Digital drives a richer customer experience for Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club (DSC) is a great example of a brand using digital to enhance the customer experience, an approach proposed in the book Marketing Goes Digital that I posted in earlier in the week, here. Below I share some of the success factors behind the rapid growth of DSC from its 2012 launch to 1.1 million subscribers and a $1 Billion acquisition by Unilever, building on a great post by Ramona Sukhraj of Impactbnd, here.

1. Solve a real problem

At the most basic level, DSC is a pretty simple idea. "Founder and CEO Michael Dubin didn’t reinvent the wheel. He simply created a convenient and affordable solution to a real, relatable problem shared by men everywhere," as Ramona says in her post.

The first benefit is convenience. I keep using my razor till it is so blunt it is practically cuts my face. DSC solves this problem by delivering your re-fill razors to the door, once a month or less often if you want. 

Second, DSC is a strong value proposition. By selling direct to the consumer, the brand doesn't have to give a hefty margin to retailers, though it does of course have the cost of shipping and IT. And it doesn't invest much or anything in advertising. This business model allows it to offer highly competitive pricing. My quick calculations vs. buying Gillette at Walmart suggests DSC is roughly half the price for a comparable cartridge. And your handle is free, versus c. $10 for Gillette.

And this nice and simple proposition is summed up with a nice and simple brand idea: "Shave time. Shave money".

Screen Shot 2016-10-06 at 08.45.52

2. Create a distinctive customer experience

The customer experience is what really sets DSC apart. "When you join the club, you’re not just signing on for low-cost razors and blades, you’re investing in the monthly “delight” that comes along with it," explains Ramona. Here are some of the "defining gestures" that the brand uses to make its customer experience memorable and enjoyable:

  • Sign up: a friendly welcome email that confirms your transaction, welcomes you into the community, and explains how you can get more out of it.
  • First shipment: arrives with a beautifully branded box, a playful welcome note and your shaving productsScreen Shot 2016-10-06 at 08.54.49

  • Rewarding sharing: the great thing about investing in the product and experience is that this the becomes "shareable". And when members share a photo of their DSC stuff on social media, the brand re-posts their faves and sends that member a free t-shirt as a reward. Nice.  Screen Shot 2016-10-06 at 08.58.18

3. Add some sizzle to that sausage

As the points above hopefully show, I believe that DSC is fundamentally built on a great "sausage" = product x experience. Like all great brands, DSC has reinforced and amplified their product story with some superb emotional "sizzle". As Raomoa describes on her blog, "Dollar Shave Club is a young, smart, stylish, yet playful brand. As a member, you get in on the joke." And this brand personality is expressed across every bit of the brand, as a team member explained here in  an interview with Brand Folder that Ramona refers to: “From our packaging to our digital presence to our media strategy, the brand identity informs everything we do.” 

The most famous example of the brand combining sausage and sizzle if of course their initial launch video which, like the claim CEO Michael Dubin makes about the razors, is f***ing great. It's a moment of pure marketing magic, managing to tell the entire brand story in an incredibly funny way, in just 1min 33 seconds. No wonder it has over 25million views. And note that this is not trying to talk about a higher-order emotional benefit, it's a good old fashioned bit of product sale. Rubin is effectively a new-age, digitally powered door-to-door salesman.


In conclusion, Dollar Shave club is a great example of a brand combining sausage and sizzle to create a distinctive customer experience, supercharges by the power of digital technology.