King of Shaves Joins Forces With Remington Division of Spectrum Brands in USA, Canada for Azor Market Launch 2011.

So, the die is cast! Don’t just shave, it’ll soon be time to enjoy the King of Shaves in the USA courtesy Remington & King of Shaves Azor. Let the battle of the blades commence!

After a year of negotiations between King of Shaves and publicly listed Spectrum Brands, Inc. the US$3Bn revenues owner of Remington Consumer Products, I’ve signed a multi-year, multi-territory deal for this US$600m revenues division to launch King of Shaves shaving hardware & software in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina & Chile. I’m delighted about this, for reasons I’ll explain below, but to give you an idea how I feel about Remington, the company the late Victor Kiam made famous, read an extract from an interview I gave to Director Magazine in the UK in 2008, ahead of the launch of our revolutionary King of Shaves Azor…

In some ways, King’s high visibility approach is almost Bransonesque. And there are parallels with other famous business figures, notably Victor Kiam. Kiam was Remington’s biggest advocate, famously liking the brand so much he bought the company. King’s endorsement style is similar, although instead of buying in, King was forced to create the type of product he wanted to see on the shelves. After being made redundant from Hedges Wright Creative in 1993, he decided to concentrate on developing a shaving oil that could prevent shaving rash. Despite investment from his family and friends, the fledgling start-up was desperately short of cash. To save a couple of grand, King even filled the first 10,000 bottles of oil himself over the kitchen sink. But against development costs of £30,000, first-year sales were a paltry £300.

King kept himself going, inspired by a book he’d read about Kiam’s success with Remington. The book’s message, recalls King, was “to go for it”. And that’s just what he did, persuading Will Carling to endorse King of Shaves, and enlisting the help of Sophie Rees Jones (now the Countess of Wessex) at PR firm Brian MacLaurin Associates to push the product to the media. With the injection of £100,000 from a government loan scheme, the company secured a firmer financial footing, and by 2000 King and new partner Dayal were able to expand their range of shaving “software” and reach the US market. Success prompted one of two recurring questions: “People would either ask me, ‘When are you going to launch a razor?’ or ‘When are you going to be bought out by Gillette?'” King decided he didn’t want the latter–“They would never be interested in me anyway,” he says — so he set about launching a razor instead.

Trick or Treat? Halloween 2010.

And launch a razor we did! Treat. A razor that provoked (tricked..?) our established competitors into spending tens of millions of pounds in the UK trying to out-market us, and stop us gaining market traction (failed – we now have 10% system handle market share and the Azor was the #3 selling razor in the UK in the 52 weeks to end September 2010). Treat. A razor that has shaved millions off the cost of shaving, as our competitors repeatedly half price their handle price (but, unlike us, never cutting the cost of their hugely expensive razor cartridges – the latest costing nearly US$5. Treat. A razor that has won many awards, and has successfully launched in countries as diverse as Australia, Brazil, Japan and South Africa, with more coming on stream in 2011…

But to succeed with King of Shaves in the USA has always been my primary goal. Few British companies, let alone brands succeed in mainland USA, and that’s why I’m delighted that after months of talks, we have US$600m revenues Remington Consumer Products signed up to be our ‘Aircraft Carrier’ – prepared to let us take off Azor ‘Jet Fighter’ razor, and deliver American consumers, King of Shaves without Gillette’s cartridge ransom. Many Americans already think King of Shaves is a US brand – in fact, we’ve been in the USA for over 10 years – launching with Target in July 2000, and we’ve built strong brand foundations.

Dealing with huge US retailers however, has always been a challenge for us, and one I believe our partnership with Spectrum/Remington/Rayovac will allow us to overturn. We launched into the USA as a main board director of Target loved our shaving oil, and I know we have a couple of CEO fans of King of Shaves in the USA. But, buyers have always questioned our ability to support a market launch for King of Shaves in the USA with the millions of dollars necessary, not just for in-store trade marketing support, but also for the necessary consumer advertising. But, with this deal agreed with multi-billion dollar Spectrum/Remington and the game changing eruption of the power of marketing via social networking (Smarketing) will allow King of Shaves a unique opportunity to make the brand available to millions of American men and women, alongside a partner they know and trust, in a way that will be unique.

We actually had contact with (the then) Rayovac Corporation back in 2004, just after they’d bought Remington for US$330m and were looking to add a ‘wet shave brand’ to their portfolio – us. However, the timing then wasn’t right – we had only just put our Azor into development as Project Tomahawk, and weren’t sure we’d get the patents we knew we needed to genuinely compete with Gillette, then a corporation in its own right (it was bought by Procter & Gamble in 2005 for US$57Bn and Schick Wilkinson Sword, which had been bought by Energizer Holdings in January 2004 for US$930m. The then management at Rayovac (now 100% changed) didn’t give us the right feeling anyway, read private jets and debt fuelled expansion, but hey, that’s a story I’ll save for another time. Suffice to say, six years is a long time in our business, and I’m very happy to partner with Remington Products 2010 and their excellent team led by VP Drew Fiorenza in the US.

Wassup? Think Different, Do Different, Shave Different is what I say…

One of my favourite TV ads is ‘Wassup’ – developed for Budweiser – the US ‘King of Beers’ brand – one that would certainly be a social media hit today! The way we launch Remington | King of Shaves Azor in the USA will absolutely determine its success, but judging by the extraordinarily anodyne and lacklustre adverts our competitors are currently running, I think we have a great opportunity to capture the imagination of the US male, who may have been wedded to Gillette or Schick all his life, believing they are ‘the best’. Well, one’s a bit wet right now, and the other – well – it’s perhaps the best your dad can buy… So, Keep an eye out for our ad debut in 2011, and as I’m personally responsible for signing off on it, when you see it – let me know if you like it!

How all this will come to pass is obviously going to unfold over the next few months and years, but as I point out to those who are interested in finding how King of Shaves has succeeded in such a cut-throat market over many years, you’ll find the answers if you read Sun-Tzu.

The battle is won before it’s fought.

Food for thought, I hope.

So, why not make the change, join our Kingdom and ‘Be a King’ alongside me, as we change the face of shaving worldwide for better, Forever.

Will King
Founder, CEO & Chief Shaving Officer, The King of Shaves Company Ltd.