In just a week, over 3.2 million people watched this pitch for Santa Monica startup DollarShaveClub.com. Not only have millions of people seen the spot*, if you believe the YouTube comments, many of them have signed up, or at least tried to sign up: soon after the video launched, the website crashed due to the overwhelming traffic. Although CEO Michael Dubin (yeah, that’s really the CEO in the spot) has been mostly mum on the number of new members (he said 5,000 were able to sign up before the website crashed), you can bet that Alejandra’s going to be pretty busy.
It’s been called reminiscent of Old Spice or even Tim and Eric, and although there are some similarities, writing this off as a copy of something else is unfair to Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin. This ad isn’t a product of someone trying to replicate the odd charm of Isaiah Mustafa. Plenty of companies have tried to mimic the surrealistic aesthetic to varying degrees of mild success, but none have captured Old Spice’s lightning in a bottle. Dubin likely took some inspiration from Mustafa (and his years studying at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York), but this ad is far more honest and straightforward than the scent line’s spots. Just as we’re not surprised by the ad’s runaway success, we’re also confused why small businesses are often so afraid to take a similar minor creative risk in their marketing strategy.
In 90 seconds, Dubin makes a strong case for Dollar Shave Club:
1. Most razors are prohibitively expensive and unnecessarily complex
2. You can forget to buy them, or put it off and use an old razor (for an awful shave)
3. Dollar Shave Club razors work just as well as name brand razors, but cost far less
4. Your razors get shipped to you regularly without having to think twice about it
The points, in themselves, aren’t terribly remarkable, but the way they’re delivered is what really makes them stick.
The fact that Dubin is funny is crucial to the spot’s success. His deadpanning is a welcome contrast to the self-seriousness of mainstream razor advertising, and his willingness to poke fun at himself (“I’m no Vanderbilt”) makes him likeable. If a viewer likes a spokesperson, there’s a better chance viewers will trust them as well. Are the blades from Dollar Shave Club really “f***ing great” as Dubin claims? Maybe not – but you get the feeling you’ll get something better than the comparably-priced cellophane bag of disposables. At the very least, we’d feel more comfortable buying a razor from a guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously than we would buying a gas station salad from a guy that takes himself just a little too seriously.
Humor in advertising is risky, which is why smaller companies may be hesitant to try it. However – all advertising is risky. There’s never a safe bet, and most often playing it safe means being forgotten. This day in age, a brand that risks not taking itself too seriously may be the best way to get consumers to take it seriously.
*at press time, over 3.4 million