architect of cuts David Cameron likes the King of Shaves Azor razor!

It’s not always easy to think of something entertaining to write about on your blog but whenever the scourge of writer’s block strikes I simply check out what King of Shaves founder Will King is up to on Twitter and I am immediately inspired to commit fingertips to keypad.

Today he was  hobnobbing with our glorious leaders at the launch of  Start Up Britain, a private-sector led initiative aimed at helping people set up businesses  – one backed by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne. He was also busy garnering some rather polarising razor endorsements. Ignoring the inherent (and well-known) dangers of dragging politics into marketing, Will excitedly tweeted:

“I have it on “impeccable authority” that British Prime Minister David Cameron a fan of our King of Shaves Azor 5. Yayyy! Eat that, Gillette!”

As smug as this Tweet sounds ( it’s very much from the “your mum stinks and never washes her curtain nets!” school of knocking) it’s an endoresment that’s also very much a mixed blessing in my book,  in the same way that having a clean-cut Tiger woods endorse your razor only to find out he’s a serial wick-dipper might be.

After all, let’s not forget that David Cameron leads a coalition government because he was unable to seal the deal with the majority of the British electorate and has an approval rating in Scotland of -39%. Nor that he is presiding over the most hated public sector cuts for a generation.  Not content by alienating half his customers, though, Will clearly thought he’d go for the rest of them by roping in even less likeable George Osborne (earlier this month 45% of people said they were dissatisfied with his performance), tweeting:

“Also gave George Osbourne a King of Shaves Azor & had a quick chat as he left #startupbritain. Least he won’t worry about cuts with it ;)”

It’s a cute joke, I  know, but (if you’ll excuse the pun) this kind of comment is, at best, a double edged sword. The prime minister and chancellor are, after all, accused on a daily basis of “cutting too fast and too deep” of “making uneccessary cuts” and generally wielding the axe indiscriminately. In fact, it’s a government defined by cuts.

Given this obvious fact it you do have to ask yourself whether you’d want your razor company to be associated with the perpetrators. If nothing else, it does rather leave you exposed to some unwanted ribbing. As I myself pointed out on Twitter when I heard the news: “David Cameron is fan of King of Shaves Azor 5 razor apparently. Well, he is known for cutting too fast and too deep…” And trust me, mine wasn’t the only quip in this vein.

Still, it could have been much, much worse. Imagine the fallout if Nick Clegg had endorsed it.

New King of Shaves Azor 5 razor is a sharp mover – in more ways than one

Following my comments about the new Gillette ProGlide razor a few days ago it seems only appropriate that, now that I finally have the King of Shaves Azor 5 Sensitive razor in my grubby little hands ahead of its official launch later this week, I should let you know what I think.

Firstly, ‘the science bit’ as they used to say in the ads. As a company King of Shaves rivals only L’Oreal in the silly made up-words stakes (if anyone at L’Oreal is listening, by the way, my dream job is coming up with ever more ridiculous ingredient names). So, not only does this particular razor feature ‘Bendology’ Technology, it also has ‘Endurium’ Nano Coatings on its blades (to make them last longer), features a blue ‘Polyastomer’ alloy handle and has (and this is my absolute favourite) an Elastomer Skin Pre-Tensioning Beard Bumper. You’ve no idea how much all this verbal silliness arouses me. Genuinely. After ‘Nutrileum’ ‘Derma Genesis’ and ‘Boswellox’ it doesn’t get much better. In fact, it’s practically turned this blog into a one-handed write.

Of course, I’ve no idea what any of this fancypants wordplay actually means and don’t suspect the average punter does either, nor will he care. He certainly won’t be reading the explanations on the back of the pack (by which time he’d have three days growth anyway). No, top of the consumer’s priorities is whether it provides a decent shave.

The answer, I’m pleased to report is yes. As an inexpensive razor (a handle plus two replacement cartridges costs a mere £6.99 – much cheaper than its rivals) it certainly does the job. I still think the Azor’s Soft Flex hinge isn’t a patch of its rivals in terms of  contouring (it’s the equivalent of a clumsy lover who grabs and gropes rather than strokes and caresses) but in tough times we often have to compromise.

