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Can Viral Marketing raise Brand Awareness
for SMEs through Social Media and drive
long-term positive outcomes?
A DollarShaveClub.com case study

Author: Florian Pollet
Supervisors: Joachim Freimuth, Peter Falk
Course: BIM 8, Bachelor Thesis

Betriebswirtschaft / Internationales Management B.A.
Hochschule Bremen

Date: Friday 28 August 2015
Keywords: Viral Marketing, Brand Awareness, Social Media, SME

Abstract
The purpose of this thesis is to prove that small and medium enterprises now
have the ability to leverage social media to raise brand awareness, increase sales and
compete at a fairer level against global brands than ever before. The thesis will analyze a
successful case of a start-up company called Dollar Shave Club, which posted a viral
video in 2012 on YouTube and saw a great growth in their sales ever since. The
takeaways of this work are that social media allow companies with a small marketing
budget to reach a huge audience. This used to only be reached by global brands with a
big marketing budget. Another finding was that viral marketing campaigns do not
automatically lead to an increase of brand awareness and sales over the long term. The
content needs to be branded and adequate measures need to be implemented after the
viral peak.

Abbreviations
DSC: Dollar Shave Club
SME: Small and Medium Enterprise
WOM: Word of Mouth
SNP: Social Network Platform
MS: Market Share
B2C: Business to consumer
CEO: Chief Executive Officer

Summary
Abstract ................................................................................................................................................2
Abbreviations.....................................................................................................................................2
Summary..............................................................................................................................................3
Figures ..................................................................................................................................................3
Introduction .......................................................................................................................................1

1.1 Background ............................................................................................................................................ 1
1.2 Problem description ........................................................................................................................... 2
1.3 Methodology .......................................................................................................................................... 2
1.4 Main Objectives..................................................................................................................................... 3

Literature Review .............................................................................................................................4

2.1 Viral Marketing ..................................................................................................................................... 4
2.1.1 Early beginning ............................................................................................................................................ 4
2.1.2 Difference between word of mouth and viral marketing ........................................................... 4
2.1.3 Advantages and disadvantages of viral marketing ........................................................................ 5
2.1.4 How to create virality? .............................................................................................................................. 5
2.2 Brand ........................................................................................................................................................ 8
2.2.1 Consumer Behavior .................................................................................................................................... 8
2.2.2 Brand equity .................................................................................................................................................. 8
2.2.3 Brand awareness ....................................................................................................................................... 10
2.3 Social Media ........................................................................................................................................ 12
2.3.1 A new way of communication .............................................................................................................. 12
2.3.2 Brief history ................................................................................................................................................. 13
2.3.3 Main Social Media...................................................................................................................................... 13
2.3.4 Most popular SNPs .................................................................................................................................... 14

Case study: DollarShaveClub.com ............................................................................................ 19
3.1 The script ............................................................................................................................................. 19
3.2 Story of the company ....................................................................................................................... 21

Analysis ............................................................................................................................................. 23
4.1 Viral element of the video .............................................................................................................. 23
4.2 The factor Social Media ................................................................................................................... 24
4.3 A strong brand equity ...................................................................................................................... 24
4.4 Converting a viewer into a customer ......................................................................................... 26
4.5 Deductions ........................................................................................................................................... 27

Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................ 29
5.1 Delimitations ...................................................................................................................................... 29
5.2 Last words ............................................................................................................................................ 29

Reference .......................................................................................................................................... 30

Figures
FIGURE 1 AAKER'S BRAND EQUITY MODEL .............................................................................................................................. 9
FIGURE 2 FACEBOOK'S NEWS FEED WITH EXAMPLE OF ADS ....................................................................................... 16
FIGURE 3 VOLUME OF CONVERSATION AROUND THE TOPIC "RUN" ON TWITTER ............................................ 17
FIGURE 4 EXTRACT OF THE VIRAL VIDEO AD ........................................................................................................................ 19
FIGURE 5 LANDING PAGE OF DOLLARSHAVECLUB.COM .................................................................................................. 26

Introduction

1.1 Background
Brand marketers are facing new challenges. Consumers’ trust in traditional
advertising (television, radio, newspaper, etc.) is decreasing, down 23% between 2009
and 2012 (Nielsen, 2012). In cause, people have the feeling commercials are too
repetitive and too frequent (Kotler & Keller, 2006). At the same time, studies
demonstrate the power of word-of-mouth through countless insightful statistics.
Recommendation from someone is the most trusted way of advertising for 84% of the
people who answered to the survey (Nielsen, 2013). 77% of consumers are more likely
to buy a new product when they hear about it from friends or family (Nielsen, 2013).
Moreover, 89% of millennial women trust recommendations from a relation more than
recommendations from a brand (11%)(Millennial Central, 2014). WOM also increases
advocacy and it has been proved that a recommendation from a trusted friend is up to
50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than traditional ads (Bughin, Doogan and
Vetvik, 2010).
In this context, marketers are craving to produce viral content and some specialists
found some triggers that push or explain why people share photos, blogs, videos, etc. A
part of the answer is in the emotions the viral content drive. Studies recommend a mix
of powerful emotions such as joy, humor, sadness or surprise (Dobele et all.
2007)(Unruly, 2013). Another component is the social motivations that make someone
hit the button “share”. One can do it to improve his social relationships in real life,
showing his friends he is supporting a good cause, or because he can prove he is “in the
know” by being one of the first to share an information (Dobele et all., 2007). In despite
of these findings, no marketer can be 100% sure that the content will spread like
wildfire on the web. The marketers produce the content, the audience makes it viral, or
not. According to Youtube (n.d), 100 hours of video is uploaded on the Social Media
platform every minute. In this context, standing out from the crowd is a major barrier to
virality.
Some researchers differentiate WOM to viral marketing primarily because the second
one occurs online (Howard, 2005). The main reason a message goes viral is that online
content is very easy to share and can reach a wide audience at a tremendous pace.
Nowadays, the consumers are more and more connected through the fast propagation of
electronic devices (mobile, laptop or desktop) that enable the brands to connect with
them everywhere and at anytime. Therefore, marketers are devoting always more
budget to content marketing and seek to enhance a positive WOM about their brands
among their potential customers (Unruly, 2013).
1

Moreover, digital media can help organizations to spread their messages to the masses
faster than through the traditional marketing strategies (Kirby & Marsden, 2006). Social
networks are the ideal platforms with almost 2 billion users in 2015 (Statista, n.d.). Scott
(2007) argues that traditional and expensive ways of passing along the message of an
organization is not anymore an obligation. A huge reach is now possible for companies
with small budgets. So far, a lot of cases prove he is right. One of the most spectacular
one is the ad “First Kiss”. Wren, which is a woman clothing and accessories company, hit
over 80 millions views on YouTube with their video for a 1,300$ budget (Koblin, 2014).

1.2 Problem description
Fast moving Consumer Goods is the sector that spends the most on
advertisement (Nielsen, 2013). SMEs dedicate most of their budget in the elaboration of
their products or services and in sales (Krake, 2005). Therefore, the budget for
marketing is either low or inexistent. Traditional marketing is often not affordable for
them. In 2011, the US razors market is dominated by two well-implemented companies,
Gillette (61% MS) and Schick (19% MS)(Euromonitor). Gillette is in the market for over
100 years and Schick since 1921 (Gross, 2014). It is difficult in this context for start-ups
to compete.
If Internet used to be a source of information not more interactive than a book,
marketers now realized it is a way to connect and interact with their customers or
potential ones (Kotler & Keller, 2006). Could the SMEs leverage the social media to
create a viral marketing campaign and, therefore increase brand awareness with the
amount of the budget left? Sales and profits being the main objectives of every
organization, does brand awareness translate to higher income? And finally, can viral
marketing create more than a buzz for the SMEs and drive business development and
sales over the long term?

