The Dollar Shave Club: An Extraordinary Story of An Ordinary Product Brand 

success story of dollar shave club what brands can learn
The Incredible Success Story Of Dollar Shave Club

Welcome to our Inspirational D2C Stories Edition. Here, we share stories of some direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands that trusted their vision and approach to become big. This month, we will talk about shaving. Wait, what? You don’t want to? For most people, shaving can be something they need to do every day but not something they talk about. However, Dollar Shave Club changed this! Dollar Shave Club is the first subscription-based business that sends fresh razors and other grooming products to your doorstep, every month via an email – and that too in just $1.  

Dollar Shave Club was officially launched in April 2011 by Mark Levine and Michael Dubin. At that time, 70 percent of the razor market was owned by Gillette and Schick. However, in just five years, Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion.

Yes, a D2C startup with such a simple product came onto the scene, took on a global brand like Gillette, and won. Today, we share their compelling and praiseworthy story from rags to riches, and lessons other brands can learn. Read on!  

How Dollar Shave Club Began: From 1 Viral Video to 1 Billion Acquisition

Michael Dubin was a digital marketer at Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated Kids in New York. It was all going fine till the financial meltdown in 2009 when Dubin lost his job. Frantic, he started applying to a few business schools but was turned down by all of them. He then started helping companies with their marketing efforts like creating online videos.  

It was then at a party in 2010 that he met Mark Levine who was into product development and wholesale. Mark told Dubin that he had a surplus supply of 2,50,000 razors and sought his help in selling those online. Dubin immediately knew what he wanted to do. 

He thought about the problems that people might be facing as razors are something that is used on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and needs to be changed constantly. There are two factors that came to his mind – expensive pricing and the “struggle” of going to a store.  This led him to think of a subscription model where the entire customer purchase journey is automated and personalized. What if people get razors at their doorstep every week/month, at affordable prices, without any hassle! 

Dubin, then, struck a deal with Mark Levine and invested his savings, approximately $35,000, to build a website – dollarshaveclub.com- that was launched in July 2011. Dubin spent the first 6 months, from the launch of the website, connecting with bloggers to help them spread the word. And this helped them get their first 1,000 subscribers, without spending anything on marketing. However, later he launched a video that went viral (we will talk about it in detail in our next section). 

At present, Dollar Shave offers 3 subscription plans to its customers to make it easier for them to purchase. These are “The Humble Twin” (two blades per razor, five razors per month at $4 per month), “The 4X” (four blades, four razors at  $7), and “The Executive” (six blades, four razors at $10). Apart from this, they also offer a “no so hairy” plan in which customers can skip a month of receiving blades. This helps in improving customer experience and retention. 

Today, Dollar Shave Club is not just a razor company but a lifestyle brand. It has added many more personal grooming products such as creams, soaps, shampoos, etc. 

What D2C Brands Can Learn From Dollar Shave Club

While Dollar Shave Club has a unique marketing plan, its customer experience strategy is even better. Here are a few lessons all  D2C brands can learn from them: 

Lesson 1: Embrace the Power of Storytelling 

Brands that embrace great storytelling can achieve a great advantage over their competition. In Dollar Shave Club’s case, they built a community via storytelling, especially via videos.

The brand achieved its first milestone with the launch of its first video, featuring Micheal Dubin. The video was launched in March 2012 and today, it has more than 27 million views. And a key reason for the video to go viral was storytelling. Throughout the video, Dubin communicates everything that a person can relate to and keep them hooked. The way Dubin interacts with the audience, constantly looking at the camera, and making fun of the existing razor blade companies is incredible. It is hilarious and touches the exact pain points of the target audience.  

In the first 10 seconds of the video, Dubin sells the main value proposition of DSC i.e. “For a dollar a month, we send high-quality razors right to your door.”

And in the next few seconds, he says the punchline: “Are our blades any good? No. Our blades are f***ing great.

Apart from this, Dubin clearly states the benefits of their product: “Each blade has stainless steel blades and an aloe vera lubricating strip….”