Bottom line, though, is that it didn’t draw blood which is certainly as much as you can ask from a razor. And I’ve grown to like its unique Y-shape design. What’s more, the Azor 5 is absolutely beautifully weighted (‘Sensubalance’ technology perhaps?).

The big downside, however, is that in addition to the five blades on the cartridge there appear to be a couple of extra ones down the side of the handle in the shape of some rather nasty ridges. What’s more, on my sample at least, there were more sharp edges where the two halves of the handle meet.  This is annoying because there is a little part of me that wants it to be fantastic. Unfortunately, discovering these careless imperfections is the equivalent of a man finding out his hot date has a bristly pair of legs. But then, if you will plump for  a cheap date…

Gillette’s new ProGlide Razor whisks up a new storm

Recently the rather febrile world of male razors had yet another of its regular ‘convulsions’ as Behemoth manufacturer Gillette launched its brand new razor, the Fusion ProGilde, into the market. Specially re-engineered, with superfine blades, improved glide and a redesigned handle for better control it’s the latest development in the quest for that holiest of Grooming Grails, The Perfect Shave. Price? Just under a tenner for the manual version with two blade cartridges.

Bang on cue, self proclaimed ‘David’ in the epic David and Goliath razor war, King of Shaves, pops up with its usual ‘can you believe how much it costs?!/how much the blades are?!’ indignation. King of Shaves, you see, has its own new razor to promote, the Azor 5 System Razor, and appears to have based its entire marketing strategy on being cheaper than Gillette. Which I can confirm it is, in a similar way that Lidl is cheaper than Waitrose…you get the idea. Anyway, as I write this I am wondering whether I am suffering deja vu but no, we’ve all been here before and, scarily, I’ve written about it all before too so do forgive me if you’re nodding off.

Now, to me the cost aspect is totally bogus. Here’s how I look at it. I  really like a nice omelette right? I do, and I’m very funny about my eggs. I happen to like Burford Browns. They cost a packet compared to your bog standard ova but have such wonderfully rich orange, tasty yolks that I will settle for nothing less. And, whether you think I’m a snob or not, I will pay what I can afford for a good egg because, for me, a good egg makes a good omelette and while I can still spare the money I will. In fact, I’d probably go without  for a good egg – it’s that important to me. And my point is, why should shaving be any different?

I have tried the ProGlide (on what skin I do shave on my mush) and personally think it’s excellent, with great handling, fantastically smooth results and – crucially – no nicks and cuts. Okay, so I’m not a huge fan of the colour (I’d like a simple black and gunmetal grey combo) but really can’t fault it otherwise. I’ve talked to other men who’ve tried it and they agree with me.  I haven’t yet tried the Azor 5 System but will let you know how it compares in due course. Rest assured, though, I certainly won’t be basing my review purely on something as one-dimensional as cost. No, Sir-ee. As sure as eggs is eggs I won’t.

 

men are useless – official

The world of male grooming is full of good ideas but here’s one I think’s quite brilliant  – a grooming ‘subscription’ service that delivers a whole load of essential grooming gear to you every month and just in time for when you need fresh supplies.

Not only is this good news for men who hate scouring supermarket isles for the right shower gel but for women too, who often find their own products half-inched by light-fingered husbands, boyfriends of kid brothers.

Packs start from £9.99 per month (including delivery) and contain everything from shower gels, shampoos and razors from big names like King of Shaves, Moose Head and Original Source. Best of all, they’re delivered in a slimline box that fits neatly through your letterbox so there’s no need to knock up your neighbours (so to speak). Simple idea, big benefit.

For more information go to www.menareuseless.com

Insider interview: ‘Mr Azor’, King of Shaves head honcho Will King

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.

WK: Future.

GG: If you could have any celebrity ambassador for Azor M who would it be?
WK: Obama

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.

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Gillette vs King Of Shaves: war of the words

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.

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The Azor – a sensitive subject

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….

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