How do you increase sales for a product that is already the leader in the market?
Increase interest in the market. That’s what Procter & Gamble did
when they wanted to grow sales of their razors in India.

P&G’s Gillette razors are the most popular razors in India. But sales had been stagnant for years, mostly due to a natural bias against shaving. Indian men often prefer to avoid razors altogther, choosing instead to grow facial hair.

In addition, the Mach III costs about 10 times more than the competition, a straight razor. So how did P&G jump these hurdles? By growing the market through social media.

When P&G purchased Gillette in 2005, nearly 90% of Indian consumers still use double-edged razors, which left a large opportunity for the company to convert people to Gillette’s products.

And last year, P&G decided that to get men to buy more of their Mach III razors, they had to make people care more about shaving in general. To do so, they seeded a few discussion topics and let the Indian people do the rest of their marketing work.

Speaking at The CM Summit in New York, Lucas Watson, team leader for P&G’s digital strategy, said that the company used a “mix of paid media, earned media and social elements all working together.” They commissioned a survey from Nielsen, bought a few ads, created a Facebook page, and let the Indian people do the rest.

According to P&G marketing materials, “to debate, dicuss and argue is in the blood of Indians!”

The Nielsen survey found that women and employers — two groups with opinions that men tend to care about — preferred clean-shaven men.

Unsurprisingly considering the source of the survey, 61% of women surveyed thought shaven men were “kissable,” while 68% found unshaven men unsexy. 91% of employers said they were more likely to hire shaven men, while 77% said clean-shaven men were more likely to be promoted.

Soon people were debating the look of facial hair in print media, online and on television. Celebrities and commentators weighed in, and P&G saw their sales climb.

P&G thinks that the most important thing in any media strategy is how effective it is in driving sales. According to Watson: “I tried to take my Facebook fans to the bank, and they wouldn’t take them.”

So did P&G’s seeding campaign work? Apparently. Mach III sales in India grew 40% in the months after they launched the social aspects of the campaign. Using every other element in their advertising arsenal, Gillette razor sales in India had been flat for ten years. According to Marcus: “It was adding the social mix that unlocked the value add.”