The Secret Behind the Success of the DollarShave Video

The Dollar Shave video went mega viral because it is “funny”, right?
But to understand why and how it is funny you need to break it down and analyze what motional strings it is playing. Only then will you truly understand its success.

Michael is fed up. Who isn’t?

The major emotional theme of the video is “Fed up-ness”. At the heart of this Fed up-ness lies of course Dollarshave’s value proposition to customers who are fed up with paying for overpriced razor blades. But there’s more.
The whole body language of CEO Michael Dubin says “I’m fed up”. He just can’t sit or stand still, he needs to move, he’s on a mission. He’s fed up with political correctness as he proclaims that the blades are F***ing great. He’s fed up with over-paid tennis players. I think he’s even fed up with being fed up.
This goes right into the core of the American peoples’ feelings. Not only are they fed up with the Razor blade monopoly, they’re fed up with Washington, they’re fed up with no jobs. They’re also fed up with being fed up.

Michael takes matters into his own hands

By doing so he becomes an agent for the aspirations of Gillette-enslaved Americans. When they buy blades from Dollarshave, they’re not customers, they’re proactive change agents who can create change and fortune by their own actions. Together with Michael they enact their shared American dream.
Remember the payoff in the video?
“Isn’t it about time?”
It’s not a product or service statement. Actually not even a statement. It’s just about how you feel when you’re fed up and want to take matters into your own hands. Like Michael.

Michael is one of us, not one of them

Look at Michael’s office. It’s a mess. You’ll find similar offices all over the country. Except of course at Madison Avenue. It’s as far from that as you can possibly get. In any case Michael seems to spend most of his time in the warehouse.
Michael would not pay an agency tons of cash to make this video. If you know a little bit about video production you can see it’s professionally made. Still it’s created to preserve an amateurish look and feel. That’s not by coincidence.
And Michael obviously can’t play tennis.

Michael is American

Ok, the flag at the end is obvious, but when you think of it the American theme runs right through the video.
There’s an homage to the ancestors (Grandpa with Polio). The evil villain is a foreigner (a Swiss tennis player). There’s a reference to the Vanderbilts.
It might not be as obvious to you as it is to me (I’m Swedish), but it’s there for sure.

Michael talks to….. Yeah, Michaels

Michael is a former marketing exec. Does he need to save dollars on his shaving in order to be able to keep the kids in school? I don’t think so. He just thinks it’s about time.
So when crafting the video for the launch campaign Michael needed to decide what people he should appeal to. – “What is the persona of my early adopter?”, is the question he must have been asking himself.
And I think the answer is – “People like myself!”. People who think the Swiss Army knife approach of Gillette is starting to look ridiculous. People who don’t need to save on their shaving. People who just have this feeling that something should change. Not for rational money-saving reasons, but for emotional reasons.
Others will come later. Who really need to save on their shaving. Who wants more proof of the quality of the blades. Then we’ll see other campaigns designed for them. But for now Michaels want to wake up thousand of Michaels around the country.

Michael creates an Experience

I listened to Jared Spool at Conversion Conference SF a couple of months ago. He said that every innovation goes through three phases; Technology, Features and Experience, being the final one.
Gillette is clearly about Features, with their vibrating handle, flashlight, 10 blades and backscratcher (according to Michael). They’re trying to sell us a Shaving Experience which is an Experience around the use of the product.
Michael, on the other hand, spends exactly 5 seconds to talk about the features of the products in the 94 seconds video. Dollarshave creates an Experience around how we see ourselves as individuals and how we want to live our lives. This is infinitely stronger.
We react much stronger to messages about our identity than our actions. I guess Michael knows this.
So if and when you decide to buy those blades you’re not just shaving – You’re participating in a collective experience designed to enforce your self-image as a strong and active American who thinks “It’s about time”.
John Ekman is the Chief Conversionista of Conversionista! He is regarded as a Swedish authority on Conversion Rate Optimization. According to John, a Conversionista is someone deeply and crazily passionate about improving Conversion Rates. You can find more inspiring posts on John’s blog.

13 replies
  1. Holly Buchanan says:

    What would it look like for women?   Similar in many ways,
    I think this sums up why the video is so powerful –
    “when you decide to buy those blades you’re not just shaving – You’re participating in a collective experience designed to enforce your self-image as a strong and active American who thinks “It’s about time”.”
    For women, the secret would be to tap into their collective experience that enforces a certain self-image.   There are SO many things women are fed-up with – so no lack of material.
    But I think one reason why this video is so effective, and a key component for the same type of video for women, is that the “hero” doesn’t take himself too seriously.For me, the funniest part was when he swings the tennis racquet and misses the ball.      It makes him more human.  That would be an essential element for any video for women – that the hero not take herself too seriously.   Women (and men) are more attracted to an imperfect hero.

    • Naomi Niles says:

       Fascinating! Thanks, Holly. I know I’m tired of overpaying for razors too!
      I especially like the idea of the “imperfect hero” you mention. So often it’s the weaknesses and vulnerabilities that help us connect with someone on a deeper level. It’s not totally surprising that it would work with advertising as well, although it goes against logic.

  2. Chris Hollister says:

    It was such a great video. Also, the breakdown you gave of some core marketing principles was fantastic!
    The only thing i was disappointed with, strictly from a sales and marketing perspective, was the distinct lack of a call to action at the end.
    I could be wrong here because I just watched the video on your site and it was in the YouTube embed. But why did he not personally ask for the viewer to purchase?

    • Brian Massey says:

      Your point is VERY well-taken, and a high-converting video will offer a specific call to action with clear instructions for what to do next. The DollarShave folks may be kicking themselves.
      The only exception to this is if you want a purely image and brand building experience. Only consider this if you have a large media budget.
      What if this DollarShave video hadn’t gone viral? They might be out of business.
      Thanks for the comment.


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