Personality Kills Bureaucracy
How Dollar Shave Club is winning with style.
Whether it is the desire to exhibit professionalism, the fear of being politically incorrect, or some other mysterious motive, there seems to be a consistent trend with larger corporations losing their sense of humanity. This behavior opens the doors for creative companies in a vast array of industries to challenge the big players with little more than personality. This is one of the defining characteristics of the Virgin Group, and has allowed Richard Branson to succeed in industries as diverse as music production to airline travel to cell phone communication.
The following comparison shows how one personality-fueled startup is looking to Teddy Roosevelt trust-bust a shaving empire.
Dollar Shave Club vs. Gillette
Michael Dubin, CEO and founder of Dollar Shave Club, was annoyed with the grossly overpriced Gillette razor blades he would regularly be forced to purchase. So, he started Dollar Shave Club to provide customers with more reasonable prices. Gillette sells a 4 pack of their Fusion Blades for between $13-$15, in which Dollar Shave Club provides a comparable 4 pack of blades for $6 (and they are delivered to your door). Boom! Capitalism at its finest. The founder creates a profit-earning business by providing a cheaper (and arguably better) product for the consumer. That being said, I can guarantee you other men conceived this same idea and probably even tried to create a business undercutting Gillette.
Nevertheless, here’s why Mr. Dubin succeeded and the others didn’t.
Michael bootstrapped a promotional video that defined him (and with it, Dollar Shave Club) as the fun corporation in the industry. Everyone subconsciously wants to be a part of something fun. If you haven’t seen the video, watch it here. It creates an ethos for the company that is fun to talk about, fun to share, and fun to watch succeed. No one cares to hear some nobody bitch about razor blades being too expensive, and how he can provide them for cheaper. However, by using his own witty self as the brand spokesman, Mr. Dubin caught the attention of over 10 million people in 94 seconds, and turned over 200,000 of them into paying customers.
He addresses the obvious competition (Gillette) in a lighthearted mocking way. Throughout the video, he makes jabs at Gillette for being incredibly inefficient at delivering a quality product for a fair price. He mocks their sponsorship of Roger Federer, their excessive product additions to a simple razor, and points out how annoying it is to forget to buy blades from a brick-and-mortar store. Mr. Dubin took a page out of Apple’s playbook by branding Gillette. Just as Apple branded the PC as the nerdy anti-social brand, Dollar Shave Club brands Gillette as the greedy monopoly who takes advantage of their customers. He makes it clear that Dollar Shave Club is on your side to fight off the evil forces of Gillette.
Their website (aka their marketplace) is overflowing with personality. When navigating through the website, the user experiences countless examples of humanity. Commands to “Do it”, comical product descriptions, and grammatically incorrect phrases make the customer feel as if they are interacting with a human, not a company. Yes, Dollar Shave Club is a company, but its copy and general message exemplify the antithesis of the politically correct bureaucratically approved marketing that we see from competitors like Gillette. Dollarshaveclub.com is a fun and entertaining place to shop; the razor blade aisle in CVS is not.
Being a comedian prior to starting Dollar Shave Club definitely helped, but Mr. Dubin was spot on in the delivery of his product/service to the world. Gillette is too big to fail at the moment, but Mr. Dubin has personally warned Gillette that they are moving in the wrong direction. As Gillette focuses on making prettier and fancier products and buying more celebrities and football stadiums, Dollar Shave Club is quietly making people smile and laugh and tell the Dollar Shave Club story to their friends. The industrial media complex is dying, and I would bet anything that the personality of Dollar Shave Club will continue to convert more and more men (like it did to me) into subscribing customers.