Remington and The King of Shaves Company equal The King of Shaves Company.

And then there were 3.

Yesterday’s announcement of the partnership between King of Shaves and Remington to market launch the King of Shaves brand into the core US market I hope will be welcomed by consumers and retailers alike. For too long, the hugely profitable wet shaving market (razors, replacement blades and shaving preparations) has looked like a monopoly/cosy duopoly to me, where P&G’s Gillette have enjoyed supreme market dominance, selling the most product, at hugely inflated prices to consumers, whilst their ‘competition’ – Schick – settle for a distant second place. Gillette have a market share of nigh on 80% in the US market, Schick a distant 10% and, as for us – as I write this in Phoenix, Arizona – zero.

With the exception of our King of Shaves Azor system razor launch in the UK in June 2008, the market dynamics have always looked the same – Gillette launch a new razor platform every 8 years or so, until recently, with ‘more’ blades, and charge more for it on the basis that the technology is ‘breakthrough’ and the shave ‘better’. Schick then launch their ‘newer, better, more expensive’ razor, normally priced at a 10-20% discount to Gillette and try to gain market share. And so the cycle has continued.

Until now.

In 2008, our launch proposition wasn’t ‘More’ – it was ‘Less’. Shave closer, longer, for less was our consumer message, with our sharper, longer lasting Endurium coated blades, which cost approximately £1.25 per replacement cartridge versus Gillette’s £2.50 per replacement cartridge for Gillette Fusion Power. Gillette presented the consumer with a ‘forced hardware upgrade’ – their current TV ads still exhort men to ‘replace their Mach3 with a Fusion, or even now, replace their Fusion with a Fusion ProGlide’. What the ad doesn’t tell the consumer is that the replacement being sold them is even more expensive.

And as the Western World faces down the twin barrels of economic austerity and increased personal uncertainty, surely selling more products for more money isn’t the right thing to do? Especially when the profit margins in the replacement cartridge market are, well, absolutely unbelievably large. I know it costs about US$10-20c to make a high performance razor cartridge. But to then sell that cartridge at retail at over US$4, and use that profit to fund increasingly disconnected marketing campaigns to continue to fulfil that strategy will make the consumer question the price they are going to be asked to pay.

For sure, our competitors are in business to make a profit, and a return to their shareholders – the same as we are. But when you also realise that in another part of the world, the same company can make a system razor – albeit a one bladed system razor – and sell the replacement cartridge at US$11c? Well, that’s quite a difference.

For me, and our brand partnership with Remington, the future is all about the ‘Aspiration of Fair’. Fair has gained much respect in recent years, for example, in the area of ‘Fair Trade’ and sales of coffee – much of Starbucks coffee is now sold on a ‘Fair Deal to the Manufacturer’ basis. The Fair I’m talking about is delivering a close, comfortable and long lasting shave to a consumer, at a Fair, not artificially, monopolistically, over-inflated price. Fair is about looking at ways to make a razor cartridge last longer, deliver more value, not wear out so quickly – a feature that is ‘designed in’ to many of the competitor cartridges out in the market.

But, making a brand sing with success is more about making it fair. It’s about aligning aspiration, cool and desire to own. Ever since the launch of our shaving oil back in 1993, with just a few hundred sold, King of Shaves has carved out its own desirability in the market. Our shaving oil solved a problem – that of razor burn, suffered by millions of men who had sensitive skin. It succeeded because it took a niche position, hung its hat there, then determinedly decided to be on the side of men who had sensitive skin, allowing them to get a shave as close and comfortable as those men who had normal skin. It was on the side of the disadvantaged consumer.

And that is where we are now. Remington have turned to King of Shaves to enter the US wet shave market because we’ve developed a 17 year reputation for delivering on our brand promise – to give men the King of Shaves – and because we have been the only brand to successfully enter into, and compete in the wet shave market, not just in the UK, but also in other international markets including Japan, Australia and South Africa. In six years, we’ve developed an expertise in shaving hardware which is only going to improve in the coming years. We’ve invested in smart innovations, R&D and technology partnerships (witness our recent investment deal with Kai Industries of Japan), we’ve invested in delivering the King of Shaves, without the ransom, to tens of millions of men. And we’ve done this despite being a small company (retail sales of King of Shaves are about £24m) in the face of huge competition (Gillette’s and Schick Wilkinson Sword’s sales are in the $Billions).

As our competitors know, from small acorns do large oaks grow – remember, Gillette was founded by King C Gillette, Schick was founded by Colonel Jacob Schick – these companies had named founders, just as King of Shaves was founded by me, Will King. Successful companies of today are run by their founders – witness Steve Jobs at Apple, Sergey Brin at Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Companies that need to watch out for their challenger brethren are those run by marketing management types – companies that have lost connection with their customers, but continue to sell them what they’ve always sold them in the hope that the consumer will stick with them.

Well, the world’s a changing. The instant imperative that is social media is rapidly dismantling the ability of a brand to deploy ‘Brand Broadcast’ and convince consumers to buy from it – nowadays, it’s a much more difficult space to market in, being increasingly driven by ‘Digital Dialogue’ and ‘Word of Mouse’.

And I reckon when the word of mouse gets out that a mouse has roared that it is in the house, and is launching a cool new system razor, where cartridges don’t cost you an arm and a leg, but still deliver not only a close, comfortable shave – but the King of Shaves, we’ll catch a couple of elephants on the hop.

Simply put, I’m going to do my darndest to ensure that our partnership with Remington works, and that we create The King of Shaves Company – the world’s best (not necessarily biggest) shaving brand.