1.3 Methodology
This work will follow a theoretical approach. The research will start with the
analysis of viral marketing in order to understand what is behind this practice and how
SMEs can use it to achieve brand awareness. Following, the author of the thesis will
analyze brand equity to understand how a brand name can play a role in the purchase
decision. Viral marketing being an online concept and being even more achievable since
the rise of the SNPs, the author will define what are Social Media and how to use them
efficiently. Finally, a case study will be presented and analyzed. The company is called
Dollar Shave Club. A grooming e-commerce start-up that launched a viral video ad in
2

2012 on YouTube and have seen its commerce activities considerably increased since
then. The thesis will try to understand the reasons behind this success to answer the
questions that have been raised.

1.4 Main Objectives
The main objectives for this work are to:
 Understand the triggers that make a video viral
 Understand how to convert video views in sales
 Understand the importance of creating a strong brand and how to do so
 Demonstrate that a start-up can compete against global well-implemented
brands now more than ever before
 Understand how DSC created a sustainable growth years after the launch of
the video

3

Literature Review

2.1 Viral Marketing
“Viral marketing – having others tell your story for you – is one of the most exciting and
powerful ways to reach your audience” (Scott, 2007).
It is “the promotion of a company or its products and services through a persuasive
message designed to spread, typically online, from person to person” (Kirby and Marsden,
2006). Dobele, Tolemanb and Beverland (2005) also precise that this message can be
compelling enough to be viral also by accident and not only by design. In viral
marketing, marketers need to be very careful with the message they share on Internet
because once the message is sent the reactions are almost impossible to control
(Krishnamurthy, 2000). But when it is cleverly made, it can increase positive brand
advocacy and brand awareness to the mass (Kirby and Marsden, 2006).

2.1.1 Early beginning
The name viral marketing was used one of the first time in 1989 in the magazine PC
User. It was to define the WOM of company’s employees who recommended their
colleagues either the Macintosh SE or the Compaq (Kirby & Marsden, 2006). However,
businesses really realized the potential use of it in 1996 when the co-founders of
Hotmail created a new way of advertising (Kirby & Marsden, 2006). Having spent their
entire budget in the development of their personal web-based email service provider,
Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith had no money left to promote it to the customers (Kirby &
Marsden, 2006). That’s how they came up with the idea to put in the signature, of every
email sent by anyone using Hotmail, a message inviting people to get a free email
account at hotmail.com. The results were stunning as the subscribers’ base increased
faster than any other company in the history (Jurvetson and Draper, 1997; Montgomery,
2001). In the first 1,5 years, Hotmail signed up over 12 million subscribers. This practice
was qualified viral from the word virus, to symbolize how the message spread from one
person to another.

2.1.2 Difference between word of mouth and viral marketing
Klopper (2001) argues they are the same and that viral marketing is simply a buzzword
to describe something already defined. But others pointed significant differences. For
example, Granitz and Ward in 1996 said that WOM is a spoken concept and viral
marketing is essentially a written one. Nowadays, the format is even more than only
4

written and the viral content can be a video, an image, a sound, etc. Another big
difference is that viral marketing messages are often anonymous; you may not know the
person who transfers you the ad, as WOM is stronger in a friend and family circle.
However, this is not so true anymore since Social Media emerged. In fact, on most of
them you need to have a personal account to take part. Others (Krishnamurthy, 2001;
Granovetter, 1973; Brown and Reingen, 1987) agreed that viral marketing is the digital
evolution from WOM and that the primarily difference is the platform that allows
messages to travel faster and reach a further audience.

2.1.3 Advantages and disadvantages of viral marketing
Viral marketing has many advantages. It can be very efficient because the person
receives the message from someone he knows and trust. On the contrary with cold
emailing, where people who receive messages from unknown users tend to quickly
identify them as spam. Moreover, it is very cost-effectively even if the brand, the product
(or the service) is not something fancy, high-tech or usually subject to make the buzz
(Kirby & Marsden, 2006). In our case study for example, the company is selling razors. If
viral marketing is less expensive than traditional marketing it is because the message is
spread almost without any effort from the company who sent it and in a short period of
time (De Pelsmacker & Van Den Bergh, 2007). Kirby and Marsden (2006) also believe
that consumers find viral marketing appealing because it allows them to choose to
interact proactively with the campaign and the brand and not be passive. The customers
themselves drive viral marketing campaigns and they appreciate the feeling of control.
This aspect of control can be as well a drawback for the company as the marketers have
a reduced influence on the message once it is launched. It is impossible to stop it, to
pause it or to take it back (Krishnamurthy, 2000). Furthermore, the brand cannot
control neither who will spread its message and can be seriously harmed if their
message is spread by a certain group of people they did not want to be associated with.
Krishnamurthy (2000) also stresses the lack of measurement viral marketing suffers
from. It is difficult for an organization to track who was in contact with the message and
his reaction. If this person actually purchases the product or the service, it is hard to find
out if he did it because he was influenced by the viral marketing campaign or for other
reasons.
But according to Goldsmith (2002), one of the major risk is that, instead of generating a
positive reputation, the brand creates a negative one if the messages bother the people
because it arrives too frequently. As a result, they are likely to get tired of it and that
could damage the image of the brand.

2.1.4 How to create virality?
Making something viral became an objective for marketers, but how to stand out from
the crowd? How to make a viral video when 300 hours of footage are uploaded every
minute on YouTube (YouTube, n.d.)? Or a viral tweet if 500 million of tweets are sent
every day (Twitter, 2015)?
5

Unruly which is a marketing technology and world leader in social video marketing
proposes six takeaways from their studies (Waterhouse, 2014). Their paper examines
14 online videos to uncover why some ads generate shares and why others do not:
-Celebrities do not drive online ad sharing: This is subject to debate but Unruly argues
that only 13 of the 100 most shared ads of all time feature celebrities.
-Poorly branding your ad is like throwing away your marketing budget: There is no
correlation between brand presence and virality so Unruly advises to brand enough the
content to increase brand recall after the ad.
-Pack an emotional punch: This applies to all kind of emotions the marketer wants to
trigger from the viewer; it has to be wholehearted and intense.
-Get cut-through and memorability by using an emotional trigger other than hilarity: Here
Unruly advises not to absolutely try to make humor, as it is hard to do well but also very
culturally sensitive. Brands should aim to raise other emotions such as happiness
warmth, inspiration, pride or amazement (see below).
-Layer on the Social Motivations: A person can share a video for many reasons and those
can even be different across the globe (see below), therefore it can be wise from the
advertiser to give the viewers several reasons to share the ad. If one aspect does not
resonate in one’s mind maybe another will.
-Timing is everything: Here Unruly take for example the most shared commercial from
the Super Bowl 2014 (2 million shares), “Puppy Love” from Budweiser. According to
their studies, the ad performed better than their “competitors” (the other ads of the
Super Bowl this year, not other beverage companies) because it was released 3 days
before the game, on a Wednesday. First, Wednesday is according to the author the
“optimal day to release content”, and second it allows the commercial to have two viral
peaks (the day after the launch and the day after the game on Sunday).
More generally, a study from Dobele et all. (2007) underlines some specific emotions
that will make a message more viral than a message without. Those influential emotions
are:
-Surprise: This emotion is a base for all campaign, it is almost mandatory, but surprise
alone is not enough, it is more efficient when combined with other emotions.
 Joy: Joy works best for fun brands that want to energize their image.
 Sadness: Sadness should be mixed with hope. Dobele et all. (2007) also found out
that sadness often translates in short term commitments, which is not an optimal
reaction for organizations.
 Anger: Again, the disadvantage here is that provoking anger is not efficient for
encouraging long-term actions.
 Fear: To be used wisely because it may be perceived very differently along the
public you are targeting.
 Disgust: Works best with men and particularly for brands that have a rebellious
image.

