Unilever's Dollar Shave Club uses British sense of humour to target UK audience

Dollar Shave Club, the Unilever-owned men's grooming subscription service, is using British humour to target men in the UK.

The US brand launched in the UK this week with a pop-up that offers free shaves, live comedy and foosball.

Bart Kuppens, the brand’s European general manager, told Campaign that the launch will be followed by a TV ad featuring the founder of the brand Michael Dubin, much like its US ad.

Kuppens added that Dollar Shave Club aims to be "the most exclusive club in a very inclusive manner".

He also said that the brand is targeting men in the UK using comedy. Kuppens said: "We still showed up with an American brand – because we are an American brand and we will continue to be an American brand – but the context in which we come is a British context.

"So for example the blokes who are getting our box delivered have a bathroom minutes version which is very much in a British sense of humour."

Unilever’s marketing powerhouse

Dollar Shave Club was acquired in 2016 by Unilever for $1bn (£710m today), for the first bringing the FMCG giant into the grooming sector dominated by arch rival Procter & Gamble, with its Gillette brand.

Being part of such a major company offered huge advantages, Kuppens said: "We have a whole range of capabilities we can tap into – whether it’s Unilever’s access to media partners or Unilever’s scale advantages in the area of shipment and fulfilment.

"Also, Unilever is a marketing powerhouse with a very deep presence into the UK. If I look at all the learnings we can get via Unilever, we see that as a significant benefit."

DSC is not the only shaving subscription service to have entered the market recently; New York-based Harry’s launched here last summer, joining the likes of Cornerstone, King of Shaves, and female-targeted FFS (Friction Free Shaving) already on the market.

A slice of the action

The increasingly busy market was not a challenge but an advantage, Kuppens said.

"Only very few people have turned to a subscription model, while the vast majority of the population, men and women, do use grooming products," he said. "So I think there’s a whole world out there to convert into online subscription models.

"We know we have great quality products, the repurchasing rates are very high, so the whole marketing strategy is aimed at creating awareness and early trail. We welcome competition – the more the better, because that means we will also benefit from all of the other efforts."

There are three factors that would ensure DSC went from strength to strength, Kuppens argued. The first two were the continued rise of online shopping, and subscription models in particular; and the tendency of men to put more and more effort – and money – into grooming themselves.

Kuppens pulled no punches when explaining his third reason: Gillette. "Obviously, everyone knows what the market leader is costing in terms of razors," he said. "You ask any guy, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of razors – they instantly say, they’re horribly expensive. That’s the same everywhere."

Additional reporting by Simon Gwynn