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 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.
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.
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 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
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?
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).
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
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.