I just bought my last Gillette razor blade.
After dutifully following their relentless upgrade path since the early 1990's introduction of the "Sensor" to the "Sensor Excel" to the "Sensor 3" to the "Fusion" to the "Pro Glide," I'm finally leaving. With each new upgrade of their technology, my old blades have become useless. I now have a drawer full of old handles for which I can no longer buy blades.
I was fine with the original Sensor; it offered a close enough shave for me. But with each new blade platform, Gillette sunsetted their old blades. Once the old blades were no longer available, they started hiking the price of the new blades to the point where, today, a 12-pack costs almost $45 in Toronto.
They are so expensive that the drugstore needs to keep them in the little protective case that sounds an alarm, as if you were a shoplifter trying to steal a pack of smokes, rather than a loyal customer about to spend a king's ransom on something that is manufactured for pennies a pack.
Inertia vs. Loyalty
Gillette has confused customer loyalty with inertia. They think we are loyal, but most of us are just inert. Loyalty is when people remain a customer because they value the relationship; whereas inertia sets in when your customers don't think they have a choice.
With no other solution, we buy the same blades every few weeks because we have better things to worry about. Until one day, something shocks us back to reality and the insanity of paying $45 for blades.
My inertia-busting moment for Gillette came when I recently ran out of blades. I rummaged through the drawers in our bathroom only to find a hearty inventory of razor sharp blades for which I no longer had the correct handle. Faced with the option of scraping an old, dull blade across my face or a 30-minute round trip to the pharmacy for replacements, I decided instead to subscribe to a regular shipment of replacement blades and never run out again.
I, for one, am happy to be done with Gillette. I didn't expect a birthday card; just a fair price for blades and the ability to stick with a platform I had bought into.
Well, screw you, Gillette. I just subscribed to razor blades from "Harry's," one of the subscription-based blade companies made popular by the pioneering folks at Dollar Shave Club.
Now I'm getting my blades shipped to me for half the price I paid Gillette and I don't have to trudge to the pharmacy. Nor am I alone. In researching Dollar Shave Club for my new book on the subscription economy, I discovered that they had won over hundreds of thousands of men who were tired of the shenanigans of the big blade companies.
How To Earn Loyalty
Just days after quitting Gillette, I received an email from my subscription-based music service Rdio. The contrast was striking.
The letter read:
Your Family Plan price has been lowered!
We recently lowered the price of your Rdio Unlimited Family subscription. Previously, the first member added to your plan was at a 20 percent discount. Now, every member in your plan pays at a 50 percent discount, up to four additional members total. No action is required on your part. Your entire family can continue listening to all the same great music, now at a lower price.
So there I was, a happy Rdio user, and suddenly they were lowering my price. They made the courageous decision that if they were going to cut the price for new Family Plan customers, they had better do the same for their loyal subscribers.
Rdio's decision is made possible in part because of their business model. They are a subscription company and therefore enjoy a direct relationship with their users. Unlike Gillette that sells through a thick network of wholesalers and retailers, companies like Rdio, Dollar Shave Club and Harry's know who their customers are and can communicate directly with them.
Gillette should have switched to the subscription business model decades ago. They would have known who their customers were and perhaps would have been less inclined to treat them like prisoners in their blade war.
Well Gillette, I am gone for good.