Gillette's FlexBall Faces Scruff And Skeptics

You’d be excused for thinking that a Fusion ProGlide FlexBall is some new gimmicky piece of exercise equipment that purports to do it all from flattening flabby abs to stretching tight hammies. It’s actually some new gimmicky piece of shaving equipment that purports to be “a game-changer.” 

With pivot-head technology that is being compared to Dyson Ball vacuum cleaners, “it addresses the need guys have for a closer shave with fewer missed hairs,” Sonia Fife, Gillette's general manager for North America, tells Cincinnati.com’s Alexander Coolidge. 

And Proctor & Gamble is betting that those men — at least those who don’t choose to be scruffy by nature or surgery — will gladly shell out a suggested $11.49 at retail, plus blades, to mow down every last straggler on the facial manscape. A battery-powered version for those who need an added boost is $12.59. 

The new razors — “the first major upgrade from Gillette since the P&G unit updated its five-blade Fusion model with better ‘ProGlide’ blade technology in 2010,” as the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Ziobro and Serena Ng reported in a spoiler on April 18 — use existing Fusion blade cartridges. 

“Gillette introduced the new technology at a launch event in New York that featured live music, a shave of actor Omar Epps and the usual company proclamations that its latest razor would change shaving as we know it,” Taryn Luna writes in the Boston Globe.

“They’re trying to get people to trade up within the Gillette family as well as take share from competitors,” Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Ali Dibadj tells Luna. “That may be successful. We’ll see if the innovation itself has legs.”

“It’s a bit clever. I don’t think it’s a bad innovation,” Euromonitor analyst Nicole Tyrimou tells the Financial Times’ Barney Jopson. But it may not be enough to win back consumers who have switched to Schick and Wilkinson Sword. “I understand that premiumization is a common strategy among companies when sales are down . . . but I don’t think that is the best thing for Gillette,” she said.

Besides the “re-imagined handle that gives the cartridge a fuller range of motion,” there’s also a “more ergonomic grip for precise control,” a press release tells us.

Gillette has set up a page that’s awaiting both video and text reviews from consumers, who can preorder the handles or find their nearest retailers, which will begin selling the device on June 9. 

“At what point in a friendly competition does the mercy rule apply?” asks the announcer in YouTube video embedded on the site with side-by-side shots of old-school and new-school Fusion razors poised over rolling, hairless, flesh-colored images that resemble nothing residing on the human anatomy. 

Social media efforts include a six-week campaign where “fans can follow Gillette on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Gillette and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Gillette to guess some famous figures who will be revealing their shaved face,” according to a Gillette press release on MarketWatch. 

Outside reviews are decidedly mixed, starting with Kevin Roose’s declaration in nymag.com’s “Daily Intelligencer” following the Wall Street Journal’s piece 10 days ago. 

“I won't mince words: ProGlide FlexBall is a bad idea. A really bad idea,” Roose writes. “In fact, the razor represents everything terrible about America's innovation economy,” he wrote and expounded upon, urging readers to “buy cheapo razors from an internet wholesaler,” as he does.

GQ’s Eric Sullivan was skeptical, at first, linking to a classic MADtv triple-blade Razor Spishak parody ad. Then he tried it. “I’m not saying it changed my life,” he writes, “but I had a more enjoyable shaving experience.”

“If you're a purist (as, admittedly, I've become in my advanced age), you might opt for something more old-fashioned, like Harry's,” writes BostInno’s Alex E. Weaver. “If, on the other hand, you live for the accessories, the bells and whistles, this is your razor.” Weaver, however, has admittedly not tried the Fusion ProGlide FlexBall yet.

Gizmodo’s Adam Clark Estes, however, tried out the new razor at the Gillette press event and concluded it “wasn't a bad experience, but it didn't make me want to shave more often. It definitely didn't make me want to spend more money.” Oh, and running his hand across his face on the way back to work Estes discovered he’d “missed a couple spots and cut myself, just like any other morning.”

Technology has come a long way since 1967, when Noxema Medicated Shaving Cream promised to “take it off; take it all off.” The question may be, have men? Or marketing that appeals to men?

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1 comment about "Gillette's FlexBall Faces Scruff And Skeptics".
  1. Jeremy Colton from bookwomanny , April 30, 2014 at 12:35 p.m.
    I've gone back to Noxema. I wish they would promote it so it doesn't ever go away.