For many Americans, video games were already a major pastime. Stay-at-home orders during the Covid-19 pandemic have created even more time to play. In the first quarter of 2020, total consumer spending on the video game industry, including console, mobile and PC platforms, climbed 9% to a record $10.86 billion, according to figures from NPD Group.
To get in on the action, razor brand Schick Xtreme has released its own free mobile game, Shave the Day, available on iOS and Android today. In an endless runner format, players become XtremeMan, a bald, caped hero who rides a giant razor down a three-lane street. Players earn points by collecting coins and shaving the heads of other characters by leaping over them.
Schick Xtreme will turn these in-game points into real-world dollars (up to $250,000) destined for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood cancer. Once the goal is reached, players will be encouraged to make their own donation through the game.
Matt Bell, vp of North America at Edgewell Personal Care, Schick’s parent company, first learned about St. Baldrick’s through the organization’s events at his daughter’s high school. These events, held around the country, see participants shave their head to raise funds and show solidarity with those suffering from cancer. Watching high school students shave their heads for the cause, Bell said he “immediately saw the connection between what we offer and what we’re trying to do as a brand, and a tremendous opportunity to help support a great cause.”
Schick Xtreme is promoting the game on its social media channels, and has also teamed up with popular Twitch streamers Nick Polom and Aydan Conrad, who will play Shave the Day and shave their own heads live on the streaming platform once donation goals are met. In the first quarter of 2020, a largely young audience watched 3.1 billion hours of content on Twitch—nearly double the hours watched on YouTube Gaming, Facebook Gaming and Microsoft Mixer combined, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“It’s sports,” said Bell of the allure behind the Amazon-owned platform. “People certainly love watching sports and being able to watch people compete.”
While Twitch users are part of Schick Xtreme’s customer base, Bell noted that the brand is geared toward a broader market. On using Twitch to market Schick’s own product, Bell said, “My hope is that this inspires people to continue to challenge others, and that this can become a bigger movement to encourage people to shave their head and support such a good cause.”
Shave the Day, which can be downloaded on the App Store and Google Play, was produced by Edelman and game developer Playcrafting.
While the campaign has been in the works for four months, the timing of its release was serendipitous. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, St. Baldrick’s has postponed all in-person events until Sept. 1 and put an emphasis on donating online. The charity’s homepage, for example, encourages visitors to give, stating that the “fight against childhood cancers has gone virtual.”
It’s also a moment when razor brands could use a boost: The pandemic put razor blades sales on a downturn. Procter & Gamble’s grooming segment, which includes its Gillette and Venus brands, was the only one that saw a decline in organic sales (1%) during the three months ending March 31. Likewise, Edgewell Personal Care saw its shaving division’s sales decline to $280.5 million for the quarter, down 4.7% compared to the year prior. In April, Unilever’s chief executive Alan Jope told The Financial Times that “people are shaving less.”
Beyond the present crisis, growing cultural acceptance around men sporting beards and stubble have also hurt razor sales. Last year, Procter & Gamble wrote down the value of its Gillette shaving business by $8 billion, claiming that the market had shrunk because consumers were shaving less frequently.
“It’s certainly no secret that men’s shaving has changed over the past few years—people are definitely growing lots of different styles,” said Bell, noting that about half of men still opt for the clean-shaven look. “Certainly, in quarantine, people are experimenting even more, because it’s a great time to try that.”
In recent years, direct-to-consumer shaving brands have also chipped away at the market share traditionally held by large CPG manufacturers. The response has been acquisition, with Unilever purchasing Dollar Shave Club for a reported $1 billion in 2016 and Procter & Gamble scooping up women’s shaving disruptor Billie for an undisclosed amount earlier this year. Edgewell Personal Care had made its own play for startup Harry’s for $1.37 billion, but backed away in February after the Federal Trade Commission sued to block the transaction over fears of diminished competition and innovation.
Still, similar to other shopping habits during the pandemic, consumers looking for razors are increasingly going online. When comparing the first week of February to the time period between Feb. 8 and May 9, Amazon searches for the term “razor blades” were up 58%, according to data from the ecommerce performance analytics firm Profitero. The phrase “razors for men” was up 164%.
“We’re definitely seeing an increase in online sales,” said Bell, “which certainly makes sense.”