I met Mike Dubin, the founder and CEO of Dollar Shave Club, about a year ago. At the time, every marketer I knew was talking about the humorous—and effective—video he created to launch his company, a subscription-based razor blade seller. The video, which features Dubin as the spokesperson, went live in March 2012 and soon after had over 4 million views on YouTube.
Today, the video has more than 10 million views, Dubin has secured venture-capital funding, and has grown his team to 24 people—and he has a clever video and a clever business model to thank.
When The New York Times asked Dubin if he could duplicate the success of the video, he said, “There’s never going to be anything like the first one that launched a new business that no one had ever heard of and did it in a fun way. That element of surprise and being new is something we will never have again.”
That being said, there are techniques and tactics that can help boost your chances of going viral. I recently spoke with Dubin again, as a guest for my “Build Your Brand” show on creativeLIVE, to discuss the strategy behind his acclaimed video—and how other entrepreneurs can replicate his success.
1. Content is king
All great videos start with strong, brand-aware creative. This isn't a new phenomenon. Engaging content, no matter what type of media, has always been the root of quality persuasive, entertaining, and impactful messaging.
Dubin's video is not only witty and entertaining, but it solves a problem that millions of men face—wasting time in the archaic process of buying expensive razors at the store. In just 90 seconds, Dubin connects with his audience, makes them laugh, and convinces them that his service is a logical solution to a real problem they deal with on a weekly basis. That is what strong creative will do.
Mike’s background in standup comedy was useful, too. He delivers his script with wit and a deadpan expression, all while catching a tennis racket and (almost) hitting a ball, riding on a forklift, tossing a tape gun to a man in a bear costume, and riding in a little red wagon with an employee. Memorable, fun, and effective.
But, if you’re not like Mike and don’t have a background in standup comedy, low-cost video production alternatives are available. Contact a local film school, ask your circle of friends for recommendations, or even try shooting a video on your iPhone. Keep your video under two minutes, load it on YouTube or Vimeo, and post it on your website. After it’s posted, develop content that links back to the piece, pitch it to the press and keep your fingers crossed that it will hit a nerve and go viral. You want your video to look as polished as you can (or can afford), but remember, content is still king.
2. Time your launch
Even if you have strong creative, if you mistime the release, all your hard work can go to waste. Find days of anticipation or demand and look for a hook to make your video news. For example, Dubin launched his video in conjunction with a press release about venture funding for his company, and timed it to launch several days before the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology mega-event. Why? Everyone's mind was on tech, innovation, and new ideas, but there were no big news leaks yet. The annual convention hadn't started and the big news had yet to hit the papers. By the time SXSW started, Dubin’s video was already the talk of Austin.
3. Seed your content with influencers
Your first question when planning a viral video should be, "Where do I want this to end up?" Sure, you want to end up with millions of views, but what publications do you realistically want to reach? If you want to end up on a tech giant like Mashable, you need to think about every step on the ladder to get there. Make sure to distribute your video to small bloggers, who are starving for new content, and are often read by larger publications.
4. Believe in your idea
A venture capitalist once told me, “We look for entrepreneurs that are so passionate about their business that they can walk through walls.” After having several meetings with Dubin, it’s clear that his passion for his business is unparalleled. He set out to create a brand: “I didn’t want to launch a generic razor company. I wanted to create a lifestyle company. I wanted a brand.”