Casualties of Big Idea Warfare (disturbing)

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What happens when a rag tag competitor sneaks up behind you with a (high calibre) Big Idea?

Ouch!

Have you ever heard of a company called RazWar? Unlikely.

Delivering on their name, RazWar fixed bayonets and went into full battle formation. They hoped that your facial hair would fund a revolution against the empire of Gillette. To a certain extent, they succeeded, but war is brutal.

RazWar may have pioneered the “razor subscription model” in 2009, and felt secure, perched on a three-year head start over distant competition. Then suddenly, they began to receive overwhelming cross fire – from one direction.

On the 26th of March 2012 an unknown competitor arrived and the two companies collided in the marketplace. They fought for the right to disrupt a $2.6 billion male grooming industry and it wasn’t pretty.

As dust settled, the numbers proved RazWar didn’t even have enough time to raise the white flag – no match. Their three-year head start, brought to its knees within thirty minutes of marketing combat – quick and humane. Here’s a question…

Who was RazWar’s merciless opponent?

Their identity is locked and loaded behind the power of their BIG IDEA:

“A Great Shave For A Few Bucks A Month”

DollarShaveGenius.com. No, actually…

DollarShaveClub.com.

Yes, you know exactly who they are.

How did Dollar Shave Club (DSC) outsmart the pioneer, RazWar, and then send shivers down Gillette’s spine? It was more than just a viral video, so let’s set the stage…

(QUICK SURVEY: If a copywriter charged you $49,759 to create a high calibre BIG IDEA for your business, that goes on to generate $180 million in 2015 alone, would you hire him again?)

Of course, reading on may not guarantee you Dollar Shave success, but it could save your next product launch. Without reaching the heart of your tribe with a big idea, in their mother tongue – a new launch could prove fatal to your business.

In the next few minutes, you’ll get permission from the Gods to go after your fiercest competitor, even if their marketing budget is 100 x the size of yours. You see, it’s pretty clear, not phased by their tiny budget, founders of both RazWar and DSC were equally frustrated about the brand razor business. So they set up shop to disrupt Gillette by solving their prospects main pain point…

The exorbitant price of store-bought razors. They were also fed-up of being treated like a felon when buying razors.

Now, before going any further, let’s state the obvious; there are other factors that make a business successful in their first year, but they’re elementary. Even though it’s ignored by the majority of your competitors and marketing agencies, because it isn’t easy to pull off – we will zero in on one little known ingredient that made Dollar Shave Club a firey start-up.

… And according to the great ad man David Ogilvy, it’s the most important element to ever walk planet advertising…

‘The Big Idea.’

Words you’ve heard before?

“You can do homework from now until doomsday, but you will never win fame and fortune unless you also invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.” – David Ogilvy

So we’ll focus on the jet-fuelled BIG IDEA powering Dollar Shave Club’s launch video. Why?

Because it cost $4,500 to produce in 2012, and it’s projected to generate $180 million revenue in 2015 – Ay, caramba!

Within 60 minutes of it going live on 26th March 2012, DSC’s servers crashed under the strain of orders. (Gillette felt the tremor)

48 hours later they had 12,000 paying members, and achieved what RazWar had been trying to do in ..?.. weeks ..?.. months ..?.. years.

Business owners, consider this next question seriously:

Would DSC’s launch video convert into a flood of sales if it lacked…

… The basic five ingredients of an Ogilvy style BIG IDEA?

Before you answer, let’s get two things straight…

1.) You’ll find the following words on RazWar’s site:

“Raz*War is the proud inventor of the “Shaving as Service” idea. We pioneered shaving subscriptions in 2009 and where followed by a bunch of copycats.”

2.) In 2009 RazWar released a video, too. Unfortunately, it’s been removed from YouTube. However, one source had this to say about it:

“RazWar’s David Hachez shaved himself after the first sale on the website in July 2009, and put the video up on YouTube. They loudly called out the razor business giants and their ridiculous pricing model” – thenextweb.com

This means we only have DSC’s “original” launch video to strip naked. For the purpose of this post, we’ll compare it with RazWar’s next best – their most watched video on their about us page.

For best results, watch both videos.

RazWar-Business-concept

Click here to watch RazWar’s video

Dollar-Shave-Club-concept

Click here to watch DSC’s video

Now, you beautiful people, which video delivers the following?