6

Unruly, in another study (Unruly, 2013), acknowledges the findings from Dobele et all.
(2007). However, the author goes further with a bigger range of emotions that trigger
shares as well: Exhilaration, awe, warmth, hilarity (as mentioned earlier, it is not
recommended for global campaign since humor does not always translate across
different territories), contempt, pain, pride, nostalgia, knowledge, shock, confusion and
arousal.
In the same study, they showcase social motivations that push someone to click “share”.
This is the second step in activating commitment to action. A successful viral ad will
always raise emotions and then give the viewer a reason to spread the message further.
 Shared Passion: the person simply shares the content to connect with his or her
friends about the passion or interest they share together.
 Social In Real Life: the person shares because it will help socializing with friends
offline.
 Social Utility: the person shares because the content contains something relevant
or of value for his or her friends.
 Social Good: the person shares to support a good cause.
 Zeitgeist: the person shares because it is a current trend.
 Kudos: the person shares because it demonstrates his knowledge about the
subject or because he wants to be the first telling his friends.
 Reaction Seeking: the person thinks this content will receive reactions.
 Self Expression: the person is willing to tell something about himself when
sharing this content.
 Shared Emotional Experience: the person shared the content that had a strong
emotional effect on him and wants his friends to feel those emotions too.
Another study from Unruly (Unruly, 2014) showcases the difference of motivations
among nationalities that push people to share. If there is a worldwide consensus about
the emotions that drive virality (happiness ranks first almost everywhere), the cultural
differences have an impact on the social motivations. For example, in Germany, if
starting a conversation triggers the most shares, in the US the main reason is “shared
passion”. Differences have also been observed in the social circle of sharing. In Brazil,
people tend to share with all their friends, in the US the sharing reach is restricted to
selected friends and in Germany to the closest ones.
In the same study, it says that 17,9% of Internet users share videos more than once a
week (every medium is taken into consideration, from Facebook to emails). Unruly
highly recommends to target those “super-sharers” when launching a campaign.
Last but not least, your content should be easy to share. A lot of media players already
have a button embedded to do so.

7

2.2 Brand
„A name is like a special file folder in the mind which can be filled with name-related facts
and feelings. Without such a file readily accessible in memory, the facts and feelings
become misfiled, and cannot be readily accessed when needed.” Aaker (1991)
It is crucial for organizations to understand the process that makes consumers choose a
brand rather than another one. In this purpose, researchers have been studying their
behaviors and their perspectives of brands.

2.2.1 Consumer Behavior
Researches on consumer behavior do not always have the same conclusions. Foxall
(1992) describes it at a highly involving problem-solving process when Hoyer (1984)
believes that in many purchase situations, the consumer spends less time and effort as
possible. However, Lindquist and Sirgy (2007) temper and affirm there is not one
particular behavior but four types of consumer behaviors:
Rational behavior: a rational behavior is characterized by starting with gathering
information about market offers and the product. This evaluation shapes an attitude
towards the product that leads to the purchase or the non-purchase.
Unconscious behavior: this behavior is primarily grounded by emotions and feelings that
create an attitude regarding the product. From this attitude the potential consumer
looks for information, gathers knowledge and takes the action.
Learned behavior: It describes the habit of the consumer who purchases a product by
reflex and without planning anything before (also called heuristic behavior).
Social behavior: Consumer purchases a particular product because influenced by the
social environment he is living in.
On top of that it can be judicious to quote the work of Engel et all. (1995) and the three
kinds of purchase intention they described: impulse buying, partially pre-planned and
fully pre-planned. Impulse buying behavior happens when a customer instantly makes
the decision to buy a product that attracts him. The partially pre-planned behavior is
when someone already decided he needed a product but chooses the brand only instore. And the fully pre-planned customer knows before entering the store the product
and the brand he will choose.

2.2.2 Brand equity
Brand equity has been a subject of discussion in both the accounting and the marketing
world. Those two different departments of a company may have agreed on the fact it is
important to develop a long term strategy focus on brand management (Wood, 2000).
Indeed managers have two options, taking the profits now or stock them for later and let
8

brand equity be the “store of profits to be realized at a later date” (Ambler and Styles,
1996). Srivastava and Shocker (1991) argue in the same direction. For them, brand
equity is “the aggregation of all accumulated attitudes and behavior patterns in the
extended minds of consumers, distribution channels and influence agents, which will
enhance future profits and long term cash flow.” But accountants and marketers do not
agree on every aspect. Feldwick (1996) resumed it like this. For accounting, brand
equity is the value of a brand when it is sold or included in a balance sheet (also called
brand value). For the marketers, Feldwick proposed two definitions: “a measure of the
strength of consumers’ attachment to a brand” (also called brand loyalty) and “a
description of the associations and beliefs the consumer has about the brand” (also called
brand image). This thesis will now focus on the marketing perspective of brand equity.
Leuthesser (1988) proposes a broader definition stating the benefits of it: It is “...the set
of associations and behavior on the part of a brand's customers, channel members and
parent corporation that permits the brand to earn greater volume or greater margins than
it could without the brand name.” Other advantages are pointing by Farquhar (1989):
“The competitive advantage of firms that have brands with high equity includes the
opportunity for successful extensions, resilience against competitors' promotional
pressures, and creation of barriers to competitive entry.” Aaker et all. (2006) even state
that brand is the most valuable asset of a company.
Aaker (1991) named fives components of brand equity: brand awareness, brand
perceived quality, brand loyalty, brand associations and other proprietary assets.
Figure 1 Aaker's Brand equity model

Source: Aaker, D. A. (1991). Measuring brand equity
For the purpose of this thesis, the focus will be put on brand awareness, which can also
be a driver of brand loyalty, by influencing perceptions and attitudes (Aaker, 1991).

9

2.2.3 Brand awareness
The main objectives of every company are to increase sales and profit. In order to
achieve these goals, it is necessary for companies to make sure that their current and
potential customers are aware of the brand and its products or services. This is what is
meant by brand awareness (Kotler et all, 2005). Aaker (1996) describes it as the ability
of a consumer to recognize and recall a brand in several situations. When a business has
good brand awareness, its products and services have a solid status and a good
reputation on the market (Gustafson & Chabot, 2007). MacDonald and Sharp (1996)
further argue it has an effect on the purchase decision of the customer as it influences
which brands enter into the set consideration and which he or she is going to choose
among this set. Brand awareness gives a feeling of security of the customer on a
heuristic level (“I will stick to the brand I already know”) and on a perception level (“this
brand is famous, it must a good one”) (Hoyer and Brown, 1990).

