You have to love a good brand story: You know the one where a simple guy creates a brand and overnight he's a multimillionaire? Well, at least that's how we outsiders saw it. In 2011, Mark Levine and Michael Dubin created the brand, Dollar Shave Club. Today, a mere 3 years later, they've sold 60 million dollars worth of product. Mainly razors. So it's natural to ask: How does a company selling what every household person already has achieve such vast and utter success?
In a word, LOVE. That's right, they made you fall in love with their brand. These guys took the most basic, readily-available product on the market and turned it into a boy's club community that everyone wanted to be a part of. (even women).
They claim their blades are "F***ing Great," but is that what drove them to their glory? Dollar Shave Club hooked us with their edgy tagline (well if they are going use such a bold profanity then they must mean it right?) and in-your-face (pun intended) social media campaign that kicked the traditional marketing and branding model to the curb.
Anyone could have set up the same membership system selling cheap razors to consumers via an auto delivery model but would they have achieved the same results Dollar Shave Club did?
I'm going to say F**K no.
With only a shoestring budget, Dollar Shave Club found a way to rise above the mega brands and connect directly with consumers. They shocked us, made us laugh, and made us feel cool. They had the balls to call us out if we even thought about going back to that lame, expensive razor that we've been using all along. Our hardcore grandfather didn't need it and he fought Polio, with a smooth face.
What Dollar Shave Club did is what so few companies understand that they need to do, first and foremost: brand themselves in a way that gets their audience to fall in love with them. As a brand strategist myself it still baffles me to this day how many amazing products fail because a business owner doesn't take the time to create a strong brand connection.
These guys didn't take out huge ads, or create big TV commercials. They filmed a hilariously on-point video that made you want to watch founder Michael Dubin slice through packing tape with a machete over and over again. And even more importantly, make sure your friends saw it too. Dubin made you want to be his friend, and if being his friend cost between $1 and $9/month it was a small price to pay to join the coolest club in town.
When I see success that comes out of this type of genius, it makes me giddy inside. To go up against a brand leader like Gillette and start dominating the marketplace in only 3 years is a challenge that only brilliant (and unconventional) leaders can achieve.
I often use companies like DSC and Poo Pourri as an example to clients who want to leave an impression with their business that will get people talking. My advice to entrepreneurs wanting to launch a new business is this: You may think you have the best product on the market, but if you don't know how to connect with your audience you'd be better off giving that seed money to your favorite charity. People don't fall in love with products, they fall in love with brands and then the product comes into play. Of course if DSC sold bad razors they wouldn't have lasted this long. However with the power of their brilliant marketing campaign they were able to make you believe in a product before you even used it.
It's not easy to sell something and take people away from their existing loyalty to a brand. Companies who understand the power of that loyalty are the ones who have a better chance of reaching $60 million in sales in 3 years.
Here are a few tips to think about when you want to create a strong brand presence:
- Understand your audience and who you are talking to. Make sure you know your specific demographic and don't over generalize for eg: all men who live in the US. You can define multiple audiences but have a clear understanding of who's at the top of that list and build your brand around them.
- Take the time to build a strong marketing execution plan that will last at least 6 months to a year after you have built all the pieces of your brand. Don't expect immediate ROI. Even though DSC had 12,000 orders on launch that doesn't mean it will happen to you. It also doesn't mean that if it doesn't happen you have failed; patience is a virtue and not every brand can be an overnight success. It all depends on how much you can invest in marketing and PR right off the bat and how creative your communication is. If you are seeing strong engagement and a gradual increase in sales then you are on the right track!
- Hire a professional. If you do not have experience in marketing and brand development hire someone who does. Doing everything yourself to save a buck is a recipe for disaster. DSC had the experience for early-stage work, but they also received significant seed investment dollars over the years and used that for public relations, online ads, business development and product development. They now have a team of top tiered brand and marketing strategists working really hard to maintain the image that they created.
Think about the brands you love and what it is about those companies that make you want to invest your hard-earned money into buying their product. How do they make you feel? As soon as you understand that brand marketing is 100% emotional you will be on the right track to a solid business plan and marketing strategy.
Starting a business is not for the faint at heart, but at the end of the day if you can't stomach the pressure, Dollar Shave Club's One Wipe Charlies are only a click away.
photo credit: www.dollarshaveclub.com
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