Subscription Businesses and the Viral Success of Dollar Shave Club: What’s Their Secret?

“Of the Month” Clubs? I’ll admit, they never appealed to me.

You’ve heard of some of them, I’m sure:

“Condiment of the Month” Club.

“Tie of the Month” Club.

“Fruit of the Month “ Club? Okay, wait. What? Really?!?!

How about you just visit the grocery store a little more often than every four weeks? But what? Dominick’s doesn’t wrap theirs in gold foil? Oh, come on. If wrapping something in gold foil makes it instantly marketable, let me know. I wouldn’t mind a career in making everything look like golden Chipotle burritos. And, for the record, don’t go wrapping fruits in foil. They’re already got their own wrapper. It’s called skin.

Now, some of these monthly clubs aren’t what you’d call practical. “Bacon of the Month” Club, however, is an exception. I’m lobbying to have it made into “Bacon Du Jour” Club.

But some really do make sense.

A recent experiment in free-association led me to one of them,

What do they sell? Shaving razors.

How much are they? They start at a dollar.

How often does one receive them? Every month.

BAM. A business model that’s small, short, and sweet enough to preface a “Dot Com” web address. Do you know what a Google is? Didn’t think so. Do you know what Dollar Shave Club is? Yes. Yes, you do.

When it comes to shaving my face, I’m a little particular. Gillette’s 5-blade “Fusion ProGlide” model is the reigning champ when it comes to the game of nicking myself as few times as possible (a game I rarely, if ever, win).

Yep. Five blades. Awesome, right?

Nope. Not unless you’re a little boy using it as a training razor. Man up, Wally Cleaver. Dollar Shave Club offers a SIX BLADE SHAVING RAZOR.

Delivered to your door. Every month.

Now, if that’s not awesome enough for you, their YouTube advertisement sure is!

Dollar Shave Club was created by guys who grew tired of paying too much for too complicated a product. They found a way to have a competitive product made, similar to the leading brands. Minus the bells, minus the whistles, and minus the price tag.

Who needs fresh contacts when I've got these...right?

Who needs fresh contacts when I’ve got these…right?

I’m writing this wearing my glasses, because I never, ever remember when in heck I last changed out my contact lenses for fresh ones. Why? Because I am terrible, absolutely terrible, at keeping track of when I should change them out. I have spares at home, but they don’t come with a built-in reminder. If a company offered to send me a new pair, every month, in the mail? I’d take them up on it in a heartbeat. I was sold on this company by their name alone. Instead of leaving you to wonder, or learning the hard way, you’re mailed the replacements at a consistent interval. Brilliant.

Much like contact lenses – without having a date noted on a calendar – it’s hard to determine when razors need to be replaced. Sure, you could write them on the calendar. But who does? Unless it’s something important, like a doctor’s visit, an anniversary, or the opening of a new Chik-fil-A, chances are the expiration date doesn’t make it up there on your calendar. Don’t worry, though. Dollar Shave Club will remember that date for you.

Get rid of that Palm Pilot, 1990’s Guy. Throw out the sundial, Mayan Re-Enactor.

Dollar Shave Club’s got you covered.

After all, any company that keeps a man in a bear suit on its payroll is good enough for my shaving needs.

Quick takeaways from Dollar Shave Club’s business model:

  • Keep it simple. Customers won’t buy what you’re selling if they don’t understand what you’re selling.
  • Provide a real solution. As I mentioned, I’m terrible at keeping track of replaceable products. And I’m not the only one! Add convenience to customers’ lives and they’ll thank you for it.
  • Don’t inflate your prices. Why drive people away with exorbitant price tags? Customers look for the best prices, and you should be the one to deliver.

What do you think of subscription businesses? Do you belong to any “of-the-month” clubs? Do you agree that Dollar Shave Club’s approach — including their commercial — is creative?

Image credit to The Dollar Shave Club logo is a low-res screenshot from YouTube. Logo is a registered trademark of Dollar Shave Club. All rights reserved.

Eric Labanauskas

Eric is a data entry specialist and contributing writer for the QLP Blog Squad. He is a city boy with a country heart, with an appetite for anything chicken-fried. He has studied as an apprentice at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, performed across the country as Buddy Holly in "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story," and can tie a bow tie by himself without the aid of a mirror. 1950's rock 'n roll is his soundtrack, especially while on road-trips with his lovely girlfriend. Suffice it to say, he is also the owner of some good cocktail party stories from his many experiences. You can also connect with Eric on Google+.


  1. Candice J.

    That commercial was f*cking great! I loved it! I don’t know if they send razors for women as well but hell a razor is a razor! I’d sign up for a razor a month! The price of razors (men or women) is absolutely astronomical. This is a company and idea that really could save you a nice amount of money over the months. Great post Eric! 🙂

    • Eric

      Thanks, Candice! You make a good point, actually…and from skimming the rest the comments, most you ladies have, actually. Where’re the products for women? I think they’ll probably see how successful they are marketing razors to men, and if it takes off, I’m more than sure they’d extend their product line to include women’s razors, too. Razors are crazy expensive…I just blew a bunch of money on Gillette’s newest “Shave Technology,” hoping it’d help with my razor burn, only for the thing to be WORSE than the one I owned before it. Needless to say, I wrote the company about it, and my “compensation” (whatever that may be) is coming in the mail sometime in the next two weeks. Moral of the story: always speak your mind. If they advertise a level of quality you don’t receive, you’re entitled to what you didn’t get. Always call, or write. Never hurts, and usually they’ll see to it you’re happy.

