Dollar Shave Club: The Unboxing Experience is F***ING GREAT

              
     
     

Introducing Dollar Shave Club

I recently joined the Dollar Shave Club. You may remember their awesome content marketing video that went viral back in March. I loved it — after all, I’m just as susceptible to good branding and content marketing as anyone else. So I joined because it’s inexpensive and because you can quit any time without penalty (low switching costs)… but mostly because this video was just so damn good.

Come on, go ahead and click that “Play” button even if you’ve seen it before. It holds up just as well after a second or third viewing, and you’ll pick up additional details — like how Mike’s office is filled with model airplanes and the guy having his head shaved by the child is reading Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup.

I used this video in my talk for the Content Strategy Forum to illustrate the concept that great content doesn’t have to be reliant on SEO keyword research. My point was that writers should never, ever be beholden to the Google AdWords Tool as some sort of ersatz editorial director. Instead, writers should be beholden to what works best for their intended audience — and that’s not something that Google can tell you.

What I love most about this video is that it’s the ultimate proof that you can do breakthrough content marketing even when you’re in a “boring” industry. All it takes is a little imagination and elbow grease intertwingled with a strong product-market fit. It turns out that Dollar Shave Club founder and CEO Mike Dubin (say hi on Twitter) also has some experience with improv comedy, which helps as well.

What you may not know about Dollar Shave Club is that they recently received nearly $10M in a new Series A round of funding led by Venrock. And that they’re expanding to Canada with plans to move into the Australia market next. Their ambition is to become the place men go to first for quality grooming supplies on a subscription model.

So they’re clearly doing good business, even on razor-thin margins. Heh.

Unboxing Dollar Shave Club Razors

I was curious if their strong branding and content savvy would flow through to the product “unboxing” experience — what would happen when I actually received a shipment from Dollar Shave Club? Would that confident, no-bullshit voice and attention to little details flow through to the product packaging? Would the sense of humor from the video and the web site hold up in a non-digital print experience?

More importantly, would the blades be as good as Mike promised? Because they’re supposed to be f***ing great.

The Package

Dollar Shave Club's mailing package
Shave time, shave money, shave the whales, Jesus shaves

The mailer was pretty minimal and no-nonsense, but I wondered how the internal packaging would protect the blades from wear-and-tear damage from being shipped. Shaving with a damaged razor is a great way to ruin your day. I liked that the package itself was recycleable and that the branding was prominent — Mike and crew didn’t decide to save a few pennies by sending out a generic envelope.

The Postcard

Postcard: Welcome to the Dollar Shave Club
Love the reference to America – that’s where *I* live!

On the inside was this suitable-for-framing postcard. Note the use of humor in the microcopy — I love the joke about the free drink and the caveats, which made me smile. A lot of brands can’t handle this sort of humor, especially when it occurs off-line in actual print. Numerous brands that are great online draw the line where digital meets analog; they only provide the standard craptacular copywriting in print. So it’s a great surprise when you actually encounter creativity and a consistent brand voice across channels.

The faux wood paneling imagery reminds us of Mike’s office in the video and evokes a man-cave aesthetic. But the strong use of red here makes me think of shaving cuts… not the best thing to bring to mind for your customers.

Back of Dollar Shave Club's postcard
This postcard gives my life meaning and value

The copy on the back of the postcard serves to welcome us to the club and help us feel like we’re part of an elite movement — who says that guys don’t like having their egos stroked? Dollar Shave Club also reminds us that we can change our subscription options/details any time and that we should follow them on the usual social networks.

It would have been interesting to have a short URL here for a new video that serves as a treat for new members; a bloopers reel for the original video, a how-to piece about advanced shaving techniques, or even just a behind-the-scenes look at Mike in his office. Missed opportunity for creating additional customer satisfaction.

The Razor Handle

The Dollar Shave Club razor handle
The razor handle feels solid (and I’ve been biting my nails)

The razor handle itself looks and feels good in your hand, but it’s pretty big and relatively heavy. A very solid tool, which might be by design so as to make customers feel like they have something of value. I was expecting something more minimal, lighter-weight and cheaper-feeling. This felt about as heavy as my all-metal Merkur 180 Safety Razor.

PRO-Tip: The Dollar Shave Club razor handle and blades are compatible with the Gillette Sensor and vice-versa.

The Razor Blades

Dollar Shave Club razors - a cartridge of 5 double-bladed Dorco razors
NOTE: The razors are not shown at actual size.

