Operations

Inside the making of Philips category-defying unisex shaver

Retailer feedback pushed the company with a 100-year history in men’s shave to push category boundaries.
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Philips

· 4 min read

While Dutch electronics maker Philips has been producing men’s shave products for nearly 100 years, its desire to innovate—and even go against the grain—hasn’t dulled.

Its men’s grooming brand Philips Norelco last month debuted OneBlade Intimate, a unisex intimate shaver for pubic and underarm skin that is not only the brand’s first foray beyond men’s shave in the US, but also a rare unisex product in a category that’s been largely gendered in retail. The product is available on Amazon and at CVS and is set to launch at retailers including Target, Walgreens, and Walmart for $29.99.

The company was founded in 1891 and entered shave in the 1930s. A decade ago, it announced plans to split in two, with one company focused on healthcare tech and the other on lighting. The healthcare business has a sector powering tech in hospitals and a personal health segment with three more subsegments: oral healthcare (Sonicare toothbrushes), beauty and grooming (in the US, men’s shave under the Norelco brand) and a mother and child healthcare product maker (bottles, warmers, monitors, etc.) through the Avent brand.

  • The North America region of its personal health business brought in about ~$1.2 billion in 2023, Philips reported.

Philips has a goal to improve the lives of 2.5 billion people by 2030, for Personal Health that is all about making it “easier and more accessible for people to stay healthy,” which includes skin health, Dana Medema, SVP of personal health North America at Philips, said. Medema, a CPG vet with 20+ years of experience at Colgate-Palmolive and Clorox, oversees all aspects of this personal health segment, and walked Retail Brew through the inspiration and development process for the product.

Trim and her: The idea for OneBlade Intimate first came from its retail partners like Walmart and Target, who continually told Philips that women often ventured over to the men’s shave aisle in stores in search of shave solutions for themselves. These retailers nudged them to create a women’s shave item to fill that need.

But women’s shave isn’t Norelco’s area of expertise in the US, and it didn’t want to clutter the category, so the company told retailers it would think on it, Medema said.

“We always say that we’re open to addressing any pain point in a category,” she said.

With few intimate shavers marketed as unisex, especially in mass retailers, Philips pondered the challenge of creating a product targeting such a wide audience. Medema said it considered today’s “bimodal world,” where one group of consumers wants a product that does everything for them, and another wants a product uniquely made for one need.

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“You have to always make some choices,” she noted, so the company set out to make a product to address the consumer behavior retailers had pointed out, rather than one shave product that could do everything.

The product’s development took a little over a year. Philips first started testing it in the UK, where it worked to identify consumer demand for the product, and found that women were specifically heading to the men’s shave aisle looking for electric shaving tools.

Then, the company had to optimize product design, finding a “balance between safety, size, and efficacy,” Medema noted, solving issues like ensuring it fits well in different-sized hands and making it waterproof. Solutions like those kept it from “me-tooing” in the shave category, she said.

“You can always try to go into categories and add another brand to it,” she said. “But when you do that it needs to have meaning; it needs to be something that can provide the consumer with something they’re not currently getting. We just hadn’t figured that out yet. For the first time, we felt like we had something figured out.”

Health is wealth: The product is merchandised, technically, in the men’s shave aisles at retailers (along with, of course, Amazon and other online retailers which have more flexibility in product merchandising, and label it as “unisex”). But Medema noted that the aisle is beginning to defy gender norms, becoming less and less “men’s shaving” and more just “electric shaving.”

  • Advertising for the shaver shows both men and women using the product—and yes, they show actual body hair in the ads, a more modern approach to the shave ads that’s been championed by brands like Billie.

And as Philips looks ahead to future innovations in shave and elsewhere, Medema said she believes they’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg.

“The real opportunities are still how we create solutions that can be seamlessly integrated into people’s lives in an accessible way. That’s really where you’re at [when] the magic happens,” she said.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.