Gillette Seeks Edge for New Women's Razor Through Internet

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The debut of the Gillette for Women Venus three-bladed wet razor marks the first time Gillette Co. will aim significant online marketing dollars at women.


Online branding tactics are in place, including sponsorships, banners, sweepstakes, partnerships and merchandising modules for online retailers, plus an informational brand Web site at www.gillettevenus.com.


"The level of investment is greater than any previous female grooming product investments," said Michelle Mulcahey, business manager for grooming global business management at Gillette Co. "This is largely because more of our target consumers are online than ever before."


Besides a mobile marketing tour, the online effort is the only one-to-one component of a $150 million worldwide campaign. Other media include television, radio and print advertising as well as in-store merchandising.


"The challenge of breaking through the clutter and creating involvement in a low-interest category" spurred the Internet push, said Liz Tuohey, business manager for grooming global business management at Gillette.


"Women have a lot of things as part of their regimen," she said. "Either it's hair care, skin care or makeup, and shaving is probably not the top priority."


Gillette, Boston, hopes to change that thinking with the Venus system, which features an oval-shaped cartridge with three blades, a handle designed for a firmer grip and a waterproofed shower-mounted compact for blades. The new product claims to offer a closer, smoother shave with fewer nicks.


Retailing between $7.49 and $7.99 for a razor, storage compact and two cartridges, or the same price for a refill pack of four cartridges, Venus targets females ages 12 to 49.


"The key product communication, 'Now in just one stroke, your skin stays smoother longer,' is consistent across all media," Mulcahey said. "Additionally, the tag line, 'Reveal the goddess in you,' is clearly highlighted in each media vehicle."


This stance is reflected in GilletteVenus.com. The site has sections for product information, a frequently-asked-questions list and the ability to send e-mails to Gillette for further inquiries.


Interactive components on the site test the visitor's "beauty IQ" through a series of questions. A similar experience is offered through an online game regarding women's achievements to discover the "hidden goddess" in the player.


Such efforts are supported by a "Celebrate the Goddess in You" sweepstakes. Winners either get to surf in Hawaii, cook in Tuscany, attend a video music awards ceremony or shop in New York.


"With women's permission, we're collecting names to inform them about relevant Gillette for Women Venus promotional offers," Mulcahey said.


Online branding for the razor is not limited to the United States. The goal is to present a uniform look to Venus branding in major world markets.


"The site serves as a template whose assets offer a platform for global online marketing," Tuohey said. "This includes country-specific Web sites as well as country-specific online branding activities [in terms of] sponsorships, partnerships and merchandising modules."


Gillette also has created CD-ROM-based merchandising modules with extensive information on the new razor. The company is distributing these CD-ROMs to online retailers such as drugstore.com for easy upload on their sites.


"The objective of the merchandising module is to drive sales and to create relationships with online retailers," Tuohey said.


Gillette has bought media on several pertinent sites to address a key issue - how to reach the targets in an online environment they often visit.


It has struck banner, sponsorship and partnership deals on teen sites such as Alloy Online, seventeen.com and teenpeople.com. Similar arrangements have been made on women-oriented sites such as elle.com, self.com, eonline.com, salon.com and iVillage.com. The deals call for standard banners or ads tailored to surrounding content as part of sponsorships. For partnerships, Gillette has developed co-branded content in the beauty category on these sites.


"The Internet gives us a unique opportunity to create involvement with the brand and particularly with the target in an environment where they're predisposed to thinking of their beauty regimen," Mulcahey said.


Digitas, Boston, is Gillette's interactive agency of record. BBDO, New York, handles offline advertising.


Gillette has a lot riding on its new razor.


The nation's largest shaving products company has been struggling, as its fourth-quarter profits last year were flat compared with the previous year. Even Gillette's budget for Venus is half the $300 million spent worldwide to promote the 1998 debut of the three-bladed Mach3 razor for men.


Though Mulcahey and Tuohey will not disclose the online budget, they admit the Internet now plays a far more important role in launching a Gillette product.


"Without the Internet, Gillette would lose a valuable tool in its marketing communications mix," Tuohey said.


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