David Beckham’s impressive sleeves aren’t the only ink to be splashed all over ads for grooming gear thesedays. More proof of how accepted tatts have become in the mainstream media comes in the shape of King of Shaves‘ ad for their Azor razor featuring British sprinter James Ellington. Looks sharp doesn’t he?
King of Shaves Supremo Will King is a man on a mission – he wants to shake up the razor market forever. And to a degree the launch of the bendy Azor razor has done that – triggering, if not quite the tectonic shift in the market promised, then debate about the cost of shaving and how razors are marketed at least.
And he truly loves his products. In fact, he’s so good at bigging them up that I truly believe that had he been our Prime Minister he’d have talked the country out of recession about eight months ago.
And today he has something new to talk about: the brand new Azor M razor – a weightier, deluxe, hybrid metal alloy version of the Azor and Azor S. I caught up with him to find out a little more about the Azor M, his views on the shaving market and the impact of social media on male grooming. Oh, and just for fun, what fragrances he likes to wear too.
GG: The original Azor launched 2008. What so you think is the single biggest change it’s made to the wet razor market in the UK?
WK: I introduced genuine competition in a monopoly (sorry, cosy duopoly) to the consumer’s advantage.
GG: Best shaving tip?
WK: Shave in the shower.
GG: What are your favourite three men’s fragrances and why?
WK: Issey Miyake’s L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme. Directional, classic, cool – makes me feel good. Thierry Mugler A*Men. Sexy, original, sensual. Ted Baker Skinwear. Fresh, uplifting & I headed up its design!
GG: What effect has the internet had on male grooming in the last few years?
WK: It’s been absolutely huge. Men’s magazines were big enough in the 90’s, but now you can pretty much get any knowledge you need about ‘shaving great, smelling great, styling great, looking great’ online. Word of mouth has become word of mouse; ‘hard to get hold of’ brands can be delivered to your home, and with all the forums/blog posts/bulletin boards, you’re spoilt for choice for knowledge, information and advice.
GG: You’re a prolific blogger and user of user of social media. How important is that to you personally and to the King of Shaves brand as a whole?
WK: It’s critical. We’ve shifted from an era of ‘brand broadcast’ (via TV advertising) to ‘digital dialogue’ (consumers interacting and being interacted with). I’ve blogged since 2001, watched twitter grow from 2006, been on facebook for years. I don’t use the social media much personally (ie i’m actually quite private) from from a brandcomms perspective, I’m able to imbue KoS with a genuine personality, and serve up content I hope people enjoy reading and acting on, responding to.
GG: I once called you ‘The Simon Cowell of Social Media’ in one of my blogs. What do you say to that accusation?
WK: Flattered. OMG! LOL.
GG: The new Azor M is quite different from it’s predecessors. Describe it in one word.
GG: If you could have any celebrity ambassador for Azor M who would it be?
GG: Desert island grooming product?
WK: SPF30 Lancaster sun tan cream…
GG: Finally, what kind of technology will we be using to shave with in 20 years time? Or will we still be using blades?
WK: Watch out for the NanoRazor. Not 4 blades, but 4,000,000 individual stubble slicers working away and self sharpening in between shaves. Don’t laugh.
The other day an absolutely riveting little contretemps erupted on Twitter between Will King, King of Shaves supremo and a member of staff from Porter Novelli, a company that represents arch-rival Gillette. A wonderful Twitter bitchfest (who says men aren’t catty?) it was an example of macho posturing and feather fluffing at its absolute best and an example of how febrile the current ‘Blade Wars’ have become of late.
Will King, I suspect, rather fancies himself as leader of The Rebel Alliance squaring up to Gillette’s evil Empire (his Azor razor being a X-Wing fighter pitted against Gillette’s mighty Tie Fighter Fusion). And in typical insurgent fashion, the King of Shaves founder isn’t one to miss an opportunity to take a pop at his opponent. This particular digital duel (how terribly modern?) ensued after the Thierry Henry handball debacle, with King tweeting:
@kingofshaves Gillette stick with Henry. Many others not sticking with Gillette, but going to King of Shaves, Azor. Good!
