Beard Science: Razor Coupons and Close Shaves

Beard Science: Razor Coupons and Close Shaves

Given sufficient resources, marketing gurus may shape markets. We're taught in MBA school that filling a niche or identifying a market might be the first step in building a business. Creating a niche also becomes an option if your advertising budget extends into 7 figures.

Razor Coupons: Mark it up and mark it back down

Coupons, particularly online coupons have become more like currency than discount. Although they're purchased at the pharmacy, consider yourself taken to the cleaners should you pay for a razor without some type of manufacturer's coupon. Don't walk into Walgreen's without printing an online coupon or clipping a coupon from the Sunday newspaper.

it's already built into the sale price. Razor vendors no longer engage in pricing guesswork. They know (in real-time) how many units were purchased at a discount and in what 9-digit zip code the purchases were made. Their databases runneth over with absurdly useful information.

The MBAs know how our minds work. On the first day of MBA school they learn the number one maxim of selling:

Everybody wants to think they are getting a bargain.

Corollary 1: Nobody wants to pay retail. Alka-seltzer tablets at midnight might justify a full-price purchase, but a planned trip to the grocery store usually includes a coupon or three. The little strips of paper rarely disrupt checkout lines these days; they have custom bar codes. Online coupons and newspaper coupons can be scanned as easily as the razors they are discounting. The remaining stigma attached to coupon-based purchases can be easily avoided by downloading discounts onto a loyalty card rather than printing them on paper. The most macho of men have loyalty cards on their Harley Davidson key-chains.

Economy of Scale

Garish packaging costs big bucks. Engineers, psychologists, graphics designers, and people with MBAs work in concert to devise wrappers. The enclosed product might be just as good as the generically wrapped item on the lower shelf, but image-conscious consumers tend to reach for shiny objects at eye level. We know this to be true because Apple is still in business.

Don't these trinkets compete on price rather than features? Isn't there a 5 bladed generic razor that shaves almost as close but costs less? Doesn't the packaging pump up the retail price?

Not so much.

A manufacturer who sells 1 million units a month has the luxury of amortizing his luxury costs over the entire sales volume. In other words, it makes sense to spend $5 million on packaging research and development when the cost added to each unit becomes trivial. An also-ran manufacturer selling 10K units a month would be killed by a similar exorbitant investment in packaging. As they say in the business, you gotta spend money to make money.

Beard Science: Online Coupons drive the retail razor business.
Beard Science: Online Coupons drive the retail razor business.

Beard Science and Razor Coupons: Do we suffer from pogonophobia ?

How many consumers break out in a cold sweat at the sight of facial hair? Thankfully, our obsession for smooth skin does not typically induce physical distress, but pogonophobia surely drives a few of the unfortunate shoppers who frequent the razor aisle. "An abnormal fear or dislike of beards" is impetus enough to download an online coupon and drop a few Gillette Fusions in the shopping cart. None of us wants to look in the mirror and see 5 o'clock stubble at 1:30, but some of us tend to get downright ill. Don't linger too long in front of the Schick Hydro display; fellow shoppers might suffer from pogonophobia.

Living in the Throw-Away Society

Disposable razors proliferate: a Venus, Quattro, Hydro, Mach 3, or Fusion feels good in the hand but persists in the landfill. It's not easy being green when refills can't be had. Manufacturers control the market by releasing newer and more colorful shaving devices, but the new stuff won't play with the old stuff. 5 blades is better than 4 blades in many subtle ways, but those advantages might accrue to the seller rather than the buyer.

How much actual shaving occurs between the 4th and 5th blades? When the first blade dulls, can it be swapped out exclusively of the 2nd through 5th blades? We don't see coupons for individual blades; entire blade assemblies are the only option on store shelves. Purchase refills with coupons, but consider where the detritus ends up.

Do not manually dismantle blade cartridges, even in the name of saving the Earth. Blades are designed and intended to cut stuff. The stated purpose of a razor blade is to slice cleanly. Loose blades will slice more than beard hairs. Manufacturers cannot be held responsible for personal injuries that might occur when their products are misused. Packaging, no matter how garish, clearly indicates the intended purpose of the devices.

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Comments 7 comments

mariusnielsen1961 6 years ago

Very good article indeed.

nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

@mariusnielsen1961: Thanks, I agree wholeheartedly.

dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Perhaps the key is to develop a "dump" and charge admission! Shaving Blades reflect our society... Throw-away... Remember in history books about razors that were sharpened on a leather strap?

nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

@dallas93444: I don't remember that. No one gets near me with a razor or a leather strap.

dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

As a child, when it cost 90 cents for a haircut, once in a great while when my mom did not cut my hair, I would get my hair cut by a barber and watch the MEN get their haircuts. It was a big deal to watch the barber, whip out the straight razor and sweep it up and down the leather strap. Some kids got a "whippen" with a razor strap!

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

I often wonder do all those extra blades even do anything.

nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

@billyaustindillon: Do you think the effectiveness of the blades follows a Gaussian distribution? That 5th blade doesn't have much under the curve.

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