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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