Measurement of brand awareness
Aaker (1991) elaborated a scale to measure brand awareness. It starts when the
customer knows the brand until the person ranks it the highest. The full process is being
described here:
 Brand recognition: it’s the first stage. It is when a person recognizes a brand
among others from the same product range.
 Brand recall: this time a customer names a brand when he is asked to do so
among a defined product range. Particularly important for product people
purchase in a regular basis (e.g. water, coffee, washing powder…)
 Top of mind (also called front of mind): First brand that comes in the mind of a
person when he or she is asked to name one from a defined product range.
 Brand dominance: The only brand that comes in the mind of a person when he is
asked to name one from a defined product range.
 Brand knowledge: The customer even knows for what the brand stands for.
Those measurement methods have been challenged by a study proving that when
consumers were taken separately, 50% of them gave different answers between two
interviews when it came to name their top of mind brand. Similar observations have
been found for other levels of brand awareness (Guru Ragavendran, Devakumar,
Santhosh Upadhyay, 2009). However the same study also acknowledges that the results
were stable at a global scale.
In the case of top of mind or brand dominance levels, some customers can set
themselves the rule to purchase only the products of those famous brands (Keller,
1993). For instance, Apple has such a strong awareness that their biggest fans are called
“Apple addict”. This loyalty can be due to the uniqueness, the quality, the image or the
features of the product and it allows the brand to apply a premium pricing since the
customers are less sensitive of the cost (Mao, 2010). Repetitive purchases can be related
10

to the price factor as well. In any case, it translates to high sales volume. This loyalty
induced by brand awareness is crucial for an organization also because it has been
demonstrated that keeping a customer is cheaper than finding a new one (CIM, 2010).
There is a difference between brand loyalty and repeating purchase though (Jakoby and
Kyner, 1973). Loyal customer represents a reliable source of revenue while regular
customer can change quickly their purchase habit if a competitor enters the market for
example. Brand loyalty happens for good reasons that go beyond regular purchases and
it is important the marketers understand those reasons that bring the customer back
systematically and define and nurture this particular relation the client shares with his
brand. Relation even more interesting since the person is likely to recommend the brand
to others (Reichheld, 1990). According to Jones et all. (1995), there are two types of
loyal customers, behavioral and emotional. Behavioral customers are loyal but not
emotional while emotional customers are both loyal and emotional. In both cases, they
do not evaluate the brand before purchasing since their positive past experiences make
them confident enough to take the purchasing decision (Sidek, Yee and yahyah, 2008).
Brand awareness makes the brand loyalty and the purchase intention greater toward its
products or services (Aaker, 1990).

Achieving brand awareness
When achieving brand awareness, it is important to both increase the brand name
identity and relate to its product characteristics (especially essential for a newcomer in
the market). In his book, Managing Brand Equity (1991), Aaker listed factors that he
believes is the key to achieve brand awareness: be different and memorable (uniqueness
helps to stand out from the competition), have a slogan (visible feature), a symbol (a
logo helps to recall and memorize), design a recognizable packaging, sponsoring of
events (to create and maintain awareness), advertising and brand extension.
Farquhar (2000) demonstrated that only high level of awareness has an impact on the
purchase decision of the customer. In traditional marketing, achieving high level of
awareness is possible only for global companies who have the required budget to afford
a presence on TV, radio, newspaper, etc. This is an advantage comparing to companies
with smaller capital. However, the rise of Internet allows the SMEs to advertise on SNPs
at lower cost, and therefore, be able to compete with global brands like never before.

11

2.3 Social Media
“Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to
engage.” Amy Jo Martin.
Everyone born in the XXI century does not know about the Internet’s first draft.
The World Wide Web was a coalition of static websites, information was only provided
to being read without any interaction possibilities (Jansson, n.d). The first decade of the
second millennium have seen the Web 2.0 emerging, which is characterized by its
“dynamic web pages or user-generated content” and “the growth of social media”(Oxford
Dictionaries, n.d.). Dewing (2012) underlined interesting advantages of it: “Through the
use of social media, people can exchange photos and videos, share news stories, post their
thoughts on blogs, and participate in online discussions. Social media also allow
individuals, companies, organizations, governments, and parliamentarians to interact with
large numbers of people.” In the following, social media will be discussed into more
detail. A definition and a brief chronic will be given before naming the most important
ones, focusing on how companies use those tools to promote their brands.

2.3.1 A new way of communication
“Social media” is a catchall term to describe every websites or platforms that
allow social interaction between the content-generator and the visitors, between the
visitors themselves and between the content-generators. When brands used to send one
message to a mass of people, the Internet allowed human-to-human conversation. This
makes a radical difference with every other traditional media and open to brands new
opportunities but require a new way of communication. In 1999, four managers
developed a vision to help businesses to adapt to this revolution in a famous book called
“The Cluetrain Manifesto”. Social Media allows anyone to have a voice, to give his
opinion and to influence others when traditional media only give the floor to celebrities.
Therefore, those “new influencers” are nowadays used by the brands to promote it in
the same way celebrities are doing in the traditional media (Schaefer, 2013). Social
Media also allow organizations to learn more than ever before about their potential
customers. For instance: their interests, their expressed thoughts about a company and
its competitors and lot more. The better the understanding of a community, the more
efficient and personalized the communication strategy will be (Hlavac, 2013). The
Cluetrain Manifesto highlights as well the importance for a brand to engage a
conversation with their online communities to ask for opinions and allowing them to
give feedback, instead of giving just a lecture. This two-way conversation is extremely
recommended and marketers are shifting more and more their advertising budget from
traditional to digital media (eMarketer, 2013).

12

2.3.2 Brief history
If the term “social media” is believed to be used for the first time in 2004, the
history of people interacting on the net started decades earlier (Chapman, 2009). When
for example two computer hobbyists from Chicago invented the Bulletin Board System
(BBS), which was a rudimentary computer system that allowed its users to inform about
meetings, make announcements and share other information. This was in 1978. The first
Social Network, which really had a global success because it was opened to everyone, is
Friendster in 2002. In the USA, it achieved 3 million users in just 3 months. One year
later MySpace was launched as a clone of Friendster. In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg created
Facebook for Harvard students. It progressively opened its access to bigger crowds and
in 2006 everyone worldwide could register (Chapman, 2009).
MySpace made the Social Network platforms take an unexpected turn when some
Indie-Rock bands from Los Angeles started to create profiles to connect with their fans
(boyd and Ellison, 2007). From now on, SNPs were not only used to keep in touch with
friends like Friendster was doing, but also a way for Bands (celebrities) to be in contact
with their audience. In July 2005, another event took Social Media in another dimension.
News Corporation bought MySpace for 580 million dollars (BBC, 2005) and for the first
time, SNPs gained the attention of the traditional media who reported the purchase. Six
years later, News Corporation resold MySpace for 35 million dollars (Reuters, 2011),
Facebook having eclipsed the latter in popularity. In 2008, for the US election, some
national candidates campaigned on Facebook, and especially the elected one, Barack
Obama (Dutta and Fraser, 2008). Other incidents made the public opinion realize the
importance of Social Media. In 2009, a random US citizen signaled, with a now famous
tweet, a plane crash in a river before all the traditional media (Elliott, 2013). A last
example among many others, in 2011 social media has been pointed out as the major
enabling factor of the Arab spring (Storck, 2011).

