You recently launched Clean Break, a six-episode reality series, to promote the Schick Hydro razor on Fuel TV (and online). But you never actually feature the product on the show. Why is that?

When you watch the show in the way it’s being presented there’s little doubt it’s being brought to you by Schick Hydro, but the branding isn’t interrupting your viewing experience.

Every time Clean Break cuts to commercial, “Presented by Schick Hydro” appears. With the outros you get a promotional message. Then we put three commercials into the half-hour time slot. So, in that half-hour we get 11 quality brand mentions.

We did a bunch of research and guys told us that if the content was heavily branded, they would be turned off.

That’s how we came to the conclusion that we didn’t need to brand it, didn’t need to put pictures of razors, didn’t need the guys to wake up in the morning and go, “Oh, I can’t wait to shave with my Schick Hydro before I go surfing today!” That would have been stilted and wrong.

The series is about three men in their 20s and 30s who escape to Hawaii and pursue their “dream jobs.” What’s the connection between the content and the Schick brand?

We came up with this concept of “free your skin” as a way of getting around the drudgery of shaving. That’s where the product started.

As we began brainstorming, the idea of making a “clean break” really started to stick. Stuart McLean at Content and Company came up with the concept and we really liked it.

Clean Break has great analogies back to the product as well, because we’re up against a huge competitor [Gillette], which is one of the top 20 brands in the world and so we said, “we want guys to shake up that every day rut and get out and try something new.”

Clean Break features water imagery to connect it to the Schick Hydro brand.

Did you have trouble selling such a subtly branded series to your C-suite?

The hardest one to buy in initially was me. It wasn’t instinctive for me to spend money and then not put my brand all over the content.

But once we did the research and I realized we’d get credit for it, I was able to create a pitch for myself, which I took to my management. They bought it along with me.

In a recent New York Times article you suggest that Schick’s target demographic (men 18 to 34) is “inherently cynical about advertising.” Does that mean we’ll see more brands embracing content marketing?

I absolutely think you will. Yes, they’re cynical, that’s what all our data says, but TV is still a great way to reach a lot of people. People are spending a lot of their free time on mobile devices, but they aren’t spending significantly less time on TV.

TV advertising isn’t going away, but cracking through the clutter, getting men to pay attention, and then getting them to believe in the brand and act on it is getting more challenging.

So in addition to traditional TV ads we need to find other ways to speak to men.

Let’s be honest – razors haven’t changed much in the past 100 years and there’s only so much you can do to differentiate your product (I’m thinking of that Onion article from a few years back that turned out to be very prescient). Do those limitations on the product-design side force marketers to be particularly creative?

JWT of New York teamed up with photographer Jim Fiscus for the Schick Hydro ad campaign.

You’re right that a piece of sharp metal on a stick scraped across your face is what shaving is and has been for a thousand years. It used to be a sharp rock across your face.

With the multiple blades, I think consumers got blade fatigue, but the number one complaint remains: “I still get irritation while shaving.” So what we’ve been able to create with skin guards and adding better, longer lasting lubrication is a significantly superior shave than anything else on the market.

So are we better to go with this emotional, brand-building bonding stuff? Yes, but we also go with some hard-hitting digital competitive claims that say, “Schick Hydro is preferred over Gillette ProGlide at a better price.”

What we’re doing is creating a very rational approach for the stats men – the guys who want to know why it’s better. For the guys who want something that gives them a hug and makes them feel better in the morning, there’s Clean Break.

So we have two types of content we run that get to both sides of the guy.

Schick is the most popular razor brand in Japan and Taiwan.

Schick is the top selling razor brand in Japan and Taiwan, even though it’s second to Gillette everywhere else [Editor’s note: the razors are sold under the parent brand – Wilkinson Sword – in the U.K. and some other markets]. Why so big in Japan?

Gillette is about 110 years old. In World War I Gillette gave soldiers in the U.S. military razors when they went off to war. Soldiers used these razors the whole time and when they came back at the end of the war, they were Gillette shavers.

Schick didn’t start until after World War I and by the time World War II rolled around, Gillette got that contract again and sampled U.S. soldiers. So Schick has never been first in the U.S. and hasn’t been able to catch up.

We’re slowing making gains, but it’s taking us forever. Contrast World War II with the Korean War and the 1960s. We went into Japan way earlier than Gillette, and established that Schick was the razor to use.

Men are such creatures of habit, it is very difficult, once they’ve formed that habit, to consider changing it. That behaviour, combined with who got there first, explains why it’s so difficult to change market share.

Brad Harrison will be speaking at Custom Media Day, a Custom Content Council event, on Wednesday, July 18, in New York City.