Creating a successful viral video is like creating a hit record – it’s really, really difficult.
Michael Dubin, Co-founder and CEO of the The Dollar Shave Club is on his way to becoming the Victor Kiam of this generation. (A clever reference for the ‘over 40’ crowd…) The Dollar Shave Club launched with over $1,000,000 in funding from former Myspace CEO Mike Jones’s business incubator Science Inc. It has been reported that the video cost less than $5,000 to make but those numbers, like many production figures, probably hide a lot of unpaid or undeclared contributions from various parties. With video views closing in on 4 million and product reportedly flying off the shelves, this marketing campaign is ‘making hay’.
Why this video worked.
There are two claims to success you can make with a viral video: 1. The video drove awareness or, 2. It drove business. Awareness is good, business is better. The Will it Blend? series is one of the all time winners in this latter category. Most viral videos today focus on awareness and even then the creators do their best at hiding any brand message so as not to offend sensitive viewers with anything too ‘salesy’. Like Will it Blend, this video focuses on the unique attributes of the product in an engaging way and it doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s a promotion. Dubin does something very few marketing videos do – he explains the value of the product right up front: “For a dollar a month we send high quality razors right to your door.” He also includes an explicit call to action at the end of the video.
Inspired by the Old Spice videos, Dollar Shave Club has a lot going on and it’s a lot of fun to watch. It’s funny, it’s surprising and it actually makes you think (at least enough to consider the merits of the product). In order for a video to spread virally it has to be funny, or shocking, or entertaining – so much so that people want to share it with their friends. This video has certainly benefited from a lot of sharing. It’s very well written and Dubin, who has a background in improv, is fully committed in this video. Using profanity (even veiled profanity) is always a risk, but it works here. It shocks you enough to make you wonder what’s coming next. Great style, great delivery and great writing all came together to create a very engaging video.
And finally, like all good advertising, this video is targeted to a specific audience – guys (not men) just like himself. Men ‘of a certain age’ won’t relate to this video the same way that guys in their twenties and thirties will – and that’s just fine.
1. You don’t need expensive equipment or special effects to be effective. More than anything, you need a good idea delivered well.
2. This video is 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 employ to convince people to buy their products. It will be interesting to see if they maintain their internet-only marketing approach over time.
3. You can be successful with viral video even when you are ‘selling’ your product.
4. Know your audience and deliver a message that resonates with them. Don’t worry about those who are not your target.
Dollar Shave Club plans on releasing more products this year, including shaving cream and after-shave moisturizer. Will the company be able to recapture the magic of this video or will they be like the band members of ‘Baha Men‘ sitting around saying ‘Come on dudes… we gotta come up with another “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
Time will tell.
If you are one of few who have yet to see the video here it is:
Afterword: For an example of the same concept copied and executed poorly, check out this video: Smarter Shaves. (This company is no longer in operation.) You have to wonder if the folks behind this business actually believed they had a better product or if a bunch of guys just thought they could make a funnier video.