2.3.3 Main Social Media
Harris (2009) argues that there are literally hundreds of different Social Media, the
author will stick to the one that are the most relevant in general and for our case study:
 Blogs. A blog is a website where one or several writers share observations,
opinions, experiences (Dictionary.com, n.d.). It does not have to be personal
contents but there are some features that you are supposed to find on blogs: the
chronological way the content is published, the regular updates, the possibility
for readers to leave comments and how the content is syndicated (via RSS feeds)
(Scocco, 2008). In 2013, 6.7 millions bloggers were counted worldwide. This
number can be divided in 5 types of bloggers: the hobbyist (who does it for fun),
the part-time professional (to generate a supplement income), the full time
professional, the corporate (also a full time professional but blogs for a company)
and the entrepreneur (blogs for a company he or she owns). In the last two cases
the blogs are used to generate higher revenue (McGrail, 2013). A blog theme can
13









by anything: news, cars, cooking, fashion are some recurrent ones. Maybe the
most famous one, The Huffington Post, has a daily income of nearly 30000 euros.
Most of the revenue comes from the “Pay-per-click” or advertising banners
(Johnson, 2015).
Wiki is the most collaborative Social Media. “A wiki is a Web page that can be
viewed and modified by anybody with a Web browser and access to the Internet.”
(Educause, 2005). Wikis advocate a democratic use of Internet since it “promotes
content composition by nontechnical users” (Leuf and Cunningham, 2001). The
big advantage of it is that the knowledge of every individual put together can
build huge resources. The wiki everyone knows is Wikipedia. You can find more
than 30 million articles in 287 languages on the website (The Guardian, 2014).
Social network is the type of social media this thesis will speak about the most.
Because of the worldwide importance Facebook took within 10 years. This
website will be considered further below. SNPs were defined as a “web-based
services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within
a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a
connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by
others within the system.” (boyd and Ellison, 2007).
Microblogs are another kind of social network sites but differ from them by the
type of communication. The most popular platform is Twitter. 140 characters
limit each post. Twitter will be described in detail later on. Microblogs also differs
from regular blogs because posts are brief and more frequent (Breinling, 2010).
Media sharing sites. They enable users to upload pictures, audios and videos in
order to share them with the greatest number of people or just to store them
online. Some of them allow you to insert the media on other sites like blogs or
social networks by embedding (Affilorama, n.d.). Youtube (videos), Flickr
(photography) and Soundcloud (music) are only a few examples but surely major
players in their respective categories. Even tough media sharing sites are another
type of SNPs, they fundamentally differ in the type of interactions of the users.
For example, one go on Facebook to connect with friends, on Twitter to get the
hottest news and interact with his or her favorite bands and on YouTube to
consume a video clip from this same band. All are social networks but are used
for considerably different reasons.

2.3.4 Most popular SNPs
In this part it will be listed which SNPs have the biggest number of users and
comment on their importance for the brands. It should be pointed out that the social
media world is constantly evolving at such a tremendous speed. This means that SNPs
that are not referred here could emerge tomorrow and quickly be a substantial issue of
reflection for brands as much as Facebook and Twitter currently are.

14

Facebook
Facebook is the one who has the most active users (1,44 billion)(Statista n.d.). It
implies a possibility for the brand to reach large audience if they create their own
Facebook Fan Page. These public profiles are similar to the individual user profiles,
which means it allows the brand to share updates, photos, videos and more with its
online community but also to customize his page with a profile picture, a background
photo and to ad milestones to his timeline as well as a short biography (like for example
the date the company has been founded). Concretely, every user who has an account can
connect with a brand by hitting the button “Like”. Therefore, the person might see the
posts of this brand appearing on his News Feed. The News Feed is the landing page of
facebook.com. The user can see updating status, photos, videos, links and likes from
friends but also from people who are engaging in the same Facebook Fan Pages as he is.
Facebook keeps the algorithm that chooses what appears on one’s News Feed secret. But
on their website, the corporate explains the main idea behind it: “The stories that show in
your News Feed are influenced by your connections and activity on Facebook. This helps
you to see more stories that interest you from friends you interact with the most. The
number of comments and likes a post receives and what kind of story it is (ex: photo, video,
status update) can also make it more likely to appear in your News Feed.” (Facebook, n.d.).
In the marketing world, when a brand publishes a post without financially
promoting it, it is called an organic post. Comparing to the early years of Facebook,
brand’s posts have a low reach, and the more fans a brand has, the smaller the reach the
posts have. An analysis of Locowise (Saric, 2015), a social media analytics and reporting
tool, from April 2015 studied 5000 Fan Pages and found out that the average reach of a
post from a Facebook Fan Page who had more than 1 millions fans is 2,27% (in
comparison, it is 22,80% for a page with less than 1000 likes), when it was still up to
2,6% one month before. The message send by Facebook is clear, no free advertising on
their platform. If a brand wants to connect with their fans efficiently, they have to post
non-organically, which means they have to pay to reach a bigger audience. And for this
purpose, Facebook proposes a range of services and products that only goes wider.
All the following information comes from Facebook itself. The main advantage to
advertise on Facebook is that the SNP allows you to target very specific group of person.
Before posting an ad you can filter your audience by location, age, gender and interest.
This gives to marketers the possibility to reach their target group with more accuracy
than with the other media. Not only Facebook helps brands to reach very selected users,
but proposes different ads for different needs. Therefore, there is more than one way to
advertise on the platform. First, it is important to mention that an ad can appear at two
different places on a Facebook page:
 In the right column. This is the most simple and cheap one. The marketer can
choose a title, a short description and an URL. Nowadays, it is not the most
efficient one because it cannot appear on mobiles.
 On the News Feed. It is the most important placement for the marketers because
this where users of Facebook have their eyes on. Users are not really paying
15

attention on ads from the right column but the News Feed ad appears between
two posts of their friends, so they are more likely to look at it. And at the contrary
on the right column ads this one appears on mobile as well. (Adespresso, 2014)

Figure 2 Facebook's News Feed with example of ads

Source: Facebook, 2015

Facebook also proposes different kinds of ads in the way they drive user specific
actions. Each ad contains a button where the potential customer can click on to trigger
the action the marketer is looking for. Obviously, those products are available for brands
(or people) that have a page on Facebook. Facebook elaborated nine types of ads. Note
that this service called, Brand for Business, is very recent and evolving quickly. This list
will just present a few of them:





Page Post Engagement: get people to like, comment or share the post the brand
advertised. This is the most generic one; it is basically promoting a post.
Page Likes: Similar with Page Post Engagement. It is a way to build a community
and to learn more about people interested in your business.
Clicks to Website: When people will click on the ad it will drive them to the
website of the company. The online store for example.
Website Conversions: It is a more sophisticate version of “Click to Website”. With
Website Conversions, once the person click and the ad and land on the website,
Facebook will continue to track his actions in the website. This helps the business
16

to

understand

the

behavior

of

their

clients

or

potential

ones.