Here is the link to the video (if you haven’t watched it yet!): https://youtu.be/ZUG9qYTJMsI

Dubin invested $4,500 from his savings to create this launch video and it did wonders for him. This video took Youtube by storm so much so that the company’s server crashed in the first hour. Also, over 12,000 people subscribed for their product – the humble razor – in the first 3 days. 

Lesson 2: Focus on creating an excellent customer experience

From day one, Dollar Shave Club (DSC) had focused on its customer pain points. They knew that people were frustrated with buying expensive razors sporadically. Therefore, they created a unique business model where they delivered razor blades at $1 every month at customers’ doorstep. They eliminated the need of going out of the comfort of your home for buying razor blades each time- reinventing the consumer purchase journey.

Their focus on consumer needs is quite visible if you have a look at their website too. As soon as you land on the homepage, you are asked to take a quiz for a personalized grooming experience – “Tell us what you need to get ready, we’ll do the rest.”

User friendly website of dollar shave club
Credit: Dollar Shave Club

In this quiz, they ask questions like: 

  • What do you shave?
  • How often do you shave?
  • Any problems when you shave? 

And so on…

dollar shave club quesstionare for users visiting their website
Credit: Dollar Shave Club

Depending on the answers you select, it gives you a recommendation on the products you should use to “look, feel, and smell the best, along with the total price and frequency:

Dollar shave club quiz suggestion
Credit: Dollar Shave Club

Throughout the website, there are different sections like product pages, with clear CTAs to make it easier for customers to place an order. Even if you want a single product, you get to decide when you want to receive your product, at what frequency.  

They have made the buyer journey so easy that you feel like being a part of the club. They give customized combos, a 100% money-back guarantee, and customers can cancel their membership anytime they want. 

Lessons D2C brands can learn from dollar shave club success
Credit: Dollar Shave Club

Lesson 3: Consistency is the key

Whether it is their TV commercials, online ads, or posts on Facebook, Instagram, etc, DSC’s messaging has always been the same. They just focus on humorous content conveying their value proposition i.e. convenient, cheaper shaves. 

Take a look at this post from the brand’s Facebook page

dollar shave club laveraged social media

It is humorous, easy to understand, and tells us that Dollar Shave Club razors can work just as well for women as they do men. 

Here’s another post from their Instagram page:

instagram page of dollar shave club
Credit: Dollar Shave Club

This post too is humorous and shows that they are on top of everything as a brand. 

Even when you watch its other videos, you will find that they focus on their value proposition. 

Lesson 4: Be conversational 

Most of the marketing done by DSC revolves around posts or videos that are witty, humorous, and something that resonates with the audience via a common belief.  Their punchline makes you laugh and their ads make you want to re-watch them. They are highly engaging and have a tone as if they are talking to their audience. They are never “salesy”.

Have a look at this Facebook ad by the brand:

At first glance, this ad looks witty. It challenges the typical gender stereotyping through their communication – “Who says a lady’s razor has to be pink?”  However, it also adds subtle humor:  Take a closer look at what is written on the box, “I like shaving with a dull razor.” – No one, ever.” 

While we understand that not every brand can echo such a personality, you can learn from the consistency in their brand voice. If you are too polite or too cautious, there are chances of being bland and generic. Being a little different can help you grab the eyeballs.  Also, if you are boring, your competitors will probably beat you! 

The unique business combined with unconventional marketing strategy created a perfect storm of success for Dollar Shave Club. Their story is both entertaining and inspiring. While Dollar Shave Club’s CEO was himself a marketer and had studied Performing Arts in New York, D2C brands can use their tactics to connect with their audience. 

That’s all for this edition! If you come across any other videos of DSC that made you ROFL, share with us in the comments below 🙂 

Being India’s largest revenue-based financier, Velocity provides founder-friendly revenue-based financing to growing DTC businesses. If you are a D2C brand looking for funding to manage your inventory and marketing needs, apply here, and get funded within 7 days.

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