How Dollar Shave Club Built a $1B Brand in Five Years

The announcement that Dollar Shave Club sold to Unilever for $1 billion caught a lot of people by surprise. How could a company go from zero to a billion in just five years? They mail you razor blades. If I make a marketing video half as funny as that one, can I at least make $500 million?

Small companies and entrepreneurs with dreams of becoming the next unicorn come to Jackson Spalding all the time looking for help with their branding. We can’t promise you’ll become a billionaire, but we can share some valuable lessons on branding we could all learn from Dollar Shave Club.

Dollar Shave Club solved a market problem that no one thought to fix

Full disclosure: I’m a member of Dollar Shave Club. And it’s because I hate paying $20 per pack for razor blades. All guys do. But the staid and bloated razor industry had the market cornered and could charge whatever they wanted – until Dollar Shave Club came along with a solution. Sign up to have razor blades shipped automatically to your house every month at a fraction of the cost of buying them in the store. The decades-old problem of paying too much for a shave was solved in a way that was not only cheaper but more convenient.

The company knew who it was from the very beginning

Go back and watch that video linked to at the beginning of this article. I’ll even link it again. Michael Dubin knew what Dollar Shave Club’s brand identity would be from the beginning – absurdly funny, kind of a smartass and definitely cool. His company became the kind of guy you want to be friends with. He made razor blades cool, and he did it with a confident brand voice that was consistent and never faltered.

It created a community

Like buying a Harley-Davidson or a Mac, joining Dollar Shave Club made you an insider. Being a member gives you access to a community where funny jokes and cocktail-party fodder get mailed to you with your razor blades and you save money. Anyone who still hunts for blades in the grocery store seems to be doing it wrong. That said, Dollar Shave Club isn’t elite or exclusionary – any man (or woman) can join for less than the price of a gallon of milk – so it never feels like you’re not cool enough to be at the party.

At the end of the day, every brand must be able to answer the simple question of how you are different from your competitors; we call it brand positioning. When you can solve a market problem, know who you are, provide a product that’s in high demand and build a brand people want to be a part of, revenue growth just becomes a great byproduct. And funny videos never hurt, either.

(pictured: Coleman Wood posing for the annual Jackson Spalding Movember Campaign in 2015)