Twitter
Like on Facebook, Twitter is a platform allowing brands to connect with their
customers or potential ones and like on Facebook, a brand can design their profile to
best reflect their businesses and their personalities. But the main difference between the
two social networks is the way the user receives the posts. On twitter it will
chronologically appear on the users News Feed’s. This distinction changes the optimal
strategy of posting. For instance, Social Media experts recommend to tweet regularly
and even several times a day when it is not always necessary on Facebook (Lee, 2015)!
Simply because, if the user has a look at his or her News Feed hours after the brand last
posted, it is unlikely he will ever sees the message. In fact, all the other accounts he is
following surely have posted and put the brand’s post far down the News Feed. Twitter
is a very valuable communication tool for the brand with its 300 millions of active users
(80% of the them are on mobile). Moreover huge volumes of conversations are
generated in the platform - over 500 million Tweets are sent every day (Twitter, 2015).
It is interesting for brands because every Tweet, and every engagement (reply, Tweet’s
share) with Tweets gives information about user interests and user intents at a very
specific time. For brands, each set of information creates a marketing “moment”. Those
moments can be translated as opportunities for the brand to drive efficiently with
potential consumer’s actions, by sending relevant ads or messages. Every conceivable
topic of conversation is covered on Twitter, and with an element of predictability.
Looking at the topic “running”. You can see on the figure 3 when people talk about
running on the SNP during the day and throughout the week.
Figure 3 Volume of conversation around the topic "Run" on Twitter

Source: Twitter Internal, Jan 2014

17

The results show that people are interested in running at the beginning of the
week more rather than at the end of the week, when they may have lost motivation. So if
a brand wants to engage around this topic it is preferable to do it on Tuesday rather
than
on
a
Sunday
for
instance.
To connect with the users more efficiently and therefore to post un-organically,
Twitter sells three different products to the marketers (information provided by
Twitter):
Promoted tweet: To generate reach and engagement. Promoted Tweets are just like
regular Tweets but with the added bonus of being able to reach both current and
potential
followers.
Promoted Accounts: To generate followers: allows the brand to scale their audience.
Promoted Trends: To generate awareness. This is especially useful for promoting big
events or for launching new products.
When the marketer defines a target audience before promoting a tweet, an
account or a trend, he will start with broad targeting options like location, gender,
language, and device. But Twitter doesn’t stop here the classification. For his campaign
the marketer can narrow the reach with additional targeting criteria such as Keywords
or Interest (like running) and Look-a-like. The latter is another filter that allows brands
to reach people who have the same interests as its own followers and therefore, increase
the likelihood of reaching more potential customers.

YouTube
YouTube is a video media sharing site and everyone can have access to the
content. In order to upload a video, creating an account is mandatory and free. Created
in 2005, it is today the third most visited website on the web (Alexa, 2015). According to
YouTube (n.d.) itself, it has over 1 billion of users and 300 hours of video are uploaded
every minute. YouTube generates revenue through ads. Around 1 million marketers are
using their service, and most of them are small companies. Here are the 4 different types
of ads YouTube proposes:
-Display ad: it appears on the right side of the video. It is very comparable with the
Facebook ad that appears on the right side of the News Feed. It is not the most expensive
and efficient one. Not shown on mobile.
-Overlay ad: it is a semitransparent banner that appears on the video it-self. It is not the
most expensive and efficient one. Not on mobile neither.
-Skippable video ads: the ad appears before the video and can be skipped after 5
seconds. Therefore, the ad needs to catch the attention of the viewer quickly.
-Non-skippable ad: Those are the most expensive ones for the marketers. The ad cannot
be skipped and can last up to 30 seconds.
Just like in the two social media that have been already described, YouTube also
proposes his clients to define a specific audience they want to reach. The marketers can
reach his target customer with criteria such as gender, age, interest, etc…
18

Case study: DollarShaveClub.com
Figure 4 Extract of the viral video ad

source: YouTube
For the case study, the author decided to choose an example of a company that
started very small and grew tremendously. This happened mainly with the help of a
video ad on YouTube that became viral on social media (Winkler, 2015).
DSC is an American company, based in California, which delivers monthly razors and
other grooming products to their customers. Michael Dubin and Mark Levine founded
the company in 2011 (Naziri, 2013).

3.1 The script
For a better understanding of the case, the author of this thesis recommends to watch
the 1m34 video that will be analyzed (can be found on the home page of
http://www.dollarshaveclub.com) or to read the script below (Credit: Tumblr:
Thinktallfilms)

Plan 1
[Mike is sat at office table. Close-up shot of head and shoulders. Suspicious amount
of children toys are hung up all over the background wall. Camera slowly zooms out as
Mike begins to speak.]
19

Mike: ‘Hi. I’m mike - founder of dollarshaveclub.com. What is
dollarshaveclub.com? Well, for a dollar month we send high quality razors right to your
door. [Mike stands up and begins moving around the desk towards the door.] Yeah. A
dollar. Are the blades any good? No. [Stops in doorway and points at the poster to the
right] Our blades are fucking great.
Plan 2
[New shot of wall in factory. Mike bursts through tissue paper wall holding razor
example and cont. walking through factory floor]
Mike: ‘Each razor has stainless steel blades and Aloe Vera lubrication strip and a
pivot head. [Passes a toddler sat with shaving a man’s head as he reads calmly.] It’s so
gentle a toddler could use it.’
[Mike cont. walking along factory floor, towards camera as camera moves away.]
Mike: ‘And do you like spending 20 dollars a month on brand named razors –19
go to roger Federer – [A tennis racket is thrown in from the side.]
Mike: I’m good at tennis…[Tennis ball is also thrown in. Mike misses the ball with
racket.]
Plan 3
Mike[jumping on a pallet truck reversing to the right of the screen]: ‘And do you
think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flash light, a backscratcher and 10 blades?
[Passes an old photo of grandfather on wall behind] Your handsome-ass grandfather had
one blade and polio.
[Camera zooms and remains on portrait]
Mike: Looking goooood poppop!
Plan 4
[Back on factory floor, Mike moves towards table displaying a box of razors about
to packaged.]
Mike: ‘Stop paying for shave tech you don’t need and stop forgetting to pay for
your blades every month - Alejandra and I are gonna’ ship them right to ya’. [Worker
Alejandra pulls tape across box, which Mike then cuts with ridiculously oversized sword,
before throwing the package to a man dressed in a bear suit. Camera swings round to the
bear-man who misses the box before putting his thumb up to address the camera in a
friendly and cheerful manner.]
Plan 5
[Cuts to shot of Mike and Alejandra working together in a wheelbarrow. Mike sits
back, wrapping his legs around Alejandra as they move along.]
Mike: ‘We’re not just selling razors, we’re also making new jobs. [Addressing
Alejandro] Alejandra, what were you doing last month?’
Alejandra [grinning]: ‘Not working’
Mike: ‘And what you doing now?’
Alejandra [still grinning]: ‘Working.’
Mike: ‘I’m no Vanderbulit but this train makes hay’ [Mike motions tooting a trains
horn in time to sound] *beepbeep*
Plan 6
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Mike [moving across factory tables this time]: ‘So stop forgetting to buy your
blades every month and start deciding where you’re gonna’ stack all those dollar bills
am saving you.
[Mike moves into background consisting of the man-bear, who reveals an American
flag and who holds stacks of dollars.]
Mike: We’re Dollarshaveclub.com and the party, is on.
[Cuts to music “Karate” by Kennedy (real funky) …And Mike blowing money around
with a leaf blower.]

