Thursday, December 10, 2009

Business model example: Gillette - The razor and blade business model

The name Razor and Blade business model refers to Gillette's use of razor handles, sometimes given away for free, and high margin disposable blades. Gillette has used the razor-and-blade business model since the first model with disposable blades was launched in 1902, with granted patents in 1904. Since then several different generations of razors have been developed, patented and released and razors has become one of the most heavily patented consumer products with more than 1000 granted patents. Gillette's success with its razors and blades is a story about superior technology, design and the use of control mechanisms, foremost patents, to ensure market dominance. Gillette who spends huge amounts on R&D and patenting, has fine tuned its business model and patenting activities, and never releases a new razor until the next generation is already in development. It has continuously developed and heavily patented its products, replacing old models just when patents have started to expire. As patents per definition becomes publicly available, and is used for competitive intelligence, Gillette, instead of filing own patents when inventions are discovered, awaits the right time to file large batches of patents to be published in perfect timing for the launching of new products. In 1998, after more than $750 million of research and testing, Gillette introduced Mach3, with innovations such as the triple blade, the single-point cartridge docking, the indicator lubricating strip to signal when to replace cartridge and the diamond-like carbon-coated DLC blade edge (three times stronger than stainless steel, made with chip-making technology). The company made sure to patent every design and engineering feature resulting in a wall of more than 50 patents surrounding the product. Seven years later the Gillette Fusion was launched with new inventions protected by more than 70 patents.

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