How Dollar Shave Club talks to ‘guys’

March 11, 2015, 3:09 PM UTC
Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin
Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin
Courtesy: Dollar Shave Club

Fortune: Let’s talk about your business.

Dubin: We’re at 1.5 million active members, and an active member for us means somebody that gets a package from us every month or every other month.

Those are two different options?

That’s right. And so now we say to ourselves, we have this enormous amount of trust from our membership, and we are keen on building a lifestyle brand that helps guys live a smarter, more successful life. And so we say to ourselves, ‘What other problems can we solve for guys?’ And you’ll see us now start to make this transition into more of a grooming company with more of a grooming mission.

Of course we will always have the core razor subscription as a product. It’s incredibly valuable to guys. Just to give you an idea, before our members were Dollar Shave Club members, about 28% of them changed their blades once a week. Now 75% of them change their blades once a week. So we’re having an incredible effect on behavior.

Now you’re starting to see a lot of the big boys chasing us into the space. Gillette launched their own subscription program. They really validated the concept.

Are you saying that men should change their blades once a week?

I’m saying that men really enjoy the feeling when they do.

But do you have a recommendation? Do you have a professional opinion now?

I do, but it would sound self-serving.

Tell me about your newer products.

We now have four non-razor products live. We have a pre-shave product, two post-shave products, and then we have our One Wipe Charlies, which is our butt wipe for men.

All right.

Have you not seen this?

No, I haven’t. This is news to me.

I have one here for you. This will change the way you do things. Do you have children?

Yes. I’m very familiar with butt wipes.

Here, take a couple of those on the road with you. It’s from my personal stash.

The label reads: “The civilized way to wipe.” Okay. Talk to me about this.

It certainly gets a laugh, but members swear by this. I mean, we sell thousands a day of this stuff to our members. It’s a problem-solver. You know, as we like to say, great things happen when your ass smells fantastic. It’s certainly humorous subject matter, but there’s a serious purpose behind it, which is helping guys take care of themselves.

And guys appreciate the honest, direct, really approachable way that we talk to them about our products. And it’s not just this. It’s all of our products and all the products that we will launch in 2015. So when we think about where we’re going, I think it’s helpful to think about different categories of things that you use in the bathroom.

So let me zoom up one level higher and say that we are at a really interesting time right now in the men’s grooming space. Men are buying their own grooming products. Ninety percent of them are buying their own grooming and skin care products. They want that control. They recognize the connection between what you put on your face, on your hair, under your arms, on your body, and how good you look, smell, and feel. And that has everything to do with how confident you are as a guy when you’re out there trying to be—you know, to live your life and be successful.

And it’s funny. For so long, the perception has been, you know, you’re somehow feminine if you’re paying attention to what you put in your hair or on your skin or whatever. But it’s not. Gone is the stigma of this word “metrosexual.” You don’t really hear it anymore. It used to be a dirty word, but it’s not in use anymore.

So it should make sense that guys are into their own grooming and skin care because guys get into whatever it is that they care about. If you ask a guy who likes whiskey, he can tell you what kind of barrel it was aged in. And what could guys care more about than how they look and how they feel and how they smell. And that’s what we help them do better, more conveniently, more affordably.

And so we are making a really big bet on this moment in time where you’ve got a lot of men focused on their grooming and skin care, a growing number every year. And maybe you could say that it’s more of an evolved man that’s thinking about this stuff, but we think that we have this opportunity to convert the guy who is the Pert Plus guy, the Irish Spring guy, the guy who just kind of uses whatever he’s been using and hasn’t been putting a lot of thought into it, we think we can reach that guy and tell him, “Hey, you should be investing in your grooming and skin care.”

You just mentioned soap and shampoo, which you don’t sell.

I used them specifically as examples because they’re kind of like brands that have been around forever and brands that people know. We think that because of this really approachable voice that we speak to guys with, we can educate them about the benefits of changing the way they do things.

And One Wipe Charlies is a perfect example. So I forget the number off the top of my head, but I think it’s 50% of guys that have bought this product have never used a wipe before. And it had everything to do with how we talked to them about this product—that it’s the cleaner way to do it, the faster way to do it, the manliest way to do it or whatever.

This is based on your research with your customers?

This is based on our estimation of general trends and attitudes and research in the general marketplace and research in our members. I think like any good company, we have the right combination of intuition and data. I don’t think you can be successful otherwise because the data’s not always going to tell you what you need to know. If you had surveyed men before we launched One Wipe Charlies saying, “What products do you want?” very few of them probably would have said, “A wet ass-wipe.” But, you know, our gut said, “What?” We had a few guys in the office that actually were using it. They weren’t quite talking about it. And we made it okay for them to talk about it.

For more on Dollar Shave Club, read:

How Dollar Shave Club got started

The cutting edge of care

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