  2. Jill Tooley

    I can’t speak for their razors, but this commercial IS pretty f***ing great! I hadn’t heard of Dollar Shave Club before getting this blog from you, but I’m glad I know about it now. I’ll be referring it to some of my male family members who forget to get new ones (like you) — they’ll love it!

    You’re right in your assumption that simple is better, because their name says it all. We know right away what they’re selling and we have a good idea of the price range, which means that customers don’t have to work their asses off to find out what in the world the company actually DOES. And when you add that instant recognition to a funny commercial like this one, how could it fail?

    Thanks for writing about this, Eric! And thanks for the laughs, Dollar Shave Club! 🙂

    • Eric

      You got it, Jill!

      Very few companies are as fortunate to sum-up their business with their name alone, and this is one of them. Probably one of the strongest things it has going for it, right there.

  3. Jen

    This is a really cool monthly club. If there was a contacts of the month club my eyes might be a bit healthier, because I don’t keep track of them either!

    This club is great though, because if a razor isn’t changed often enough it can rust. And if it rusts, and you cut yourself, you could get a deadly infection from it. I can see this being a really popular monthly club…not like the underwear of the month club. Great post Eric, I might check this out!

    • Eric

      Thanks, Jen! I’ll have to find it, but awhile back someone actually took the time to write a blog about all the people – historically – who died from a bad shave (well, infection, like you say). Actually, (one Google search later) here it is:

      All the more reason to subscribe and make sure your razors don’t rust, folks!

      Ha, oh…underwear of the month club. I’d look it up just to see what the heck that involves, but I’d rather not get flagged by IT. 🙂 It’s one thing to be reminded it’s time for a new razor, but completely another if you need a monthy reminder for underwear!

  4. amy

    Their commerical is fantastic! I loved it and totally see myself telling the men in my life about it. Heck, part of me is tempted to join. I don’t go through more than one razor a month either, and a razor is a razor- it’s just the crazy companies who market the different styles towards men and women.

    (stepping off my soap box now)

    Great post, Eric! Thanks so much for introducing us to the company and for sharing their hilarious YouTube commercial!

    • Eric

      Like I told Candice, this company would be pretty effin’ stupid not to expand their market and open it up to the female demographic. After all, I’m sure a lot of subscriptions will be made by women for their husbands, boyfriends, etc., so why not give them the opportunity to enjoy the same subscription service, too?

      Kudos on the shameless plug. 🙂 That’s always an interesting topic, though. While I was out in Iowa, I forgot to bring shampoo and body wash with. Went to WAL-MART (hey, beggars can’t be choosers in rural Iowa) to get some, and Dial completely redesigned theirs to look like – kid you not – motor oil bottles. Something, I guess, to play into that masculine vibe that seems to be the thing. Just have to wait until they come out with the rhinoceros horn shaving razor.

      Thanks, Amy! Pretty proud of myself for being the first one to find this out of all the people I know…usually I’m about the very last person to make it onboard the viral bandwagon.

  5. Jaimie Smith

    This was awesome, Eric!! Can women be part of this too?? because I totally will!! As long as they are good quality razors, I’m in. 🙂

    • Eric

      Not yet (although DSC has given the OK for women to borrow their husbands’), Jaimie.

      If this gets back to them, though, I would only hope they expand their market, as it’s becoming more and more evident that doing so would only help their business.

      They’re quality razors, minus the branding, minus the fancy packaging, and minus all the commericalized and advertised hype. Even their most expensive package ($9 for 3 six-blade razor cartridges) seems incredibly reasonable when the current blade “technology” runs $20 per four-pack.

      Being a guy who just dropped fifteen bucks on Gillette’s newest (and sadly, most disappointing) razor, I’m darn near tempted to sign myself up!

  6. Mandy Kilinskis

    “What were you doing before?”
    “Not working.”
    “What are you doing now?”

    Everything about this video is pure gold. I was smitten after my first view a couple weeks ago. As soon as they launch razors for women, my money is theirs.

    Fun fact! The CEO actually studied with the Upright Citizens Brigade – that’s why he’s just so darn charismatic and charming!

    • Eric

      All hyperbole aside…this may be my favorite commercial, ever. The pace is as quick as the wit. I read that about the CEO, too, Mandy. Someone commented, saying something like “He only blinks four times!” and that gave it away for me: no amateur EVER knows well enough to naturally know blinking make you less strong of a speaker on-camera. UCB explains the wit, that’s for sure.

      “Your grandfather had one blade…and polio! [while exiting O.S.] Lookin’ good, Pop Pop!”

      Perhaps more CEOs should study improv comedy…? I’m all for it.

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