What Dollar Shave Can Teach You About Video Production

A startup called Dollar Shave Club launched last week with a massive splash.

The founder, Michael Dubin, said that Dollar Shave added 5,000 paying subscribers on launch day, and another 12,000 over the next couple of days.

It has attracted 11 thousand Twitter followers, scores of facebook friends, and has no doubt been the subject of water cooler conversation everywhere. It has also pleased many girlfriends and wives.

So how did this new enemy of the five o'clock shadow attract so much attention?

In large part, the answer is a kick ass viral video that has generated over 3.2 million views on YouTube. This $4,500 video has generated brand awareness worth hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times its production cost.

In straight economic terms, they have paid less than $4 per customer acquired (I am ignoring the fact that over time the video will generate many times that number of subscribers), and low cost of acquisition is going to be critical in making their dollar per month subscription razor service work.

If you haven't seen it before, watch the video, and join us below for a look at the major factors that contribute to the video's success. Hopefully you can apply some of this to your work with clients.

Address a clear pain point

A good product video needs to clearly articulate how it solves a pain point. Doing so in a clear, compelling, and memorable way is tough, but that's the job of marketing and video professionals. In this case, the pain point is the ridiculous amount of money that men waste each month on shaving products.

When working with clients, this is an opportunity to help them with some strategic thinking. Too often people are so caught up in their product that they want to jump right into talking about features before clearly articulating the customer need they are addressing. Helping clients bring this out in their story will help you generate repeat business.

Answer the tough questions head on

When I first heard some buzz about Dollar Shave, two questions came to mind. The first was, how can they afford to sell razors that cheap? The second was, what kind of razors are you going to get for a dollar per month (I've lost my share of blood to disposable razors, so price isn't everything)?

Guess what, my question about quality is answered 14 seconds into the video. "Are the blades any good? Our Blades are F**king Great." This claim is backed up with mention of the razor features like double blades and a lubricating strip. It's clear that they aren't just selling plastic Bic razors.

My question about their low price-point is answered by talking about how $19 of the $20 a month that you spend on razors goes to Roger Federer. The humorous point on ad spending is underscored by listing the useless razor features that they've cut out in order to save you money.

Have a clear strategy for your videos

I read a great thing on Twitter yesterday from @loubortone that sums it up. "Do you have a PLAN for your videos? Or are you just posting and praying for views?"

With a strong background in digital marketing, including working on campaigns to drive social video views for brands like Ford, Nike, and Gillette, it's clear that Dubin's strategy was to create a video that was tailored for viral distribution.

This video doesn't slap you in the face and do the hard sell. Rather the focus is on building a connection with the brand, piquing the viewers interest in learning more, and getting them to share it either through word of mouth or by sharing the video with friends. The actual selling takes place down the road when you are interested enough in the brand that you visit their site.

Make it personal

This is a handy strategy for making videos for startups and small companies. It works on a couple levels in this video. First, everything is framed in a personal way. Take a look at the language:

  • "We send high quality razors right to your door"
  • "Stop forgetting to buy your blades every month"
  • "Start to decide where to stack all the dollar bills I'm saving you"

This makes it easy for the target audience to imagine themselves using the product. It eliminates the cognitive burden of figuring out the role of the product and where it fits into the consumer's life.

The second way in which the video makes things personal is by putting the founder front and center. When you are going up against a nameless and faceless multi-national like Gillette, it makes sense to bring out the personality of company and the people that work there.

Not all companies have a charismatic founder that is at ease in front of a camera, but every company has a human story that can be brought out. A David and Goliath narrative is easy for people to relate to.

Anchor the message by positioning against a leader

This builds on the previous point. You can help anchor a message by framing it in terms of another product or a market leader.

In this case, Dollar Shave positions itself against Gillette, with its pricey tennis stars and feature bloated razors (hard to believe a razor can be as feature bloated as some software).

For this strategy to work, there must be a clear, meaningful point of differentiation where your company or service is better than the company you are positioning against. The benefit of doing this is that it taps into the brand awareness of the company you mention. It's kind of like Judo, where you use your enemy's energy against them.

Guy Kawasaki talks in more depth about positioning against a leader in the Art of the Start, and Seth Godin discusses this in The Bootstrapper's Bible.

Use humor, but not just for humor's sake

A study on viral videos by Forrester and Search Engine Journal found that not surprisingly, almost 50% of viral videos feature humor, and 70% of Internet users who share content with others say they do so because the videos they share are amusing.

Offbeat humor and great comedic timing keeps the viewer engaged in this video. In this case, it helps that the company founder is an experienced improv actor with a light and breezy manner. However, I think that it's equally important that the story isn't sacrificed just to get laughs. All of the humor moves the story along.

For instance, the bit about the Vanderbilt's and making jobs for Alejandra in America touches on a desire to buy American at a time when jobs are scarce and many of them have been moved offshore.

Throughout the video, Dubin is clearly and directly articulating what the company does, what the product benefits are, how it's priced, and who it's for. Humor is a device, not a crutch.

Keep it simple

Dollar shave has several different plans that people can chose from. While they are all creatively presented on the website, the company has left all that out of the video. It's extraneous information that is only relevant to people that want to buy the service. At this point, the main objective is to generate awareness, interest, and desire. Action can come later.

Keep it short

Viewing of videos falls off quickly online. Some estimates say that the audience drops by up to 50% after two minutes. Dollar Shave has done a good job of loading the key messaging at the front of the video. In the first 10 seconds, while 90% of the audience is still viewing, they explain what they do - send high-quality razors right to your door for a dollar a month.

Match the production values to the tone

Razor videos tend to have over the top production values. In this case, things look like a low budget production, and it fits well with the underdog positioning and the low-cost messaging they are trying to convey. If dollar shave club is trying to cut the fat of celebrity endorsements and massive advertising budgets, then it makes no sense for it to look like it spent $50k making a slick video.

Dancing bears

Really, nothing more needs to be said. It's not quite up to my favorite scene in Old School where Frank the Tank dresses up as a mascott and catches on fire while jumping through a flaming hoop, but I'm always a sucker for dancing mascots.