When Austin Lally sees a man with stubble, he turns purple with anger. As global vice president and franchise leader of Gillette, Lally’s business is built on clean-shaven faces.
This story first appeared in the March 31, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The brand, owned by the Procter & Gamble Co., has cornered the market with the promise of helping men look their best. Lally said Gillette has maintained a 70 percent global market share for decades and is the biggest male grooming brand in the world.
It has achieved this share by speaking to men with an optimistic message, said Lally. He acknowledged that talk of men in crisis is rampant among marketers and advertisers, but he emphasized that “at Gillette, we believe very positively in the future of men.…We don’t believe the rise of women means the decline of men.”
He continued, “We have to talk to men with an optimistic view of the future.”
Gillette set its sights on gaining more share by fighting stubble, getting more grooming products in men’s hands and speaking to them in a distinctly masculine way.
“We have to talk to guys as guys,” said Lally. “Women moisturize, men hydrate.”
The men’s grooming industry is $43 billion in size and growing at a faster clip than the female beauty business, and Gillette wants a bigger piece of the pie.
“We know that we are not going to get there by making men feel inferior,” said Lally. “We see our role as the champion of men.…Gillette’s the brand in their corner.”
There’s plenty of reason to be optimistic — a global view, for one. As Lally said, “A man today in Boston probably has more in common with a man in Mumbai than the women next door.” Then there is the rising role of technology and changing lifestyles.
For example, Lally pointed out that in developed economies, men and women are marrying later in life, which in his view means opportunity because “guys have to look better for longer.” The message is global in scope. The brand introduced a light-hearted marketing movement in India called the W.A.L.S. [or Women Against Lazy Stubble], in which celebrities spoke out against beards and unkempt facial hair. And several months ago, the brand introduced Gillette Guard, a razor that was “low cost enough for Indian men to adopt a daily shaving habit.”
While propping men up, Gillette at times also wants to make them laugh. During his presentation, Lally played a how-to video found on Gillette’s Web site that offers men a step-by-step guide on how to groom from head to toe and, um, everywhere in between. This particular video — which features the tag line “Trimming the bush to make the tree look smaller” — has already garnered 3.5 million views. It also elicited laughter from the audience. The goal, said Lally, is to connect with men and, in this instance, younger men.
Gillette has used a portfolio of some 26 sports stars around the globe to get men’s attention and encourage them to spend more time engaging with the brand. For instance, the Boston-based brand counts Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter as a pivotal spokesman. In February, Gillette launched its World’s Biggest Shave campaign, which consisted of a gigantic billboard of Jeter on a building in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. Over a three-day period, a crew painted stubble on the ball player, then painted shaving prep on top of it and then, lastly, a clean-shaven face.
“We have a point of view that guys look better clean shaven,” said Lally.