Blade war moves into the courtroom

Blade war moves into the courtroom – Gillette versus Schick

Molly Prior

NEW YORK — As Gillette and Schick work to try and ‘one up’ each other, the two consumer products giants are giving consumers a front row seat to a rivalry that has turned quickly into an all-out blade fight.

Both companies are brandishing their sharpest weapons, which in this case happen to be media campaigns and lawsuits. And the latest move the litigation front came from Energizer Holdings’ Schick brand, which charged Gillette with false advertising several days after Gillette debuted its television commercial for Mach3Turbo Champion, the latest addition to the Mach3Turbo line.

The 30-second spot, created by BBDO NY, features a fiery red, high-performance racing car, intended to draw a parallel between the color and sleek design of the March3Turbo Champion.

What got Schick’s attention was the commercial’s tagline, “The Best a Man Can Get” and the money-back guarantee to anyone who is not satisfied that Mach3Turbo Champion provides the “world’s best shave.” Gillette introduced “The Best a Man Can Get” phrase to consumers in 1989.

Schick’s three-count lawsuit filed in federal court in Hartford, Conn., asks a judge to halt the questioned advertising, detail any related profit and to pay Schick unspecified damages.

Gillette’s actions are offensive to the public,” according to the lawsuit. Schick filed the lawsuit on Oct. 1, one day before Energizer was scheduled to respond to Gillette’s motion for a preliminary injunction, in compliance with a court order stemming from an earlier lawsuit filed in August by Gillette that alleges theSchick Quattro infringes Gillette’s patented three-blade technology.

Now that Schick has introduced a new four-blade razor promising the “The Closest, Smoothest Shave Ever,” it claims Gillette’s tagline “The Best a Man Can Get” no longer holds water.

“The jury is still out on whether one is better than the other,” said consumer products analyst Bill Chappell of SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, adding Schick’s suit is really about publicity. After hearing that Schick is challenging Gillette’s claims, the public could infer if Gillette can no longer claim Mach3Turbo offers the closet shave, that must mean Schick’s four-bladed razor Quattro does, Humphrey said.

Humphrey said the two brands have the potential to share three core user groups: high-end customers, many of whom currently use Mach3, but may try Quattro in their search for the latest innovation; mid-tier customers, such as Gillette Sensor twin-blade users, many of who may never trade up to Mach3 or Quattro; and disposable users.

Schick, prior to being acquired by Energizer in March, was owned by Pfizer. Now both brands are competing with the marketing prowess of two consumer products giants. “With any consumer, products company the goal is to be the best marketer,” said Humphrey.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group