Dollar Shave Club's Mike Dubin Tells TechFestNW About Building a Brand Around Stories

Four years ago, Mike Dubin came home with a box of razors.

“This is going to be the big one,” he told his girlfriend.

“She looked at me like I was crazy,” Dubin said at TechFestNW on Saturday. “But I hated spending all this money and time going to the store buying razors and I knew I couldn't be the only one."

Dubin filled his presentation, How to Tell Stories and Stand Out, with personal stories. And telling stories, he said, is what makes a brand successful.  

It certainly worked for Dubin’s Dollar Shave Club, which became an overnight sensation in 2012 after Dubin wrote and starred in a YouTube video, “Our Blades Are F***ing Great,” that went viral. The video was aired on cable giants like ESPN and Comedy Central, gathered over 15 million views and put Dubin under the national media's spotlight.

But more importantly, Dubin says, it helped his brand tell a story. It’s a skill that is more important than ever in the digital age, when brands have to compete against Netflix and smartphones, in addition to the demands of everyday life, in order to win their audience’s attention.

“You have to insert yourself into the conversation and be a great storyteller,” Dubin says. “A lot of companies don't focus on the storytelling aspect of the problem they are solving.”

Now Dollar Shave Club has more than 800,000 customers and 7.5 percent of market share for men's razors.

A great story, Dubin says, is based on solving a problem in a fun way, then building trust with consumers with an authentic approach to communication.

Dollar Shave Club has taken that idea to heart. After the creation of its One Wipe Charlies wet wipes in 2014, Dollar Shave Club partnered with the Colon Cancer Alliance to raise awareness of colon cancer. As part of the campaign, Dubin live-tweeted his own colonoscopy.

Genuine and creative approaches like these, Dubin said, will build more trust in a brand then the heavily manufactured advertisements of bigger companies like Gillette, which pays athletes to pose with their razors.

Dubin says that he plans to unveil a line of men’s bathroom products at the end of the year, and expects Dollar Shave Club to continue to grow.

As the company grows, he said, he knows it will be unrealistic to try to behave as a small company where he produces everything himself -- unlike the early days, where he wrote the script for the “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” and his friend directed it.

Trying to do everything themselves a trap that many start-ups fall into, Dubin says. However, he doesn’t think Dollar Shave Club’s mentality will change as it continues to grow.

"If you have a strong sense of who you are,” Dubin says, “that is all you need to do.”

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