Consumer Insights of Mass vs. Direct to Consumer Model: Not a Close Shave

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For the last number years or so we’ve seen the emergence of quirky, innovative and sometimes irreverent consumer shave clubs.  Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s come to mind. These businesses are full of personality…some wacky, others cheeky…but definitely not boring.  Recent examples of videos from this group are: (here, here, and here).

The internet has given these upstarts the ability to do something never before possible:

One, to tailor themselves to their customers and know them in a way not possible before.  My shave club gives me the ability to select my blade, shave cream, style of handle, and any extras…all on a schedule of my choosing.  All these selections make up a “shave plan” and can be updated online anytime with a few clicks, or taps and swipes for you mobile users.  I’m “facially follicle-challenged”, so my box of goodies arrives every five months or so…perfect for me.

Ask yourself, why didn’t all these companies exist in the mail order days?

Certainly the sky high price of replacement blades has given a market opening to these firms, but the internet has also given them something else: a low cost marketing and branding platform.  The online video allows them to express their brand personas on the cheap.  Funny and irreverent presentations get millions of viral views, shares and create word of mouth.  Very efficient!  Search for Harry’s shave club online and receive a targeted mailer a week later. Very, very efficient!

A side note: Harry’s branding and packaging is spot on and hilarious…very impressive.

Harry's Shave Club packaging
Harry’s Shave Club packaging

These guys aren’t shot-gunning their marketing to everyone over age 18…unless you’re talking the annual Super Bowl ad, which can be argued has efficient reach for those so skilled at driving you online to learn more and sign-up.

As a counter point to all these observations, enter Gillette.  The old line company famous for quality (and getting us to buy the newest twisty shaver to lock us into more replacement blades).  Perhaps this is unfair as an observation sample of one, but here is a mailing we received from Gillette a few months ago.  A solidly constructed box with obvious brand recognition.  The only problem was the message targeting my son who isn’t turning 18.  In fact, he graduated from college and is not even living at home!

Gillette Happy Birthday package
Gillette Happy Birthday package

Whoops!  A nice gesture for sure, but it only re-enforces the fact that they don’t know me or my son.  Back in the mail order days this would have been overlooked, but not even a “close shave” in the age of hyper-personalized and excellently delivered services.

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