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After posting a comment on Twitter about the Art of Shaving acquisition by P&G, I got a note from a student, Joe Hagel, telling me how great the Art of Shaving stores are. A week later, in DC’s Washington Square, I ran across one of the stores and went inside. I was met by Enrique Navarrete, a well-dressed gent who quickly engaged me in a conversation about shaving and proceeded to demonstrate the proper method at the sink in the store. This had become more that a visit by a curious brand strategist, it was now about my face, and the wrongs inflicted upon it over years of clumsy shaves. I left with a full set of man-pampering tools and lotions, a new respect for the Art of Shaving and a faint scent of sandalwood. This is the kind of experience that builds a great brand. Thanks Joe and Enrique!

[This is a follow-up to the Art of Shaving story below.]


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Last week Procter & Gamble announced the purchase of the retail chain the Art of Shaving. Stepping into retail might seem like a peculiar move for the consumer products company, but it follows a pattern of increasing innovation for the organization.

Back in 2005 P&G made a lot of noise when it bought Gillette. At the time, I was interviewed by BusinessWeek, which picked up on the innovative shift signaled by the $57 billion deal. [The article is available here: Branding: Five New Lessons.]

The deal made a lot of sense for P&G. Gillette was a master at marketing a cohesive family of products under one brand. P&G is growing in this area, extending brands like Crest into broad families of related products. Gillette also benefitted from the combination of innovative hardware paired with consumables — the razor and the blades. P&G has expanded greatly in this area with electric toothbrushes, Febreze air cleaners, Mr. Clean car wash kits and Swiffer wet mops.

So if putting hardware and consumables together and building product families can boost your brands, why not control even more of the consumer experience? The Art of Shaving deal could teach P&G some important lessons, but only if they do it right. Back in the 1980s, P&G picked up the Vidal Sassoon product line, but left the high-end hair salons alone. The brand languished, and Sassoon and P&G found themselves on opposite ends of a heated lawsuit. In retrospect, P&G might have missed an opportunity to explore the connection between product and service. A connection the folks at Starbucks exploited when they expanded from selling bags of coffee beans to serving the coffee in upscale bistros. When brands mix product and service, the resulting experience can increase customer loyalty, reduce price sensitivity and boost differentiation.

Given its position as the leading consumer products manufacturing company, P&G could content itself with sticking to the existing formulas and leaving the innovation to smaller, nimbler players. But with this entry into retail experiences, it looks like the company that invented brand management might just be on its way to reinventing it.

General Motors filed for bankruptcy. Too bad for my hometown of Detroit, but maybe it needed to happen. The GM name has come to represent an overgrown, overly complex conglomerate that expanded into everything from home mortgages to aerospace to computer programming. It’s hard to run a great company when you’re tangled up in too many businesses. But there is still great potential for the company’s strongest brands.

At the heart of this company you’ll find nameplates like Cadillac and Chevy. Chevrolet alone accounted for half of all GM sales last year. It sold 10 times as many cars as the company’s other brands. (100 times Hummer.) All by itself, Chevy would be among the world’s largest car companies and one of the best loved.


Here’s a thought for my friends working at GM and their ad agencies: Why not change the company name to Chevrolet? Most other car companies are named for their primary car line. This includes Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, VW and many others. Most of these brands have high-end lines, like Lincoln, Lexus, Infinity and Audi – Chevrolet can do the same with Cadillac. The change would signal that the company was serious about focusing on its core brands and products. And that’s the right move for the company and for its customers.

Note: For more about GM’s brand, check out my interview on Fox Business here: GM Brand