Oh good! They protected the blades with something resistant to shipping damage. But it’s probably not recyclable. But what’s that piece of paper that’s taped to the back of the cartridge?

Awesome messaging on the paper attached to the cartridge of Dollar Shave Club razors
This copywriting is F***ING AWESOME.

Fantastic — this is exactly what I wanted to see from Dollar Shave Club. Printed microcopy that’s right on brand, makes me laugh, and that aligns solidly with the original video experience. This is the sort of detail that most brands miss and it’s a great opportunity to connect with customers by surprising and delighting them. All hail the power of Content Strategy!

Would love to see some hot cross-channel work like this from my employer (hint, hint).

Close-up of the Dorco razor blade in the Dollar Shave Club handle
Oh, what an artsy photo! Please hire me to shoot your wedding.

What we have here is a standard Dorco double-bladed razor. It’s a good razor and snaps in perfectly to the handle, but it’s nothing particularly special or mind-blowing.

As Kane Jamison pointed out to me on Google+, you can buy this exact same razor cheaper from Dorco directly if you buy enough of them in bulk. I chose Dollar Shave Club’s cheapest subscription option, “The Humble Twin”, which works out to $0.60/blade for five double-bladed razors and one handle (including shipping), so that’s the price you’ll want to beat.

For more about the technical details of the blade and handle in use, check out this video from the Sharpologist:

So the razor is more than adequate and works fine. But is it f***ing great? Meh. That said, while you can find a slightly better price elsewhere, Dollar Shave Club is still a pretty f***ing good deal, especially if you’re into automation (oh and I know you are!).

Conclusions from the Unboxing Experience

Everything I received from Dollar Shave Club in my first mailing
The complete welcome package from Dollar Shave Club

All in all, Dollar Shave Club provided a pretty satisfying brand experience for this new customer. While the blades weren’t as f***ing great as I’d hoped for, they’re fine for use in shaving your beard (or head, like I do).

And let’s be honest: I didn’t sign up for the blades. I didn’t sign up for the handle, either. If I really cared about those things, I’d just continue shaving with my Merkur 180, which has blades that last for weeks and that cost about $0.20/each (or less) when ordered in bulk. While Dollar Shave Club’s still a good value, they don’t have the very best deal (or product) in the market place.

But I signed up with them anyway, so I obviously don’t care about the expense or quality. I care about how this company makes me feel. Like a man. A manly man who knows karate, knows jiu jitsu and drives like a gangsta when he’s coming to see you.

Mike Dubin, Alejandra, the guy in the bear costume, and the whole team at Dollar Shave Club pull this off with aplomb. And they fulfill their promise, which isn’t really about razors that are f***ing great. It’s about making you feel like you’re f***ing great. For just $3 a month.

Sure, it may be mindless validation via consumerism, but this train makes hay.

P.S. As a manly man, I make no apologies for the coffee stains that you see EVERYWHERE in the background of these photos. Coffee is part of who I am — I was born this way, hey.

              
     
     

About Jonathon Colman

Jonathon Colman is a content strategist, keynote speaker, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. You can follow him on Twitter @jcolman, Facebook, and Google+. Feel free to contact him directly.
This entry was posted in Life, Work and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Dollar Shave Club: The Unboxing Experience is F***ING GREAT

  1. Jonathon, I love the way you tell the story here about your experience with buying the product for the first time.

    Are you aware of any case studies on how DSCs marketing campaign and viral video have performed in terms of acquiring new customers, and also what customer retention looks like for them?

    Thanks, and well done on this post.

    • Many thanks, David. At the bottom of this article, it says that Dollar Shave Club “had 12,000 people sign up in the first 48 hours from when that video launched” and that the original content marketing video was produced for less than $5,000. Not a bad deal!

      This article has a great quote:

      If you figure only one-third of us went to the website (a conservative guess, for sure) and only one percent actually ordered the cheapest deal on it, that’s still somewhere around $120,000 in revenue generated from a $4,500 investment – or a 2600% ROI.

      Anyone else know of a good, solid case study on Dollar Shave Club’s results?

  2. Hey Jonathon,

    Mail-order razors. I think mail-order subscription products have to brand well. Being a coffee guru, you may have heard of Tonx – https://tonx.org/ – mail-order (small batch) roasted coffee subscription.

    I was curious about it, as I am a coffee snob myself. My friend had some sent to me for my birthday. It was great coffee, and their branding was excellent (in my opinion better than the coffee). You should check it out if you haven’t, it’s a little pricey, but you may find it worth it since you love coffee.

