Lessons Learned from the Most Successful Launch Video… Ever.

… I hear that XYZ Inc is “the next Dollar Shave Club”

The Dollar Shave Club has become a business meme.

In 2011 ‘Michael Dubin and his partner Mark Levine begin operations of the their new business – Dollar Shave club. Not much is happening until they create their first marketing video and then boom!, they’re “makin’ hay.”

A few rounds of investment later ($1 million seed, $10 million A Round, $12 million B round, $75 million C round) they’re being acquired by Unilever for $1 billion. That’s ‘cool video’ to Unicorn (“CV2U”) in under 5 years.  So there’s your formula: Create a killer marketing video and in about 5 years you should be livin’ large. (Or not.)

The Dollar Shave club Launch video is the most successful Launch Video ever and likely the most effective marketing video of all time (Apple’s ‘1984’ Commercial notwithstanding.) With regard to “effectiveness” there are only two claims you can make: 1. Your video drove a specific business goal such as ‘awareness’ or 2. It drove the ultimate business goal – sales.  This video measurably achieved both.


Lessons Learned

While it’s pretty easy to tease out insight from hugely successful marketing videos, I do believe there is value in considering specific aspects of a video that serves as a bellwether for a rapidly evolving industry.

1. Production values don’t matter like they used to.

This video is not slick. It feels improvisational because it is largely improvisational… and that style and tone suits the video’s message.  ‘Quality’ is continually being redefined in our industry.

“High Production Values” only guarantee high production costs, nothing else. There’s still a place for big budgets and big production teams but where the value is being created in marketing video today is evolving.

2. The message is where the value is in marketing video today.

This video succeeds largely because it clearly (and somewhat punishingly) presents a highly disruptive alternative to the pricing grip of a oligopolistic industry. Dubin ridicules everything that is wrong in the razor business.

From the beginning (“They’re F***ing Great”) the message is intended to shock and embarrass the viewer out of complacency. That’s a risky strategy, but it works here. (That’s the ‘easy insight’ I referred to earlier…)  Harry’s Razors soon followed DSC with a more highbrow direct-to-consumer offering to an industry ripe for disruption.

This video is also a shot across the bow of the Broadcast Industrial Complex. It pokes fun at celebrity endorsements, fake marketing technology and just about anything else that broadcast commercials and brands subject their viewers to in an effort to convince them to buy their products.

3. Delivery is still, and always will be critical to the success of a video.

Dubin’s delivery is pitch perfect. In many ways Dubin is his audience – that large, slightly younger, unpretentious middle market looking for something different. Dubin is the perfect pitch man for this target audience – ‘guys.’

4. Authenticity is critical in marketing video. Style and attitude have nothing to do with authenticity.

Make no mistake, this is an old-school, in your face, hard sell, sales promo. Dubin clearly differentiates the product in the video, he explains the product features (i.e., “for a dollar a month we send high quality razors right to your door” ). He concludes with an explicit call to action and he tells you in no uncertain terms why the way you’ve being buying razors is stupid and you’re a putz to put up with it.

What makes this video work is that Dubin’s delivery is authentic. You don’t see him as an actor or a ‘pitchman.’ He’s just the guy telling you how you’ve being wasting money on unnecessary shave-tech. He handles an aggressive delivery with confidence and style. Adding a comedic element makes it that much more engaging (…and that much harder to do well). Even the world’s best pitchmen stumble with humour.  (Imagine Jobs or Musk doing improv…).

Dubin’s delivery style is much more likely to succeed in a start-up business where the owner started the business to solve a problem. A CEO frontman who rose up through the ranks is rarely able to deliver with anything approaching genuine emotional authenticity. (There’s a comments section below…)

5. Timing and Luck

(No lesson learned here, just an observation.) Creating a successful purpose-built marketing video that has huge social sharing success is like creating a hit record – it’s very difficult. Since the creation of this video The Dollar Shave Club has created a large number of promotional videos. None have come close to the presence or impact of this video.

The founders happened to hit their market in the perfect window when the direct-to-consumer model had just started to take off.  This, by the way, is why Unilever decided to invest $1b in a small company with modest revenue. They know their traditional sales channels are changing and need to figure out how to get there before Amazon swallows the world.

If you still need to be convinced how difficult it is to make a funny, engaging video that promotes a brand new way to buy your razors then watch this video: Smarter Shaves.

Is this the most effective marketing video of all time? Let us know your thoughts.




Jimm Fox


Jimm has been working in video and marketing for the last 25 years agency side, client side and in video production.

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