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Gillette hypes new razor

Battery-powered device receives plenty of buzz

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs demonstrates Gillette's new M3Power razor.
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs demonstrates Gillette's new M3Power razor.
Adam Rountree, Associated Press

BOSTON — It's all about the buzz as The Gillette Co. launches its new battery-powered razor — and not just the sound coming from the vibrating blades.

The Boston-based company is giving its M3Power razor a launch more worthy of a movie than a bathroom product, complete with a print and TV advertising campaign advancing its Monday release and a series of celebrity shaving publicity stunts.

Already this week, Charles McCord, of "Imus in the Morning" talk show fame, used the razor on air.

Rapper and record producer Sean "P. Diddy" Combs shaved with it at City Hall in New York on Thursday. And Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon, dubbed "Caveman" by some after reporting to spring training with a long mane and copious facial hair, agreed to remove his beard via M3Power.

"It's the first time we've treated a new razor launch like the launch of a movie or a much anticipated book or record CD," said Peter Hoffman, president of blades and razors for Gillette.

The question is, will the hype convince consumers to plunk down $15 for the razor, $6 more than Gillette's top line Mach3Turbo?

The M3Power has a battery-powered motor which emits pulses to stimulate hair away from the skin, where a new, coated blade can more easily swipe it off. Hoffman declined to say how much the company spent to develop and market the razor.

William Chappell of SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, one of several Gillette analysts to receive a razor, said the M3Power will ultimately be a niche product, rather than the tool of a shaving revolution.

The difference between a shave with the M3Power and the Mach3 was "virtually undetectable," Chappell reported, adding that's a credit to the Mach3.

"The constant vibration can be annoying and will probably turn off some users," he wrote in a research note.

Joseph Altobello, an analyst with CIBC World Markets Corp., was similarly reserved. He said the M3Power is "a nice incremental product" as the company moves toward the launch of a new shaving system it touts as revolutionary but is saying very little about.

Hoffman said marketing tests showed consumers preferred M3Power 2-to-1 to Mach3Turbo. Many men liked it so much, they'd pay more for the razor than Gillette's suggested retail price, he said.

Gillette dominates the blade and razor business, holding a 66.4 percent dollar share of the razor and 86.6 percent of the razor refill market at the end of 2003, according to Information Resources Inc. The M3Power launch comes after several strong quarters, during which the company elevated its advertising spending to battle the launch of Schick's Quattro, the first four-blade razor.