Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

The Disruption Of Everything – How Harry’s Does It Right

Gillette spokesman Damon Jones said his company became aware of the Dollar Shave Club the day it launched because of the Internet buzz. He said the shaving giant isn’t worried about losing market share, in part because other subscription-based companies have tried and failed, he said.

That passage comes from a Wall Street Journal article from last year about upstart Dollar Shave Club. Here’s their pitch video:

It’s funny, but they use that humor to hit on a nerve. I’m a guy. I shave. I’ve been shaving since I was 12. Shaving innovation basically comes in one flavor: the number of blades. This has been spoofed time and again. Sure, there have been some other attempts. We have the vibrating handle, the strip that tells us when it’s time to change the blade and a variety of gels and creams to make the shaving smoother. Basically, there’s not a lot of innovation going on.

The Gillette spokesman’s comments show you just how shortsighted companies can be. It’s when you dismiss your competition that they sneak up on you.

When Dollar Shave Club launched, I was intrigued, but I didn’t order. The pricing was certainly there, but I was skeptical on the quality. Several of my friends purchased and became Dollar Shave Club members. I wish I knew what their sales looked like, but from this article, it looks like Dollar Shave Club is surviving, but not thriving.

Fast forward, nearly a full year and I think we’re really starting to see the disruption happen. The co-founders of Warby Parker, recently launched Harry’s, a more premium version of Dollar Shave Club. It wasn’t until I read this story that I decided to take the plunge. I’m always a person who gets intrigued with the backstory of brands. It’s why I’m a fan of Panerai and not such a fan of Rolex. The Panerai backstory is fascinating. They started as a company who supplied watches to the Italian Navy. The watches are hand made and they only make a limited number each year. There’s no mass production.

When you read up on the Harry’s story, it becomes easy to see why I was intrigued. I’m also a geek and when I see something new I inherently want to try it. So a few weeks ago I put in an order for a Harry’s Winston handle and a 12-pack of blades. For the past 2 weeks I’ve used nothing but Harry’s, switching from the Gillette Mach 3 I’ve used for years, and here’s my thoughts.

  1. I love the model. I ordered online and everything showed up in 3 days. That’s pretty fast and the shipping was free. You can also choose to have Harry’s auto send you replacement blades at a time interval of your convenience.
  2. The packaging was clean and simple. Definitely more attractive than the infuriating and nearly impossible to open hard plastic that current razors and handles are packaged in.
  3. I can only speak to the Winston handle. They also sell a handle called the Truman. The Winston is surprisingly light and perfectly balanced. If you’ve ever played baseball and picked up a perfectly balanced bat, you know what I mean when I say the feeling is perfect and immediate.
  4. The blades are awesome. Haven’t nicked myself once. I’ve found you get about 4 really great shaves from each blade and then 2 more good/solid shaves. Pretty good. In comparison, I’d say I get about 2 great shaves from my Mach 3 and another 2 solid shaves thereafter.
  5. From a pricing standpoint, it’s a no-brainer. The 12-pack from Harry’s put the per blade cost at $1.67, which means each shave costs $0.28. Compare that against the Gillette Mach 3, where an 8-pack costs $35.69 and a 4-pack costs $17.99. That makes the cost of a Gillette “12-pack” $53.68 for a per razor cost of $4.47 and a per shave cost of $1.12. That’s 4X the cost of Harry’s.

Net-net, you get a better shave, with razors that last longer and are 4X cheaper than the market leader. We’re in a great time right now. We’re seeing the disruption of EVERYTHING. I mean everything. From what Square is doing to disrupt payments to Amazon’s continue disruption of retail.

Harry’s is for real. It might not last. It might not make it. But, if Gillette thinks they can rest on innovation or simply continue to offer more blades on each razor, they’ll learn the harsh lessons of Kodak and Blockbuster. You can’t predict what the next competitive threat will be, but you can be rest assured, there will be a continued line of competitors looking to take your lunch money. What Gillette and many other established market leaders seem to forget is that what got you here, won’t get you there. You can’t rest of what’s worked in the past. Looking at your current market share or your size as a reason for why a competitor isn’t a threat, is simply blind arrogance. We’re all familiar with David’s victory over Goliath. Today, there’s not just 1 David to compete against, there’s thousands…and they keep coming…from everywhere.

You can choose to drive the disruption or you can choose to react to the disruption created by others. I recommend driving the disruption.