
      These razors do not ‘sell themselves’ by any stretch of the imagination. Ask yourself this, if advertizing didn’t work, why would they do it?

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