What Dollar Shave Club can Teach You About Making a Video for Your Startup

No doubt you’ve heard of Dollar Shave Club. It launched last week with an explosive start that’s rarely been seen.

It’s a startups dream to add 5,000 customers on launch day, attract 11 thousand Twitter followers, make scores of facebook friends, and generate coverage in newspapers around the world.

A large part of Dollar Shave Club’s success can be attributed to an amazingly well done viral video that generated over 3.2 million views on YouTube. The $4,500 video has generated brand awareness worth hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times its production cost.

While not every startup is going to launch with the same success, Dollar Shave’s experience clearly highlights the value and importance of creating a great marketing video. We can all learn some great lessons from Dollar Shave on how to tell our stories in a clear, memorable, and compelling way.

We use Dollar Shave’s video to illustrate ten tips (after the jump, below the video) that can guide you to making a great startup video, regardless of whether you are doing it yourself or working with a partner.

1. Address a clear pain point

A product video needs to clearly articulate how it solves a pain point. Doing so in a clear, compelling, and memorable way is tough, but for a startup, developing and refining your value proposition is perhaps the most important activity you can engage in.

Too often people are so caught up in their product that they want to jump right into talking about features before clearly articulating the customer need they are addressing. Don’t start making a video until you have your value proposition nailed down.

In this case, the pain point is the ridiculous amount of money that men waste each month on shaving products.

2. Answer the tough questions head on

When I first heard some buzz about Dollar Shave, two questions came to mind. The first was, how can they afford to sell razors that cheap? The second was, what kind of razors are you going to get for a dollar per month (I’ve lost my share of blood to disposable razors, so price isn’t everything)?

Guess what, my question about quality is answered 14 seconds into the video. “Are the blades any good? Our Blades are F**king Great.” This claim is backed up with mention of the razor features like double blades and a lubricating strip. It’s clear that they aren’t just selling plastic Bic razors.

My question about their low price-point is answered by talking about how $19 of the $20 a month that you spend on razors goes to Roger Federer. The humorous point on ad spending is underscored by listing the useless razor features that they’ve cut out in order to save you money.

3. Have a clear strategy for your videos

I read a great thing on Twitter yesterday from @loubortone that sums it up. “Do you have a PLAN for your videos? Or are you just posting and praying for views?”

With a strong background in digital marketing, including working on campaigns to drive social video views for  brands like Ford, Nike, and Gillette, it’s clear that Mike Dubin, Dollar Shave’s founder, had a strategy to create a video that was tailored for viral distribution.

This video doesn’t slap you in the face and do the hard sell. Rather the focus is on building a connection with the brand, piquing the viewers interest in learning more, and getting them to share it either through word of mouth or by sharing the video with friends. The actual selling takes place down the road when you are interested enough in the brand that you visit their site.

4. Make it personal

This is a handy strategy for making videos for startups and small companies. It works on a couple levels in this video. First, everything is framed in a personal way. Take a look at the language:

* “We send high quality razors right to your door”
* “Stop forgetting to buy your blades every month”
* “Start to decide where to stack all the dollar bills I’m saving you”

This makes it easy for the target audience to imagine themselves using the product. It eliminates the cognitive burden of figuring out the role of the product and where it fits into the consumer’s life.

The second way in which the video makes things personal is by putting the founder front and center. When you are going up against a nameless and faceless multi-national like Gillette, it makes sense to bring out the personality of company and the people that work there.

Not all companies have a charismatic founder that is at ease in front of a camera, but every company has a human story that can be brought out. A David and Goliath narrative is easy for people to relate to.

5. Anchor the message by positioning against a leader

This builds on the previous point. You can help anchor a message by framing it in terms of another product or a market leader.

In this case, Dollar Shave positions itself against Gillette, with its pricey tennis stars and feature bloated razors (hard to believe a razor can be as feature bloated as some software).

For this strategy to work, there must be a clear, meaningful point of differentiation where your company or service is better than the company you are positioning against. The benefit of doing this is that it taps into the brand awareness of the company you mention. It’s kind of like Judo, where you use your enemy’s energy against them.

Guy Kawasaki talks in more depth about positioning against a leader in the Art of the Start, and Seth Godin discusses this in The Bootstrapper’s Bible.

6. Use humor, but not just for humor’s sake

A study on viral videos by Forrester and Search Engine Journal found that not surprisingly, almost 50% of viral videos feature humor, and 70% of people who share videos with others do so because the content is amusing.

Offbeat humor and great comedic timing keeps the viewer engaged in this video. In this case, it helps that the company founder is an experienced improv actor with a light and breezy manner. However, I think that it’s equally important that the story isn’t sacrificed just to get laughs. All of the humor moves the story along.

For instance, the bit about the Vanderbilt’s and making jobs for Alejandra in America touches on a desire to buy American at a time when jobs are scarce and many of them have been moved offshore.

Throughout the video, Dubin is clearly and directly articulating what the company does, what the product benefits are, how it’s priced, and who it’s for. Humor is a device, not a crutch.

7. Keep it simple

Dollar shave has several different plans that people can chose from. While they are all creatively presented on the website, the company has left all that out of the video. It’s extraneous information that is only relevant to people that want to buy the service. At this point, the main objective is to generate awareness, interest, and desire. Action can come later.

8. Keep it short

Viewing of videos falls off quickly online. Some estimates say that the audience drops by up to 50% after two minutes. Dollar Shave has done a good job of loading the key messaging at the front of the video. In the first 10 seconds, while 90% of the audience is still viewing, they explain what they do – send high-quality razors right to your door for a dollar a month.

9. Match the production values to the tone

Razor videos tend to have over the top production values. In this case, things look like a low budget production, and it fits well with the underdog positioning and the low-cost messaging they are trying to convey. If dollar shave club is trying to cut the fat of celebrity endorsements and massive advertising budgets, then it makes no sense for it to look like it spent $50k making a slick video.

10. Align the video with your brand

Similar in nature to the point above, look at the rest of your site and your communications material. How do you convey your messaging? You don’t want a disjointed experience where the video looks like it was created for another company. The tongue in cheek nature of the Dollar Shave video is carried across seamlessly to its website, so that it presents a unified brand personality.

Bonus. Dancing bears

Really, nothing more needs to be said. It’s not quite up to my favorite scene in Old School where Frank the Tank dresses up as a mascot and catches on fire while jumping through a flaming hoop, but people are suckers for dancing mascots.