Branding Inspiration: How A New Business Can Enter and Succeed in a Highly Competitive Category


This marks the start of  the “Branding Inspiration” series of articles that will focus on newly launched brands that have become successful in super competitive categories.

I hope these success stories will prove that it’s not impossible to enter and carve a niche  in mature categories with the right differentiation strategy. These brands will also provide you with needed inspiration and motivation for our own branding initiatives.

And who knows, this reading might bring some of you closer to starting your own business.

Meet Harry’s

Classic marketing books teach us that if you are not number 1 or 2 in a category, it’s better to invent a new category. Easier said than done.

Most start-ups are launched with the mission of redefining existing markets rather than creating new ones. That’s the strategy Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Rider, the founders of Harry’s, decided to pursue in the shaving industry.

Carving a niche in a market dominated by giants such as Gillette and Schick looks like mission impossible. However today’s featured brand did just that.

I found out about Harry’s by accident. One day, while visiting a friend, I noticed an unfamiliar presence beside the bathroom sink: a Harry’s razor kit.

What grabbed my attention was the simple and elegant handle design, and the minimalist yet effective branding. A startling contrast versus the brands commonly present in Schick and Gillette products that have a plastic and mass produced look and feel.

Harry’s is online retailer and manufacturer of razors and accompanying shaving products launched in March 2013. Since 2014 their blades are made in their own factory in Germany.

I am a Gillette user and never thought of switching brands. But Harry’s makes it difficult for me to resist the temptation to try their products.

So I decided to put on my Marketer hat and take a closer look at the things that make their offer so compelling:

A Clearly-Defined Value Proposition

Harry's Value Proposition

A new brand has to make a simple and bold statement, in its attempt to change the category’s status quo.

Harry’s brand positioning strategy is bold and clear: better quality and less-expensive shaving products versus the existing players’ overpriced alternatives.

It is bold because in makes a direct comparison with its big competitors, by positioning their offer as inferior and outdated.

It is clear because it uses plain language to explain a benefit many people can relate to.

Solid Reasons To Believe

Step number two in any brand positioning exercise is to support your claim with sufficient arguments to make it believable. Harry’s provides at least three good ones.

Quality products at low prices. This sounds like a cliché but Harry’s really delivers on this promise: their products look great and are indeed inexpensive. The compelling stories and excellent product photography work hand in hand to reinforce this claim.

Distribution channel. Online selling is almost immediately associated with lower prices, that become possible with the elimination of the middleman, and lower overhead costs. I am not sure if Harry’s is a profitable business, but their distribution model is a perfect justification for their lower prices claim.

Country of origin. The “high-quality product” perception is reinforced by linking the production of their blades to the country that actually owns the “high-quality” attribute in the mind of most people: Germany. A perfect example of how the country of origin can be used to support a brand claim.

Narrow Product Offering

Narrow product offering

Harry’s product offering consists of only 2 standard shaving kits, one special edition kit and a range of refills. For comparison, Gillette lists 36 products in just the razors category.

Having a lean product offering brings many benefits to a startup:

-it makes it easier to own a word (in this case “razors”) in people’s minds

-the offering can be quickly presented and explained

-it is possible to become the product expert by servicing the market exceptionally well

-it allows for a more efficient allocation of resources, instead of dividing the efforts across multiple lines.

Outstanding Shopping Experience

The uncluttered design, compelling stories, and outstanding photography on Harry’s work together to create a compelling case for trying Harry’s products.

Each product page is very informative and eliminates all potential barriers to purchase.

Product Page

The outstanding packaging not only reinforces the quality claim but also gives consumers a great visual of what they expect to have delivered to their homes:

Harry's Packaging

Communication Strategy That Builds Credibility

No flashy advertising, to huge sponsorship deals. No cute kids, dogs and cats, no supermodels or famous athletes.

Harry’s marketing strategy seem to be focused on building trust in the brand through old-fashion PR, which is the quickest way to build trust.

In the two years since the brand was launched, Harry’s has been featured by important mainstream media outlets: ForbesNew York TimesCNBCFinancial Post.

Their PPC campaign reinforce the same (simple) message.

Harry PPC Message

You can argue that Harry’s was built with backing from important financial investors. And I agree: raising $122 million is not something you or me can (easily) do.

However, to put this number into perspective, Gillette invested 800 million in worldwide advertising alone in 2011.

In my next article I will review another inspirational brand that was started while the owner worked a 9-5 job. Sounds more like you and me? Stayed tuned for details.


  1. Wow, just love to read this article and thank you so much for sharing this post with us 🙂


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