Provoked by such shocking schadenfreude the person from Porter Novelli (who I suspect innocently thought he was sticking up for one of his clients) chipped in with …
@charliedm Well done for turning the misfortune and misery of as entire nation into a publicity drive. That’s not at all cheap”.
Now, I must say, I’m on the side of the Empire here. As someone who’s on Twitter myself and who follows Will’s tweets religiously I have to admit he is rather provocative. In fact, he’s like the Simon Cowell of Social Media – annoying beyond belief but utterly compulsive at the same time. Not even Katie Price can top him when it comes to blatant opportunism and self-promotion. But then, I don’t suppose you get where he has by hiding your light under a bushel (or your blade under a shaving brush) and as I said, it’s so shameless you can’t help but love it. In fact, of all the people I follow he’s one of my favourites. But I digress… back on the frontline, the war of words was escalating ….
@kingofshaves “Don’t Porter Novelli look after Gillette’s PR…?”
@charliedm “It’s great for the kind of razor you might get in a Christmas cracker…
Sorry, but I did laugh at this. It must have stung Will, too, because….
@kingofshaves “Um, you would say that given you handle Gillette’s PR. The King of Shaves Azor is a GREAT razor
All credit to Will here – to bitch and product place at the same time is no mean feat.
@kingofshaves “Surprised that as chief strategist you make such a negative, public comment. wait until you see our october sales – bit worried?
Now, with all due respect this is a wee bit naughty of Will given that he could probably teach The Republican Party a thing or two about negative campaigning (and even they’d be coy about some of his tactics). Anyway, clearly offended, The Empire struck back with this….
@charliedm “Does a lion find a dormouse worrying? Anyway, this isn’t work – this is jousting”
Good jibe but I know Will and there’s nothing he likes more than the David and Goliath/Tortoise and Hare/Jordan and Jodie Marsh comparison so this was a red rag to a bull. In fact, at this point things had got so silly I was seriously expecting “Well, your mum stinks!” to be used as a line of attack. But no, a business history lesson was lobbed in to the battlefield and a gauntlet thrown down…
@kingofshaves “BA used to think that way. And learned the hard way. Joust away, my friend”.
@charliedm “Interesting. That’s just the kind of thing XL Airways used to say…”
As always happens in public brawls, it was now time for some annoying busy body to chip in with their two penneth worth …
@shedmenshealth Playground bitching on twitter? :o/ Charlie,consumers can read! You should know better in PR. Will, stay strong fella!
Then it was time for the obligatory voyeur…
@peterdean1 “*enjoying* @kingofshaves tweet jousting with Gillette PR’s > @charliedm.
Sensing that they were now being watched by a baying crowd (or perhaps just realising that they had work to do) both parties withdrew from the fight, with the poor fella from Porter Novelli probably wishing he’d have Tweeted about I’m a Celebrity instead, attemped to diffuse the situation by saying he thought they were all just having a bit of fun (which is a bit like Darth Vader saying he only thought The Death Star would cause minor damage). But that’s just as well really because who knows what might have been said in the heat of the moment?
So what happened next? Well, later on the MD of Porter Novelli, issued an apology to King (which was duly Tweeted of course) stating that criticising the competitor’s products was in violation of their company’s Social Media policies and was the agency’s – not the client’s – responsibility. In other words it was an apology to Gillette as much as it was to King of Shaves.
You may see this as a victory for King. Personally I do not. At least Porter Novelli explicitly oppose rival-knocking. The whole King of Shaves Azor campaign, on the other hand, has been based upon it. I’m not judging the merits of negative campaigning (it’s a staple technique in politics after all and is a strategy that has so far worked in increasing the Azor’s market share) nor am I going to come out and say who was right and who was wrong in the row over razors.
What I will do though, is draw everyone’s attention to the obvious dangers of such public spats (seemingly the whole incident will be immortalized as part of Porter Novelli Social Media training now). It’s all too easy to get carried away when you’re tweeting and to forget that rowing with someone on Twitter is the equivalent of having a slanging match in the street. That’s all very well if you’re Gail and Eileen from Corrie but just isn’t dignified if you’re professional, responsible grown-up men. Frankly, nobody comes out a winner. So come on guys – from now on play nice, okay? If you don’t I’m gonna send my friend Boba Fett round to kick your butts.
