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Social Media: Lowering the Barriers to Entry?

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Social Networking

–Dan Kelly, Attorney

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been watching with interest the development of a company called Dollar Shave Club.  If you’ve never heard of Dollar Shave Club, this video is a good introduction (not safe for kids):

This 90 second video has more than four million views on YouTube in just over a month, and I must say, it really scratches me where I itch.  I can’t remember when, but several years ago I swore to myself that I would never, ever, buy another Gillette shaving product for as long as I lived.  I liked the Gillette Sensor.  I tried the Sensor Excel, but found that it provided an inferior shave to the Sensor.  So too with all of the subsequent generations of Gillette razor products.  Then there were price increases in the Sensor, then scarcity.  It was forced obsolescence, and I was done with it.  I have found other products that work well, and Gillette does not make them (well, Gillette at least is not listed as the maker–they could be private label products).

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published this piece on Dollar Shave Club.  Forbes published a blog post here.  It is mind-boggling to me that this start-up – a company that currently employs six people – has gone from unknown to the subject of WSJ and Forbes stories in a couple of months.  Dollar Shave Club has 25,000 likes on FaceBook and almost 15,000 Twitter followers.  Prior to the advent of social media, this sort of customer exposure would have been impossible without a multi-million dollar advertising and media blitz.  Now, it is possible with one well-crafted video that has gone viral (which, as TechCrunch once pointed out, is not simply a matter of serendipity).  It helps that the video is humorous, and it helps even more that the target of the humor is a relatively easy target, at least right now.  It also helps that the video is professionally done and has a high production value while maintaining a sense of feeling low budget.  Dollar Shave Club clearly spent some money on this, but probably not multi-millions.

A start-up still needs a good vision, a good business plan, a good name, and a good source of capital.  A start-up is also well advised to spend early marketing dollars on new media rather than old media.  But it is now theoretically possible to hit the market and make a splash with little more than a home computer, a shoestring budget, and some time and dedication.  As with all things, and as both Forbes and the WSJ pieces point out, the true test of success is not four million views on YouTube, but the test of time – turning the initial splash into long-term success.  We will see if Dollar Shave Club can turn this splash into such success.