When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

29 November 2006

Give away the razor, sell the blades

"Give away the razor, sell the blades" is shorthand for a marketing strategy that means taking an upfront loss in order to guarantee a recurring revenue stream. It's useful to remember that the expression comes from an actual marketing strategy executed successfully by people who made razor blades... and that the strategy is still in literal use today.

Last week, I received (in the mail, free of charge, and unasked for) a brand new Gillette Fusion razor.

The latest escalation in the multiblade razor wars, the Fusion has *five* cutting blades on the front side of the cartridge and a "trimming blade" in the back (for, e.g., sideburns), as well as a little rubber squeegee-looking thing to pull your face taut before the blades hit the skin.

OK, I tried it.

And you know what, it really was a superb shaving experience, resulting in a great shave... it's not a straight-razor shave with hot lather in a barber chair, with a skilled hand wielding the straight-razor, but it's close.

(I almost can't believe that I'm writing about this, having formerly been a member of the Bearded Techie Class, but now that I'm a Suit, I think and care about things like shaving, God help me.)

That's MISTER Hairy Freak to you, buddy.
(BC, circa 1997)

Since Gillette was giving away the razor, and since Procter and Gamble is a very fine American company but not in the personal care products business out of altruism or for their health, I knew there had to be a catch.

Was at the drugstore last night picking up a prescription, and I decided to buy myself some Fusion cartridges.

OK. Exercise for the reader. How much was Duane Reade charging for a four-pack of Fusion cartridges?

$13.29. To save you the trouble of whipping out a calculator, that's $3.32 per cartridge, leading me to believe that their planned price point all along was "ten bucks for three" and then someone wimped out about selling three cartridges in a pack but wouldn't back down on price.

Discount pharmacies on the Web have the four-pack as low as $11, but any price difference is quickly eroded by shipping charges.

You magnificent bastards.

Remind me to buy some Procter & Gamble stock.

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