  3. Marja says:

    Ermahgerd, you showed off all our coffee stains! :)

  4. I watched the commercial so many times when it came out, i could quote it word for word:)

    Considering that the dude w/ the book was reading Lean Startup by Eric Ries, I have a suspicion they’ll continue iterating on quality moving forward. Definitely sounds like they need to in order to keep up w/ the promise in the commercial.

  5. mantic59 says:

    Thanks for the shout-out!

  6. Jonathon – Your Blog is F***ing Great! That is all.

    P.S. If coffee continues to help you churn out content for your blog, please join Tonx :)

    • Ha, many thanks Rick! Much appreciated, especially because it’s put us back in touch with each other. :)

      So are you a Tonx customer? If so, what do you think of the service? Looks pretty interesting to me, but I’m biased toward anything involving coffee…

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  8. Dean says:

    I love great packaging… and I’m really liking the blog!

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  10. Thanks for sharing this Jonathon!
    The video is really amazing, and it makes me laugh a lot. And from what you describe here, the overall experience is great too!
    I just read an article where someone was talking about the importance of a CXO profile in every company, a responsible for the overall customer experience of your brand.
    I mean, it’s something that is really interesting. It’s for sure really good to have different departments, specialized in different things, but at the end of the day the customer experience is the one that makes you win or lose.

    There are tons of things (most of them are just small and even stupid if you want) the brand could and should do to make the customer experiences that sense of WOW that right now is missing in too many companies.

    again, thanks for sharing!

  11. David says:

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for the informative review. I saw the DSC video on YouTube and at first thought it was a hoax. So I went on their website and realized it is legit. I then search for reviews and found your blog. I don’t know much about advertising but apparently you do. DSC should hire you – either full-time or as a consultant.

  12. Jonathan,
    I stumbled across your blog today while researching Dollar Shave Club’s marketing. Let me tell you, your blog is awesome! Thanks for the killer insight. It’s F***ING Great!
    MH~

  13. Baldheaded Dude says:

    I missed the boat on these razors completely! You’re blog is the first time I have heard anything about it. I will definitely try it. Sounds like a dream come true for cleancut bald-headed men.

  14. I agree, it’s a great experience from the Dollar Shave Club. I just started getting the “Executive” blade and the new Shave Butter, and I can truly say after trying out this blade that it cuts far better than the Gillette Fusion ProGlide. Considering that I also save cash by purchasing from the Dollar Shave Club, it’s an easy decision to stop buying Gillette razors and join the Dollar Shave Club.

  15. guy says:

    Dude, you went with their cheapest blade thats why its Meh. Try their most expensive blade, there is nothing like it. That shit saved my face. its amazing.

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  17. Mike F says:

    I like your review. However, I just ordered the same thing (humble twin) and the handle I received is plastic & cheap feeling. They likely stopped sending out those nice handles to cut cost, or to get positive early reviews with good handles and then switch. I still love the concept though.

  18. Dean Jackson says:

    Jonathon,

    I almost signed up for DSC. But decided to see what reviews said. I found an article in lifehacker.com – according to them… they the razors are actually purchased wholesale from Dorco. http://www.dorcousa.com.

    You can get the VERY same razors for a years supply for $35, with free shipping. That’s less than $3 a month.

    Only problem you have to find a place to store them. About the 1/3 the size of a shoe box.

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  20. Phill K says:

    If this thing was for real, then the blades would fit my beloved Atra razor, that has a beautiful heft to it. Not like the pansy plastic handles that are continually be foisted on us. Besides that, the Atra razor is a world standard for dual blade shaving. Though Gillette felt like they had to sell their soul to give us the silly five blades.

    Really, guys are so silly of the nonsense that they are digging up dad’s safety razors left and right. I see it everywhere.

    BTW. just stopped by to see if what these guy’s twin blades are compatible with. Oh well.

  21. Jonathan says:

    Great blog!

    Being a guy who shaves his head, do you think four blades/ month is adequate, or would you recommend more?

  22. Adam says:

    It may be convenient, IF you receive your order. Out of my whole 5 months being a member I didn’t receive my last 3 orders, and apparently customer service is ignoring me as i’ve been contacting them since August with no reply. Membership cancelled and BBB contacted!

    It may be more expensive, but if I buy from a store directly at least I know i’ll receive my product instead of it disappearing along with the money for it.

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