09/09/10

By Will King, Founder, King of Shaves

King of Shaves founder, Will King, started his business in 1993, in his kitchen after being made redundant from his city job, with the aim of selling shaving oils that would combat razor rash. He is the clean-shaven face behind his brand which is now stocked in around 30,000 shops in countries from around the world (including the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) and competes with Gillette and Wilkinson Sword. How? And what advice would he give himself 10 years ago?

Despite his success he must have been nervous entering into a market that was already clearly dominated by the big boys? “It was intimidating, in terms of us entering the market we had to come up with something different. We had to market it with a personality.”

King is no stranger to personalising his products — his company is named after him. He has a personal blog www.shave.com and is a regular on the Twitter circuit. When comedian Dom Joly recently tweeted about looking for a new razor, King of Shaves’ fans tweeted that he should contact King. He did and King tweeted back personally and sent Joly a razor in the post. Now there’s consumer advocacy. “I call it C-to-C marketing (consumer-to-consumer) or C-to-CE (consumer to celebrity)” But how has he created such a fanbase from a shaving product?

“I’ve developed a good relationship with our fans,” he says. “I blog, answer tweets and we’re on Facebook.” But that doesn’t really answer how he’s made something as mundane as a shaving product become something that people will happily join a group to support. “It has to be the right product, true but it also has to be coming from someone who really believes in the brand. We set up the Facebook group ‘rage against expensive razors’, to capture the mood online. And I make sure I tweet as myself rather than have some marketing guy sat behind a computer pretending to be me. I think it helps to keep it authentic.”

But isn’t social media talked about enough these days? “We wanted to make a more emotional connection with customers. Awareness is our biggest competitor now,” he says. “But we went for an iPad approach — less is more. You could go for the bells and whistles, seven blades, extensive packaging, ten sports personalities to promote it but then the cost of the product sky rockets. We asked how many blades are really necessary and kept the customer at the forefront. They need a good product at a reasonable price. Gillette wanted to align itself with Tiger Woods etc to create the image of a champion and that backfired.”

After tracking down the phone number of Mohamed Al Fayed's personal assistant, King managed to get Harrods to order 12 bottles. This meant he could go to the high street with a great case. Despite projecting a £200m by 2012, King says the country as a whole is still in recession and that it’s important to keep up-to-date when it comes to your business model. What advice can you give to small businesses and entrepreneurs? “You’ve got to keep trying new things,” says King. “Don’t be afraid of change. Never assume that you’ve got it all sorted”.

Will King will be speaking at ad:tech London 21-22 September 2010 about content, creativity and conversation. Register now for your free ticket.