“It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product.” – David Ogilvy

If your answer is RazWar, take a stiff shot of whatever makes you see straight, rewind and watch the videos again, then read on.

Because we’re about to dig into the copy for Dollar Shave Club’s BIG IDEA…

“A Great Shave For A Few Bucks A Month”

Mike: Hi, I’m Mike, founder of Dollarshaveclub.com.

What is dollarshaveclub.com? Well, for a dollar a month we send high quality razors right to your door.

Yeah, a dollar.

Are the blades any good? No… Our blades are fucking great.

Each razor has stainless steel blades, an aloe vera lubricating strip and a pivot head. It’s so gentle a toddler could use it.

And do you like spending $20 a month on brand name razors? 19 go to Roger Federer… I’m good at tennis.

And do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a back scratcher and ten blades? Your handsome-ass grandfather had one blade and polio. Looking good pop-pop.

Stop paying for shave-tech you don’t need and stop forgetting to buy your blades every month. Alejandra and I are going to ship them right to you.

We’re not just selling razors, we’re also making new jobs. Alejandra what were you doing last month?

Alejandra: Not working.

Mike: And what are you doing now?

Alejandra: Working.

Mike: I’m no Vanderbilt, but this train makes hay.

So stop forgetting to buy your blades every month and start deciding where you’re going to stack all those dollar bills I’m saving you.

We are dollarshaveclub.com – and the party is on.

Impressive script? Absolute genius.

How did DSC’s founders, Mike Dubin and Mark Levine know that their 204 words of copy packed a big idea? Think you have a big idea? What is it?

How do you know if your big idea really is cash sucking?

Let’s explore this route…

In the book Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy revealed his (largely ignored) checklist to guide your “BIG IDEA” to stardom. Actually, (as discussed here) Ogilvy’s greatest ads wouldn’t exist if they didn’t pass his five-step checklist:

Did it make me gasp when I first saw it? Do I wish I had thought of it myself? Is it unique? Does it fit the strategy to perfection? Could it be used for 30 years?

And now, a question for YOU…

Did RazWar ignore Ogilvy’s BIG IDEA checklist?

Think about it this way…

If RazWar’s founder purchased the book Ogilvy on Advertising for $6.99 on Amazon, and created a campaign guided by the big idea checklist, would their fortune be any different? You decide.

Actually, I wonder if Dollar Shave Club would even exist today.

What about marketing your business? Are you leaving a gap for competitors to waltz in, and grab what’s rightfully yours?

If you can’t enthusiastically answer “YES” to each question on Ogilvy’s checklist, could you be charitably giving away market share – doing a ‘RazWar?’

“Never, not possible,” some say.

Well, to prove this theory, let’s run DSC’s launch copy through Ogivly’s big idea checklist…

1) Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?

Absolutely…

First, let’s not overlook a most intriguing element – their name.

If you found the following ads in a magazine, which would pique your curiosity most – enough to make the call?

magazine

Which name starts laying the foundation to a benefit rich (intriguing) BIG IDEA? You decide.

To me, RazWar is short and catchy, but it conscripts you for national service.

On the other hand, Mike Dubin invites you to join an exclusive (shave) “club” – for a “dollar”. A unique name joined at the hip of their BIG IDEA –“A Great Shave For A Few Bucks A Month”

What’s the name of your most profitable business? How much time do you spend naming new products? It isn’t the same process as naming a pet, is it?

Dollar Shave Club used a laser-guided hydraulic ram to nail their big idea, deep into their prospects mind, from the start – in the company name. Can you do the same?

Intrigued by their name, I was then blown away watching the ad for the first time – which lead to extreme jealousy. So I had to find out who these chumps were. As a copywriter, I knew they nailed it. In fact, in an instant, my thought process lead to Ogilvy’s next question…

2) Do I wish I had thought of it myself?

Say what!? Yeah baby!

First, a subscription based razor service makes simple sense (thanks RazWar)

  “For one dollar a month we send high quality razors right to your door”

“Stop paying for shave-tech you don’t need and stop forgetting to buy your blades every month. Alejandra and I are going to ship them right to you…”

Second, they challenged the empire of Gillette, with what appears to be a home made $4,500 ‘production’ (which included hiring Evil Knievel’s youngest son, Alejandra). Yet it produced 94 seconds of bold, risky, and “I don’t need a parachute” brilliance. Wish you thought about it yourself? Me too.

