If you’re a North American male aged 17 to 30 or a female who has shopped for men toiletries, you’ve likely heard of Dollar Shave Club. If you haven’t, Dollar Shave Club is a company that delivers razors and other personal grooming products by mail.
Dollar Shave Club is one of those startups that blew up before getting acquired by Unilever for $1B in 2016, only about 5 years after its founding in 2011. This “blow up” has largely been attributed to the company’s business model, marketing/branding, and it’s famous 2012 YouTube Video.
This YouTube video, which stars Dollar Shave Club’s founder Michael Dubin, cost only $4,500, took a single day to shoot, and resulted in over 12,000 subscribers in 24 hours! These are absolutely ridiculous numbers, and this blogpost will analyze exactly how they did this using some basic marketing principles.
Managing Expectations: While Dollar Shave Club managed to pull it off, the whole thing was carefully orchestrated. Not everyone is a founder with a background in theatre and comedy or have a professional video producer buddy from college. While it’s unlikely you’ll hit similar numbers as Dollar Shave Club, there is still a lot of basic marketing to be learned from how they did it.
Type of Content
Video is one of the most effective types of content for a variety of reasons that make it the perfect content choice for virality. Here are some compelling statistics:
- 92% of mobile users share videos with others
- More than 30% of all online activity involves watching videos
- People trust video more than pictures
- 80% of users can recall a video they viewed in the last 30 days
- Video are engaging, increases purchase intent by 97% and brand association by 139%
They knew they wanted their launch to go viral, and they needed the right channel to do this on. They explored their options and in 2012, YouTube was the only place to go if you wanted any hope of going viral.
Plus 83% of consumers worldwide would tell you that they prefer YouTube to watch video content. It’s just the go-to.
We all love a good story, and Dollar Shave Club employed storytelling to its fullest throughout their branding, not just with the video. We like storytelling in part because of our primal instincts kicking in that allowed us to share knowledge for millenia, but also due to more tangible reasons like:
- Stories are easy to follow because they are generally structured. With some kind of beginning, climax, and end. This makes the messaging effortless to understand.
- Stories, especially those with great beginnings, can really captivate one’s attention. With a relatable narrative, people will want to keep watching to satisfy their curiosity.
- Storytelling can be very personable with the potential to expose some vulnerabilities. This helps build trust and loyalty with your audience. It makes your brand seem less like a “corporation”.
Clear Value Proposition
No matter how good the storytelling or brand positioning is, if your content doesn’t outline value propositions, it’s unlikely you’ll see great conversions. In the Dollar Shave Club, you will realize the focus on value proposition for the very beginning.
The video begins with Michael Dublin sitting at a desk and within 10 seconds, he’s already made the value proposition clear: “for $1 a month, we send high quality razors right to your door”.
Knowing your Target Audience
Dollar Shave Club’s target audience is young men, or at least it was their primary target audience when they first launched. Michael Dublin addresses his audience in a relatable manner, in aspects ranging from tone, dress, word choices, to even the video’s setting.
Brand Positioning and Messaging
After clarifying the value proposition within 10 seconds of the video, Michael Dublin gets up, walks towards the doors, and delivers the defining punchline of the video: “Our blades are f**king great!”. This sets the tone for the rest of the video.
Dollar Shave Club looked at what other brands like Gillette were doing and realized their branding was too “gentlemanly” and “polished”. And, I mean, for how much longer can you sell the “close shave” approach?
Keeping the video light and humorous with a self-deprecating tone resonated with their target demographic, young men. Plus their one-liners were concise enough to get the message across, and yet cheeky enough to make it memorable.
It’s no news that timing is incredibly important in marketing, but you’ll be surprised how often this is overlooked. With regards to Dollar Shave Club, they did this by releasing some pretty big publicity-generating news around the same time to give the video maximum thrust.
Dollar Shave Club publicly announced their $1 million seed round of funding the same day the viral video launched. They purposely delayed their funding announcement to time it with the video launch and a relaunch of their website.
Naturally, all the big media companies like TechCrunch and others covered this carefully orchestrated series of events. Thereafter, the startup community and then mainstream media picked it up, and the video went supernova viral.
Leveraging Your Personal Skills
Dollar Shave Club’s founder, Michael Dubin, studied at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) theatre in New York. Dubin didn’t have too much money to spend, so he looked to himself to see what personal skills he could leverage. The answer was simple, for he had learned how to wield humour and acting to attract attention.
“People tend to remember things when they’re musically presented, and comedy is a form of music,” Dubin says. “When you’re launching a new business and sharing a new idea, if you can get people to remember it, there’s obviously a better chance at success.”
Tapping into your Network
Dollar Shave Club only spent a staggering $4,500 on their video. This is not because it was low budget, but because Michael Dubin’s tapped into his network. Dubin’s buddy from his UCB days, Aniello Helms Paulilu, was a video producer. Paulilu estimates that such a video would cost most companies around $50,000.
So look to see who’s in your network, you never know who can help you with your marketing efforts. You don’t need to know it all, you just need to know the right people.