How Dollar Shave Club went from startup to unicorn exit by swimming just beyond the competition
I want you to go back in time almost a decade ago to March 6, 2012. That was when razor startup Dollar Shave Club released its first marketing video. The title of the video was bold (Our Blades Are F***ing Great), the delivery was hilarious, and it made quite a viral splash with over 27,000,000 views to date.
It starred Michael Dublin, the company’s CEO, who had more of a background in advertising than razors when he started DSC the year prior. He noted on his episode of CNBC’s The Brave Ones that his strategy to competing in the saturated razor industry was based on the complaints that he noticed as a consumer. “The signature frustration, I think, with razors is the price…” he said, followed by the cumbersome experience of having to buy them in the store.
Dublin found his blue ocean by tackling those frustrations head-on and selling his razors online, direct to consumers, eliminating the frustration of the in-store experience, and being able to cut costs and price his product competitively. This strategy, along with his viral marketing videos, witty packaging, and ease-of-use subscription model allowed Dollar Shave Club to compete with Proctor & Gamble who at that time had over 70% of the razor market share.
Dollar Shave Club managed to differentiate themselves enough, swimming just outside of the red ocean of the razor-sharp competition, and in so disrupted the industry by creating a new market for themselves. They enjoyed so much success in the blue waters, that less than five years later, they went from startup to unicorn, making an astonishing $1 billion exit.
Now, as part of the Unilever family, they have expanded their product lines, while maintaining the same witty tone, clever advertising, and consumer-centered focus.