204 words (of super persuasive copy) infused with perfectly balanced humour that blessed it to go ferociously viral – sensational.

That said; don’t be seduced by this low-cost production. It was created by a list of big hitters. I’d be surprised if an agency charged less than $50,000 to create a similar ad. Would you risk 50 big ones to generate $180 million?

3.) Is it unique?

“Don’t give them a video they could have written themselves” – Mike Dubin

Yep – RazWar may have pioneered the subscription model, but they did little to tell the world about it, and now – it’s probably too late. On the other hand, Dollar Shave’s lead pen, who proudly calls himself a copywriter, went a direct response step further.

He spun silk by going for the sale, entering the conversation in prospects mind – “Think deeply about the problem you’re solving,” Mike Dubin said. As he then topped his offer off with finesse, by turning a dry subscription into a must join (unique) “Club” – nuff said.

“What is dollarshaveclub.com? Well, for a dollar a month we send high quality razors right to your door.”

“Our blades are f**king great.”

Heard anything like that before?

Boom!! 

4.) Does it fit the strategy to perfection?

If their strategy was to break social barriers… disrupt and profit… while sending shivers down Gillette’s spine, then YES.

“Do you like spending $20 a month on brand name razors? 19 go to Roger Federer. I’m good at tennis.”

You see, the much loved “Charlie bit me” viral video may have broken YouTube with 823,094,183 views. But is Charlie expected to generate $180 million in 2015? Probably not.

Business owners, consider that fact before paying an agency to create a viral video that fails to make the sale – “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” – David Ogilvy

5.) Could it be used for 30 years?

Gillette hopes not – so let’s give them the privilege of answering this question themselves. The evidence presented so far proves that DSC’s launch video has kept Gillette awake at night and Gillette’s REVENGE AD proves they’ve had insomnia since 2012.

dollar-shave-club-gillete-shave-clubs-revenge-ad

You gotta love a revenge ad –  Click here for a tickle.

BREAKING NEWS: On June 4th Gillette announced a new club. So, ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to welcome another casualty of big idea warfare? Please stand, bring the house down, and raise your hands in applause for – www.gilletteshaveclub.com. Ring a bell, anyone?

Click here to watch one of their launch ads.

The next 12 months will be exciting to see what happens. The fact is, Gillette is three years late to the Shave Club party.

And I’m sure you’ll agree, DSC’s ad kicked-butt from day one. It will continue to do so for a long while – only Armageddon will stop it!

What about the pioneer, RazWar?

Well, help me out you beautiful people – that’s your exercise.

Click here to read RazWar’s copy, then run it through Ogilvy’s big idea checklist – share your findings below. Then more importantly…

Run your competitors product through Ogilvy’s big Idea checklist. Are they asleep on duty? (Maybe they still believe the big idea is actually dead? Shhh! don’t tell them you believe in the resurrection – the truth)

In fact, if your sniper eye spots a gap in their marketing, spring out of bed an hour early tomorrow. Because you could be the next rag tag competitor sneaking up behind them with a (high calibre) Big Idea.

Don’t believe my words? Try Mike Dubin’s…

“When you’re launching a new business and sharing a new idea, if you can get people to remember it, there’s obviously a better chance at success.”

Your competition won’t know what hit them.

So before you “Dollar-Shave their Ass” upgrade to a beefier server, and make sure you have enough stock to cope with a surge in orders – Go disrupt!

If you would like to receive a free copy of “Dollar Shave Club’s Big Idea Cheat Sheet” download it here.

Alvin Sillitoe clocked a decade in London’s capital markets… helping listed firms raise millions. His speciality? Sifting through financial reports for hidden value. Hooked on discovering big ideas, he broke corporate shackles to write direct response copy in the financial niche.

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Alvin Sillitoe
Alvin Sillitoe
Alvin Sillitoe clocked a decade in London’s capital markets… helping listed firms raise millions. His speciality? Sifting through financial reports for hidden value. Hooked on discovering big ideas, he broke corporate shackles to write direct response copy in the financial niche.
Showing 11 comments
  • Mike
    Reply

    best part about the new Gillette ads are what? all the guys are “fat”. Now of course, as 300 pounds myself I don’t consider them fat at all, but to the general body shaming public they are DEFINITELY fat. Also love the 3 different ethnic representation and the facial hair styles. its like someone sat their with a checklist and said: get an African american, Latino and white guy, mustache, goatee and clean shaven and make sure they aren’t in too great of shape.

