Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The problem with innovation is that it sometimes solves problems

I'm in my mid-Forties so, other than some brief experiments with facial hair, I've been shaving more or less daily for around thirty years. I started with my dad's old twist-to-open razor that took a two sided blade. They were known as safety razors which always seemed an ironic name for a product that routinely caused bleeding with regular use.

Twin blades had been around for years but they were still gaining acceptance. There was a wide-spread sense that they were nothing more than gimmicks. Saturday Night Live even had a parody commercial touting a three-bladed razor that looked remarkably like what would be the Mach Three.

But as silly as they sounded, the twin blades greatly reduced the blood loss. It was one of those innovations where the results actually matched the hype.

A few years later the triple blade razor was introduced (prompting another, almost identical SNL parody). The new technology produced a closer, more comfortable shave and, best of all, virtually eliminated the bleeding.

Of course, there are confounding factors (I'm older and I've had a lot of practice shaving) but there are still occasions when I'm on the road and have to go back to an older style razor and the result is always bloodshed.

The triple-bladed razors are a great product. As a long-time, steady customer I can give them an unqualified endorsement.

That's a terrible problem for the people who make razors. They have a new generation which, they claim, will give a closer shave with less tugging and irritation. I believe them. These are smart people with a history of successful technological innovation and as far as I can tell, all of their products have lived up to the claims made about them.

Unfortunately for them I am not a motivated customer. If there was, at this very moment, blood dripping from my face, I would certainly be an easy sale. If the last time I had used rubbing alcohol as an aftershave I had grasped my face and moaned "Oh God, make it stop!", you certainly would have found me receptive to an upgrade.

But Gillette and Schick have solved those problems for me, and when you truly solve a problem for a customer, you create one for the marketing department.

No comments:

Post a Comment