Although storytelling is the “New Black”, many entrepreneurs struggle to understand how it applies to growing a business.

They get that storytelling engages and educates but grapple with how to turn theory in practice.

Hopefully, the $1-billion purchase of Dollar Shave Club by Unilever provides important lessons on the value of storytelling.

Many people initially learned about Dollar Shave Club from watching its video in which co-founder Micheal Dubin walks through a warehouse talking about why the company’s razors are “F#$*kin” great.

The $4,500 video quickly went viral (23 million views and counting), becoming legendary within the startup ecosystem.

So why was the video so successful? Here are the key ingredients, according to Dubin.

Personally, I think the video made an impact for the following reasons:

  • It was creative and funny, which is not surprising given Dubin has a background in improv and comedy. The video is also edgy irreverent and surprising. Hey, it even poked fun at Roger Federer….and who does that!
  • At a time when most startups were creating animated videos, Dollar Shave Club made a live-action video. It was wiling to take a risk by going against the flow. By being different, the video stood out from the crowd. I’m a huge fan of live-action videos became they personalize brands, particularly those with low or no profiles.
  • Although $4,500 is not a lot of money, it is a solid investment for a early-stage startup. Too many startups try to cut corners with marketing, which explains the widespread use of low-cost animated videos. Sometimes, success occurs when startups stretch themselves financially rather than cutting corners. It’s about focusing on marketing that drives ROI.

With a good story, Dollar Shave Club developed a powerful branding, marketing and sales tool. The video also provided Dollar Shave Club with a distinct personality, differentiated it from rivals, and attracted investors.

The Three E’s

From a storytelling perspective, the video nailed the three E’s: it engaged, educated and entertained. It provided consumers with information about the online service and, as important, attracted people who would never become customers.

For brands looking to capitalize on the power of storytelling, Dollar Shave Club is a perfect example of how storytelling propels a business forward in different ways. It illustrates how a brand can emerge out of nowhere by simply telling a captivating story.

One of the key lessons is storytelling needs to meet the needs and interests of consumers. As much as companies want to talk about their products, story-driven marketing thrives when consumers believe they’re being sold something.

The secret to successful storytelling: it’s not about selling but engaging, educating or entertaining.

This formula applies to any marketing and sales channel: blog posts, video, infographics, eBooks, case studies, etc.

When a brand stops hitting consumers over the head to drive sales, their efforts will be more effective and interesting.

At a time when consumers have easy access to information, storytelling is increasingly necessary and valuable.

Consumers already know about a product’s prices and features, as well as the competitive alternatives. To encourage purchases, they need to have an affinity or connection to a brand. This is where storytelling plays a crucial role.

Dollar Shave Club won the lottery with its video. For whatever reason, the video worked and, in the process, is catapulted Dollar Shave Club from upstart startup to startup legend.

It show how storytelling is a powerful way to drive a company’s marketing and sales efforts in a world full of options, distractions and noise. And that’s a lesson to you can take to the bank.

More thoughts: Here’s some interesting insight from David Pakman from VenRock, which led Dollar Shave Club’s series A round: He [Dubin] intuitively understood how to use content and conversation as marketing at a time when legacy brands were still shouting at their customers with TV ads, purchased without actually knowing their customers.

As much as Pakman has obvious reasons to praise Dubin, he puts the spotlight on why Dollar Shave Clubs became a successful business with more than US$150-million in sales. By understanding customers and engaging them, brands can establish deeper relationships that drive interest, loyalty and evangelism.


Are you a startup looking to jump-start your marketing? I helped dozens of startups drive more awareness, leads, and sales. There are different ways we can work together – everything from messaging to strategic planning and content to get customers into and through the sales funnel.

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It's Time For Your Brand Message To Make An Impact

It's Time For Your Brand Message To Make An Impact

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