    Also the guy with all the back hair!

    All they needed was KR shaving his head and everyone would be covered!

    great post

    • Alvin
      Reply

      Ha, thanks Mike. “all the guys are fat” Seems Gillette fell short on researching their target audience properly. They missed 300 pounds of you, and they missed me, the super-skinny guy with a big head and a hairy back. (Btw KR uses hair removing cream.)

  • Mischa
    Reply

    Fantastic post. I’m going to think a lot about this. Also need to read Ogilvie again. There’s probably no higher ROI than getting this part right.

    • Alvin
      Reply

      Thank you Mischa. “There’s probably no higher ROI than getting this part right.”
      Ogilvy agreed with you. Your words slipped off his tongue before we were both born. Andy idea why RazWar didn’t listen to the old fart?

  • Michael
    Reply

    Great post Kevin…have to admit I loved your line “If your answer is RazWar, take a stiff shot of whatever makes you see straight, rewind and watch the videos again, then read on.” Hilarious…I’ve often thought of doing something outrageous like DSC but I’ve been playing it safe…incremental changes based on tasting. Maybe now’s the time to go for a home run?

    • Kevin Rogers
      Reply

      Hi Michael,

      Credit for the razor sharp wit behind this piece goes to the author, Alvin Sillitoe. And YES! go for something big. Doesn’t need elaborate planning or budget, just a solid Big Idea.

      Rock it – Kevin

    • Alvin
      Reply

      Hey Michael, Although Kevin said it perfectly, “Doesn’t need elaborate planning or budget, just a solid Big Idea. Rock it” I’ll add this: don’t forget us when you knock it out the park.

  • Jesse
    Reply

    How would this be applied to info-products in competitive niches? Since there aren’t really hard tangible features (like being the first to deliver to your door)

    • Alvin
      Reply

      Hey Jesse, great question. “razors right to your door” – great feature given to DSC on a silver plate. But your industry may not be as ripe for disruption as the razor market was… sorry. Thing is, timing is key to the birth of Big Ideas, and it was perfect timing for DSC. I say Dubin was spoilt for choice in the razor market. He nailed it. Good on him, too. That said, who knows what’s next in the info-product space. (Remember when VSL’s first hit our shores?) Your industry may have something that could be done differently – test it. Also, if you haven’t already, look at the financial niche to answer your question. I’m pretty sure Bill Bonner was the first to school us on how to slap a Big Idea on an info-product.

  • Stephan Pire
    Reply

    Hi Alvin,
    though I agree the RazWar Content strategy wasn’t as neat as the DSC one, the main handicap factors for these startups were more as such:
    * RazWar created its sanctuary market in a micro-market (Belgium with a bit of France). Starting in USA let you dig into millions of potential buyers you still can’t reach in Europe, even in UK and Germany;
    * DSC is an online marketer going for blades. RazWar was a shaving fan going for eCommerce with no experience whatsoever
    * Mike Dubin is a charismatic popular guy. You could have launched a toothpaste online product successfully with one video of him 😉

    Both companies have a dying model: the blades subscription. This is pure commodity at its best and since P&G got into it, they have to look to line extension (and sometimes brand extension). While RazWar shifted to Wet Shaving by investing in by-products (dealing with Dr Jon Handmade Soaps and Pacific Shaving), DSC took the curious bet on pushing asswipes.

    Let’s see what 2015 will bring us. RazWar is still bootstrapping, and DSC has like 140 Mo$ turnover. Both situation are cool but challenging 😉

    Stephan Pire, RazWar

    • Alvin
      Reply

      Hey Stephan, we thank the General for taking time to speak with us. You offer valuable insight from RazWar high command. But try to imagine implementing a proven strategy that eliminates the three handicaps you mentioned – and ends the days of bootstraping. You see, apart from our Greek brothers who may have to shave with glass for another five years, much of Europe is there for RazWar’s taking. If you don’t mind, I’ll email you when I get back to civilisation, as I’m fishing the North Sea with my boys. About DSC; I look forward to reviewing their hard numbers – profitability. (How far did Dubin’s $4,500 video take him up Forbes rich list) And it will be interesting to see if they decide to list DSC. Thanks again for stopping by.

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