When you enter an crowded, established, not-very-exciting market with the goal of upending expectations, the best way to signal your intention is with a distinctive product name that avoids the naming trends in your category.
That’s exactly what Tristan Walker, a former Wall Street trader and Silicon Valley executive, has done with Bevel, his new shaving system for men with coarse, curly hair (mostly but not exclusively African-American men, like Walker himself).
The weighted razor and skin-preparation products are meant to reduce and prevent ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
To understand how revolutionary the Bevel name is—and to appreciate the elegant, understated product design—take a look at some competitors.
Yes, it’s all bumps out there.
There are Bump products for the ladies, too:
The companies behind these products have fixated on a common strategy, naming the problem. Bevel stands out because it names the solution: a razor whose single blade is angled (beveled) to shave close to the skin. (Yes, a single blade. Walker is “deeply skeptical about multi-blade razors,” according to a TechCrunch story about his company: “He holds that because you can’t patent single-blade razors, there’s no incentive for incumbent companies like Proctor [sic] & Gamble to invest in the best solution.”)
And because the Bevel system is sold as a fairly spendy subscription service, it doesn’t require retina-burning graphics to command your attention in CVS or Walgreen’s. The products can speak with the quiet authority of good design.
The Bevel name succeeds on sound and appearance, too. Its velvety, liquid consonants suggest smoothness, while the V in the middle of the word—echoed in the logo—suggests the shape of an angled blade.
Bevel.com was, of course, taken. (It redirects to an optometry website with a different name.) The choice to go with a modified domain, GetBevel.com, was smart and appropriate.
(I was a little disappointed, however, that the company’s Twitter bio includes a pronunciation guide. Really?)
Bevel is the first product and “flagship brand” of Tristan Walker’s startup enterprise, Walker and Company. It’s pure coincidence, as far as I can tell, that this Walker evokes a much older hair-care brand—also developed by an African-American for African-Americans—with the Walker name.
The Madam C.J. Walker company of Indiana was founded in 1910 by Sarah Breedlove Walker, who used her husband’s initials as her business name. As a young woman Sarah Breedlove Walker had suffered hair loss; the products she developed to treat the condition proved so popular that she became America’s first female self-made millionaire.
Madam C.J. Walker 1998 U.S. postage stamp
The company thrived for more than six decades after Madam Walker’s death in 1919; in 1985, the company was sold to Raymond Randolph, who had worked in the black-haircare industry since the 1960s. The products are once again for sale under a slightly modified name, Madame C.J. Walker Hair Products.
There have been many published biographies of Madam Walker. The one I want to read is On Her Own Ground, published in 2002 by Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles.