When a company is seeking to enter a flooded space, there is always a question of viability. “How can we be competitive in a category where consumers already have plenty of options?” With a little cause/effect thinking, the answer is clear: the more options there are, the more unique and personalized a consumer’s decision-making is… the more unique and personalized brands need to be.
The trajectory of direct-to-consumer marketing is driving brand uniqueness to new heights. It’s not about offering the best value proposition anymore. It’s about creating a brand community. And brand communities are built on brand stories that speak perfectly to individuals’ personalities, passions, beliefs and interests. You can’t do that for everyone at once. It’s not possible to please everybody. And besides that, you don’t want to. (So, please, don’t try.)
The Old Way Is a Dead End
Old habits die hard. But evolution is a constant when it comes to marketing. It used to be that companies setting out to create a brand would look at other brands in the same category. They observed other brands’ strategies and attempted to extract and copy what worked. For a while, this was the way. Generics and knock-offs led to blandness and homogeneity galore.
Eventually, it became hard to tell brands apart. And that’s no way to win an audience, much less build a lively fanbase for your brand. The reign of copycat marketing is over. It’s time to dig deep and find those quirks that create a compelling brand and own them.
Genuine Brands Find Their Tribe
What does “owning it” look like? It’s all about writing a great brand story inspired by real brand quirks, and activating with commitment to your core brand essence. Brand story is the battle cry around which your brand evangelists rally. It’s what speaks to them to make a brand stand out from the rest. And in a world with exponentially increasing options, that becomes more important every day.
It’s all about, as we like to say, “working your quirk.” Finding a unique, strongly telegraphed story, persona, and overall vibe that makes you irresistible.
The Roaring World of Razor Clubs
The best way to illustrate how vibrant, strong, quirky brand stories help brands claim their own space in a category is by showing some real-life brands in this context.
Recently, there’s been an explosion of shave clubs offering subscription razor packages for every audience imaginable. And many have implemented some pretty kick-ass branding to set themselves apart. Here are some great examples of brands working their quirk to distinguish themselves within the category.
Art of Shaving
The Art of Shaving’s approach to marketing hair removal is somewhat akin to “muscle car driving for beginners.” They combine high-end products with an emphasis on education, showing the modern man how to use a complete 4-step shaving set. They’ve even built a community around how to get a perfectly smooth shave: The Brotherhood of Shaving.
Their style is refined yet approachable, touting quality and elegance at the forefront of everything they do. Like a slick, well-traveled gentleman who’s got great stories and knows all about cigars and sailboats. A little uptown, a little old school, but with a fresh, modern take. It’s about as classy as a men’s shaving club gets.
Dollar Shave Club
Dollar Shave Club is often heralded for its fun, tongue-in-cheek branding. (Did you know the founder was big on improv? Go figure.) They are likely the best-known shave club on the market. An OG disruptor. I mean, one view of that heavily circulated explainer video and you immediately pick up on their playful, hilarious, and somewhat deadpan vibe.
The approach is witty and direct, with clean, no-nonsense visual cues and unfussy brand identity. Everything’s delivered with a smirk and a wink. The persona is like your smart-ass friend that’s always fun to be around. It’s the everyman’s shave club. (Yeah, women are invited, too… but it’s pretty clear they aren’t the main audience.)
Of the women’s shave clubs out there, Billie may be the boldest. Their most compelling quirk is their activist mindset. They’ve made some noise by calling attention to the “pink tax” — as well as the fact that women are almost always hairless when shown in pop culture, ads, and various other media. (It’s true; even when they are shaving in a commercial, they’re usually clean-shaven to begin with!)
At a glance, the Billie brand is youthful, vibrant, and modern — with a personality like a sassy millennial who’s smart as a whip and unreservedly blunt. The brand voice is direct, playful and clever. And with products crafted to cater to their audience’s needs, such as razors handles that are curved to make leg-shaving easy… the catch-all “unisex” razors of Dollar Shave Club probably won’t stand up.
A totally different approach to a female-targeted shave club, Flamingo’s brand is clean, simple, and sophisticated. Their look is high-end and focused on education. In contrast to Billie, the persona is more reserved and neutral, leaving politics out of the picture.
Their visual system is soft and feminine with a more muted palette. There’s a bit of humor infused into their messaging, but it is mild and tongue-in-cheek. The personality is friendly and knowing, like a fun aunt who knows the best spots for wine tasting. In addition to the typical razors and shaving cream, Flamingo also delivers waxing kits. Just one more element to differentiate themselves from the market that aligns nicely with a more targeted audience.