Having recently (and only temporarily) shed by trademark beardage I thought now would be as good a time as any to road test the new AZOR S Sensitive Skin System razor – you know, the one from King of Shaves that looks a bit like one of those flossing tools with with a blade attached?
I must say, it was a road test that had me trembling more than Jordan in a Bushtucker Trial. I say this because when I used the original Azor there was a bit of unpleasant bloodletting. Maybe it was my technique, or the fact that I struggled to handle it very well. Or maybe it was just rubbish, I don’t know.
But anyway, I am pleased to report no such problems with the Sensitive version (£4.49 from wwww.kmishop.com). I actually used it three or four times to test whether my nick-free shave was just a fluke. But no! Maybe this considerable leap in performance is because of its softer flex, which requires slightly less pressure from the hand to get the job done. Whatever it is, it’s a distinct improvement on the standard Azor.
Mind you, it’s still not going near any part of my body other than my chin….
We all know how much the beloved Daily Mail likes to champion a cause. And having thoroughly exhausted the debate on Wheelie bins the paper has now turned its guns on men’s number one grooming product – the humble razor. The company that has done most to outrage the paper’s sense of fair play (I know, don’t laugh) is Gillette. The thrust of the argument is that (shock of shocks) Gillette is making a huge profit on its Fusion razor and accompanying blades.
Earlier in the summer the paper claimed that the mark up on some shaving items was more than 4,000%. Seemingly, instead of keeping the costs down Gillette is forcing customers to pay for celebrity endorsement from the likes of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer instead. Blimey, what a surprise to discover that we’re not just paying for the raw materials themselves but for the advertising campaigns, the multi-million pound research that goes into creating the products and, to cap it all off, celebrities to endorse it too. I know, I was shocked too.
But not as shocked as Asda is it seems. The supermarket giant, jumping on the Mail’s bandwagon (and with absolutely no thought of shifting units or creating publicity you understand) are helping the British consumer out by slashing the price of their Gillette razors by up to 40%. Will King, the man behind Gillette rival King of Shaves and champion of the recession-hit man on the street, has waded in on the debate too, claiming his cheaper Azor razor is a much better deal for consumers (partly because of the very lack of the expensive research, ad campaign and celeb endorsement I suppose). Like Asda, he’s outraged that a company should make such a huge profit out of the average working man. Touching innit?
Dear readers, never have I heard such a bogus debate (or, if you prefer, such absolute bollocks) in all my life. So, there’s a huge mark-up on razor blades? Well, Gillette are the market leaders and they got there not just by creating a product that men keep buying because it works but because they spent money creating an identifiable, sexy brand. It’s what brands do. The consumer pays for this. We all know that, right? When I buy a £300 pair of Prada shoes am I under any illusion they cost a fraction of that price to make? When I buy a £35 bottle of fragrance advertised by a A-list celebrity am I so deluded I think it cost £33 to make and the endorsement came free? And why do I continually buy Kellogg’s cornflakes instead of as Asda’s own? Because, through bitter experience, I’ve discovered they taste better and sometimes you have do have to pay more for a quality product.
But it’s not just the ridiculousness of the argument that rattles me it’s the hypocrisy of those that spout off about it. Asda’s toiletries buyer, Graham Speak, for example, is quoted as saying: ‘Instead of lining the pockets of Federer, Henry and Woods, we think companies like Gillette should ditch their razorsharp pricing and put customers first, charging a fair price for an everyday product that doesn’t cost a lot to make.” So who the hell paid for Sharon ‘mum in a million’ Osbourne when she appeared in those Asda ads then? The tooth fairy?
So it’s here, the much-talked about ad for the King of Shaves Azor razor (well, much-talked about by King of Shaves supremo Will King anyway). Clearly aimed at a much younger audience than the Gillette behemoth whose powerful tail it’s chasing it’s rather fun, in an intentionally amateurish, down-with the-kids kinda way. What do you think?