The tale of the two shaving oils

Originally published here

I have used two shaving oils over the past few months. The differences between two similar products just outlines how much difference positioning can make to a product.

Let’s be clear on terms

For the purpose of this post, Product = Physical product your produce, Brand = what your customers perceive of you product as, Positioning = what you do to make sure that the customers have the perception you intended

The two products

The first company is called the Art of Shaving. I came across advertisements for Art of Shaving on the Boston T. The Art of Shaving store and website exudes a sense of luxury and expert skincare for men. When you walk into the store, you see a barber shop on the right, and a store on the left. Well groomed, well dressed salesmen walk you through the store and help you smell and try various products.

To really elevate your shaving experience, you need to purchase a full kit (picture below) starting at $115.

The product I bought from the Art of Shaving was a sandalwood shaving oil, designed to be used with shaving cream/foam. It is essentially a pre-shave oil, and retails for $25/60mL or about 40 cents a mL. The smell was sandalwood, smelling all ‘Natural’

Now let’s compare that with the new shaving oil that I bought from called Shave Secret. It costs 7 dollars for 18.75 mL, though you can get it for ~4 dollars at Walmart. Given this price, it was approx 25 dollars for 60 mL too, which I just realized now when I did the calculation! In my mind, it was significantly cheaper — I guess it would be had I got it at Walmart.

This product is not a pre-shave oil. It replaces all shaving creams and oils — so you use just the oil and shave. I tried it, and had a pretty nice shave with it!

So the product shave secret is significantly better than the Art of Shaving oil in terms of utility. What then explains the difference in price?

Customer utility = total experience

We have to think of customer utility in terms of total experience. Here is where the products completely differ. Here is how they might want the customer to experience the product

The Art of Shaving: Shaving is not just a daily chore you need to do. As a man, this is the one opportunity for you to take care of yourself. Would you not give yourself the best, most luxurious experience possible? Shouldn’t your skin look and smell great after shaving? What message do you want to send to your partner/potential partners? When you give a gift to a man, wouldn’t you want it to be the best?

Shave Secret: Shaving is a pain — the nicks, the cuts, the application of oil, cream, the clean up. We simplify everything. With Shave Secret, you use only out product, and avoid any creams. Result: smoother shave, faster cleanup, no rinsing after shaving. Get in, get out, save $$, and have the most convenient shave possible.

It’s all about positioning. And choices

The point is, both of these positions can work. And does work. For different people. It ultimately comes down to the customer — what does the customer want out of the shaving experience? Attitudinal segmentation might be a good answer here — what attitudes do customers have towards shaving?

What is important that the executives behind these products choose the position and align all resources and processes behind the position. You need very different skill sets to make these work.

Art of Shaving needs branding and retail skill sets. And a supply chain that handles lots of different product. And excellent customer service that ensures that the same upscale experience is present across stores, website and catalog.

Shave Secret needs efficiency. Efficiency in making sure that the product is manufactured at the lowest cost, and a supply chain that handles making sure inventories are correct across various retail outlets.

Ultimately, it comes down to choices. I admire both companies for choices they have made, and both will be successful. As long as they are authentic to the positioning they have chosen.

So what’s the lesson?

Choose your positioning carefully. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Decide what you want to be when you grow up. Then stick to it, and make it work.

If you liked the blog post, you will love my free class “5 Simple Steps Any Product Manager Can Take to Fast-Track Their Way to Product Leader.” Go ahead, enroll now!

Founder at Intentional Product Manager ( Product @Google, @Tamr, @Lattice_Engines, @Adaptly. Worked at @McKinsey