3.2 Story of the company
Michel Dubin and his associate, Mark Levine, met at a party in Los Angeles. One is
a marketing head (Dubin) and the other one is a manufacture head (Levine). Levine has
a stock of 250 000 razors and proposed to Dubin to sell it on the Internet for him (Naziri,
2013). Dubin, who considers himself all as a writer who likes telling stories, knew
already he did not want to do it in a traditional way (TheLeapTV, 2013). They both
agreed that purchasing a razor and running out of them are two inconvenient
experiences that average male adults are facing almost every month. Dollar Shave Club
based his strategy on this insight that people have a frustrating, inconvenient experience
of buying razors in the store (Naziri, 2013). Dubin tells the same story to every
journalist who asks how he came up with this business idea. In an interview for
Fortune.com (Lachinsky, 2015) he describes this experience as the following: “…razors
are really expensive in the store. It’s a frustrating experience to go and buy them. You have
to drive there. You have to park your car. You have to find the razor fortress. It’s always
locked. You have to find the guy with the key. He’s always doing something else that he
doesn’t want to be helpful.”
This discomfort for the customers is an advantage for the razor producers
because restocking needs to be done on a regular basis. Their target customer is easy to
define, a man who uses razors. In the United States, this industry represents 3,6 billion
dollars in 2012 however as mentioned in the literature review the competition is
already well established. Gillette has a market share of 61%, Schick approximately 19%
and Bic has roughly the rest (Statista, 2014) (Euromonitor, n.d.). The two entrepreneurs
knew they could not compete head to head on pricing, shelf-space, selection, or
mainstream media marketing, but on convenience yes. In fact, back in 2012, the online
razor market was at the early stages and not very developed (Ng & Ziobro, 2015). This
was the niche market the two entrepreneurs were aiming at. So when people disliked
going to the shop every month to buy expensive blades, DSC came and proposed cheap
but high “f**king great” quality razors monthly delivered directly to the mailbox of its
customers with “Shave time, shave money” as a slogan. And this is how in 2011 he
launched his beta version of his website with his lifetime saving: $35 000 (Lachinsky,
2015). The “bootstrapped” version ran for 8 months and its creator collected money he
21

earned with his 1 000 subscribers to produce the original video: $4 500 (Naziri, 2013).
Even before posting the ad, Dubin was presenting the company to the potential business
investor by showing the video. In January 2012 he raised $100 000 (Lachinsky, 2015).
Due to Dubin’s background in digital media and video production, he believed a video is
the most efficient way to create storytelling and engagement (Naziri, 2013). His target
customers spend a lot of time on YouTube watching funny videos. The choice was
consequently evident to launch the video on this social platform, on the 12 March 2015
(Bessey, 2013).
The video was online at 6am30 and at 7am30 the website of the company crashed
because it could not handle so much traffic. “Every blog, every media site, they all picked it
up and wrote about it” Michael Dubin said (TheLeapTV, 2013). Is the virality translated
to more sales? Within the first week there were 25 000 new subscribers (12 000
subscribed during the first two days). Three days after the launch, the company’s stocks
were sold out for the next two and a half months. Dubin admitted they were still taking
orders from customers without being able to provide them during this period of time.
From his own words, his dream turned to a nightmare during the two days following the
launch of the video. For him it was a huge fear to maybe lose everything he planned for
years as quick as the fame came (TheLeapTV, 2013). It is very hard to plan how many
views the video will make before it is launched. Therefore, the huge number of new
clients was unpredictable. Consequently it was impossible for him to evaluate how much
stock he needed to fulfill the demand and how much bandwidth his website needed to
support the traffic. Moreover, a start-up with a very little number of new employees and
a small warehouse and limited production capacity is not ready for unpredicted
circumstances, and not able to react fast enough. However, the founder underlines the
support of the Web Community and the new customers mentioning they were very
comprehensive and supportive regarding the delay for the orders. According to the CEO,
they liked the idea of the underdog who succeeded (TheLeapTV, 2013). This 6th March
was definitively not a common day for the young start-up since they also raised another
1 million dollar (O’DELL, 2015). Good things always come in pairs.
In 2015, Dubin claimed his company made 4$ million of revenue in 2012, 19$ in
2013, 64$ million in 2014 and are expecting 140$ million in 2015 (Reim, 2015). But how
did the company manage to exist beyond the viral peak of the video?

22

Analysis
In the section, the analysis of the marketing elements the author of this thesis
perceives as parts of the reason of the DSC’s business growth will be discussed.

4.1 Viral element of the video
The virality of the video lasted longer than the experts from Unruly affirmed a
viral video usually does (Unruly, 2013). In their study they stated that 90% views of a
viral video occurs during the first 3 days. However, the DSC video made 4,5 million
views the first week, almost 10 million views a year after it was launched, and over 20
million views 3 years later. This can be explained by the fact that the problem the brand
sold is ageless, even if millions already saw the video, even more did not and are still
living this inconvenient razors purchasing experience.
Additionally, the video contains, like the studies mentioned in the literature review, a lot
of elements that drives virality. The first viral emotion the viewer feels while watching
the video is the surprise. Most of us never saw an ad before for a shaver that does not
feature a celebrity, a nice woman or other clichés the commercials of the big players of
the industry normally air on TV. Instead of that, Mike tells you within 15 seconds that
for one dollar a month he provides you “f**cking great blades”. By focusing directly on
the problem, the brand is solving and presenting the insight people is likely to care
about, the video captures the attention of the viewers from the beginning. The first
seconds are the most important ones. Like Microsoft demonstrated in a study, the
average human attention span is 8 seconds (Microsoft, 2015). The second reason is, if an
ad runs on YouTube like this one did, the viewer has the possibility to skip it after 5
seconds (YouTube, n.d.), therefore the video needs to give the viewer a reason within
this short period of time to watch the rest.
Humor is clearly the second main success factor. The video contains a lot of humor and
jokes and everyone find something to laugh about. It might not be the same joke but
there is surely one that made you smiled. In the literature review, some studies shed
light on the risk of using humor in content because it can be perceived differently across
cultures. However, when DSC launched the video, the company was only supplying the
US market. Furthermore, the study from Unruly (2014) affirms that after happiness,
hilarity is the second emotion that triggers the most shares in the US.
Besides emotions, social motivations for sharing are also triggered in the video. Every
man who has already purchased blades before can relate to the insight of this video:
inconvenient experiences. Consequently, one person can be sure that sharing this
content will resonate among his friends. No one likes the idea of paying a product at a
23

higher price than it would have been without celebrity endorsement. Like Dubin says in
the video: “And do you like spending 20 dollars a month on brand named razors –19 go to
Roger Federer” – referring to the Gillette commercials and its brand ambassador.
Last point. Michael Dubin said he really tried to keep the video as brief as possible,
keeping only the most important line of his script, because as he said for Advertising Age
(Neff, 2012): “Nobody forwards around a video they didn't watch all the way through.”
The video is meant to be simple, built on the core principles Dubin wanted to get across.
No dispensable element are included, it is only about the product, the service and why
they are different. On top of that the video is embellished with jokes.

4.2 The factor Social Media
Michael Dubin also explains the success from his enterprise by the fact it came at
the right time. Few years before 2012, American people were not that confident with
purchasing “blindly online with regularity” (TheLeapTV, 2013). Even the technology
required, especially the software features, were not available since recent. From a web
and social standpoint, Dubin thinks the social media platforms were a key element of the
success and adds that in 2007 the social sphere was not developed enough (Twitter was
at their early beginning, bloggers was not plentiful as they were in 2012, influencers
were not so present) to make their story and the video travels far and fast from peer to
peer.
The company, having obtained more and more funds from investors, continues to
reinforce the presence of their brand on the Social Media through paid ads in Facebook,
YouTube and Twitter. Non-organically, they also have a constant presence and
particularly on Instagram where they engage their audience by offering free t-shirts for
people posting the pictures of their received orders on the social network. Furthermore
they are really reactive on costumer complains and messages in the social media and
even keep a blog on their website.

4.3 A strong brand equity
Most of the factors for achieving brand awareness Aaker (1991) named in his
book Managing brand equity can be found in the DSC video. The slogan of the company
“Shave time, shave money” is memorable because it is funny, it is sharp and it is related
to the core mission of the business: providing cheap razors to people in front of their
doors. The logo itself is very particular and the name of the brand recalls the exclusivity
of the membership. The video is fully branded DSC and talks almost exclusively about
the product and the service. Like Unruly affirms, the viewer does not see a branded
content negatively if the content is good. In fact, Michael Dubin already pronounces
24

twice “DollarShaveClub.com” in the first 5 seconds of the ad. As a comparison, the ad for
Wren mentioned before is very poorly branded. Just the message “Wren presents”
appears during the two first seconds. The ad counts over 106 million views which is
around 5 times more than the DSC’s video, but the brand only has 5 500 fans on
Facebook, 3 400 followers on Twitter and 18 000 en Instagram. Meanwhile, DSC has 2
million fans on Facebook, 94 000 followers on Twitter and 28 000 on Instagram.
The identity of the brand DSC is strongly implemented in the product himself. To build
and sustain its relation with its customer, the company includes in each packet which
the client receives monthly some goodies, such as a business card for instance with a
statement written on it: “You know what feels f**king great? Shaving with a fresh blade.
The Chairman” (TheLeapTV, 2013). Rather than sending bothering newsletters per
email, the organization reinforces the reason why its customers love the brand by driven
this particular wit sense of humor and its core message. It brings a lot of value to the
brand, as the customer might be as much enthusiastic about the blades as about the
jokes.
Why the name Dollar Shave Club? As Dubin claims in the video, the delivery contains 4
blades for one dollar, in fact shipping and handling costs are 2 dollars extra, so the
minimum price is in reality 3$ but the communication strategy is to emphasize on the
low price. DSC proposes actually three different services. The 3$ set which is the
cheapest one, the 6$ one with its 4 blades and the bestsellers and premium one, the 9$
set with 6 blades (DollarShaveClub.com, n.d.). The word Club because the founder and
CEO insisted on the fact that his clients are members and not subscribers. It implies a
deeper relationship and greater warmth (Pivot Conference, 2012). Again, his customers
do not choose his brand because they compare line for line the product characteristics
with the competition but to be part of something cool and special. This is the main value
of the brand. In fact, Dubin himself said to the nytimes.com (Dahl, 2013) “I don’t see us as
a razor blade company. We are a lifestyle company.”
If originally the target customer was planned to be a male between 25 and 50 years old,
the video resonates to so many different types of people that the company has now
clients it did not expect. These include clients of “seventy years old woman and kids in
highschool” (TheLeapTV, 2013). And that comes from the fact that the emotions
contained in the video are also felt by people that are not only in the demographic group
of adult males. In fact, DSC communicates also to the women. On one of their post on
their social media accounts you can read: “You don’t need a pink razor to get a badass
lady shave.” (Facebook, 2014)
In his book, Managing Brand Equity (1991), Aaker explains that brand extension and
advertising are two elements helping to achieve brand awareness. DSC expanded to
other markets (Canada and Australia) and diversified his range of products with butt
wipes, shave butter, after-shave, hair products and repair serum (DollarShaveClub.com,
25

n.d.). Aaker explained that diversification is one way to increase brand awareness.
Additionally, ads for new products even ran on national TV last year proving the
company definitively shifted quickly to a serious player in the grooming market (Neff,
2014).

4.4 Converting a viewer into a customer
It is one thing to make people laugh but it does not make your business alive if it
does not translate into purchases. For this concern, DSC built a very efficient website
and more important an outstanding landing page.
Figure 5 Landing page of dollarshaveclub.com

Source: DollarShaveClub.com
26

Here are the elements that drive consumer actions (Bessey, 2013):
 With the logo and the video, the customer automatically knows where he landed.
The video is here to explain the concept if needed.
 The sales pitch is not more complicated than “A great shave for a few bucks a
month”.
 Taking into account the insight women are shopping and men are buying, the
latters are not willing to browse around but want to purchase what they need as
quickly and simply as possible. This is why the eloquent button “Do it” is here.
Moreover, making a purchase on the website does not take more time than 2
minutes.
 High brand awareness is proved here by the social results. Everyone can see that
the company has almost 2 million fans on Facebook, which give the customers a
feeling of security on a heuristic and on a perception level (Hoyer and Brown,
1990).
 The offer is explained very simply with 4 graphics and in the middle a picture of
the product the customer will receive.
 Not to mention the funny packaging that matters so much for creating brand
value: “I like shaving with a dull razor.”-No one, ever.

4.5 Deductions
A viral marketing campaign does not explain the success of a company. In fact it is
only a powerful impulsion, perfect to raise brand awareness of new brands or new
products. Like presented in the analyses, the adaptation is even more important, the
company translated this visibility into sales with the help of investors, an adequate
website, expansion and product range extension. The other big accomplishment is the
creation of a strong emotional brand. This not only due to the video but also to every
other contacts the customer has with his brand: the packaging, the product, the
communication on SNPs, on TV, on the website, the membership contract, etc.
The factor chance also played an important role in the success as well. Michael
Dubin says himself, he was very lucky. He came up with his business idea and his video
at the right time (TheLeapTV, 2013). Earlier no one would have trusted online
commerce; later one may have had the same idea before him. The video was published
one day before South-by-South West, a digital and entertainment festival, all the
dedicated bloggers were more likely to speak about it. Additionally, it was a slow news
day, “no shark attack” Dubin said ironically and he met his associate at a party.
Recently in August 2015, a new company called Dollar Beard Club launched a video on
YouTube based on the same process and humor than the DSC one. The business model is
27

also similar, one shipping per month, starting with an 1$ offer: “Every month, straight to
your door, you will receive a fine selection of beard oil, waxes, balms, shampoos and
everything you will need to keep you beard looking godly”. Moreover, it is written on the
homepage of the DollarBeardClub.com : “Be a man. Join the club. It’s only one dollar.”
Even more striking is the name of the razor subscription service that Gillette created to
compete DSC on the subscription model: Gillette Shave Club (Reim, 2015). Those are
proofs if needed, that DSC is now a brand with a high awareness level that belongs to the
US culture. DSC went from a small start-up to a well-established company within 3
years. They have now 130 employees (Dubin, 2015), a turnover predicted up 140$
million for 2015, had more than 2 million members at the end of 2014 (Winkler, 2015),
represent 13,3% of all razors sales in the US (Eshwar, 2015), just closed in 75 million
dollars funding in June 2015 and got valued at $615 million (Business Insider, 22 Jun
2015). And it all started with a 94 seconds spot.

28

Conclusion

5.1 Delimitations
The CEO of DSC does not communicate about profitability. Therefore,
measurement successes of the strategy are based on other factors. Dollar Shave Club
being quite young, there are no academic papers written about it. For this reason, the
thesis’ case study and analysis are based on interviews, online newspapers and blog
articles.
Having studied only one case, the thesis’ results are based on only one SME that does
B2C, and which succeeded. Elements that drive failure, or other not mentioned elements
that drive success, are missing in order to draw a full picture of the topic.
It would have also been interesting to have interviews from current and potential
customers of DSC. Questions could have been asked around their feelings about the
video, the brand or the reasons why they are clients. It would have also been interesting
to know how they heard about DSC in the first place. In addition, this would have helped
to conduct an interesting comparison between what Michael Dubin affirms and what his
clients do.

5.2 Last words
The case study of DSC is here to illustrate that a small company should not have
any limit in his objectives. Michael Dubin was just bold, innovative and creative but not
rich when he made the video. Internet and the social media changed the game and the
global brands do not have the monopole of brand awareness and big sales anymore.
However, how much businesses such as DSC fail every year? 90% of start-ups shut down
nowadays (Patel, 2015). As a conclusion, I would say this thesis defines success as a mix
of determination, luck, audacity, and knowledge of itself as well as the environment.

29

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