Beyond Shares: Video ROI Is More than Meets the Eye

Santa Monica startup Dollar Shave Club made video marketing history in 2012. The company’s mantra, “Our blades are f—ing great” was the slogan heard ‘round the world. The startup’s launch video overtook YouTube and immediately received coverage across the web in the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, Time and The New York Times.

You’d think that Dollar Shave Club had a seven-figure PR and marketing budget. But here’s the thing: at the time that the video launched, Dollar Shave Club hadn’t even generated its first sale. CEO (and video star) Michael Dubin had barely closed a $1 million seed funding round.

With no marketing budget and no customer base, the company decided to produce a $4,500 video. The rest is history.

Dollar Shave Club’s video generated 12,000 sign-ups in two days. Aside from a few Google ads, there was no other marketing. The growth wasn’t temporary or a stroke of luck, however. Two years later, the startup is steadily–and aggressively–growing. In 2013, Dollar Shave Club closed a Series B funding round. To date, the company has raised $22.8 million in funding.

Here’s the big question that left advertising giants perplexed: how can one tiny startup leave such a lasting footprint? Why pour money into a seven-figure ad budget when you can make a home movie in your warehouse? The truth is, Dollar Shave Club wasn’t a Hollywood success story; there was multi-million dollar strategizing and planning happening behind the scenes.

Here are the video ROI lessons that we can learn from Dollar Shave Club, two years later:

1 Your Audience Is Your Engine

There is no magic behind Dollar Shave Club’s viral video. It’s simply hilarious, unbelievably intelligent, and wildly entertaining. It’s awesome, and audiences loved it and shared it. It’s a ripple effect.

What distinguishes Dollar Shave Club’s video from other types of video marketing is that it was designed with entertainment in mind. Michael Dubin was an improv comedian in college; he knows what it means to entertain an audience and be shamelessly hilarious.

Video marketing is about your audience. To generate a viral effect, your strategy needs to strike a person-to-person chord. Humanity is the heart of virality.

Growth is a function of your audience. Delight, engagement, and entertainment should be core parts of your strategy.

2 Think: Longevity, Not Virality

Dollar Shave Club was a viral, overnight success story, but what happened next?

The company’s fame wasn’t short-lived. In fact, the company has, for the last two years, continued to stretch the value of its $4,500 launch video investment.

The company has run this same video on ESPN, Comedy Central, and Spike TV, increasing the value, reach and scope of its initial marketing spend.

Virality is temporary. What Dollar Shave Club teaches us, however, is that ROI is for the long term. Marketing campaigns–especially video–don’t need to be short-lived. It’s perfectly valid to repurpose successful pieces of content across new mediums, to connect with new audiences.

Video marketing is for the long term; ROI can be maximized over a period of months or even years.

3 Prioritize Distribution

Virality isn’t magic. Behind the scenes, Dollar Shave Club invested in strategic distribution. Giant Media, the newest member of the Adknowledge family, helped seed Dollar Shave Club’s video across a range of video publishers.

This approach helped kickstart visibility for the otherwise unknown brand. There were more than three million campaign views that yielded an echo effect for years to come.

The competition for audience attention is fierce. Having a great product, video, or campaign won’t always be enough to generate the ROI that you need. Launching a paid, video syndication campaign can help you generate sales and revenue you need faster.

As Giant Media Founder and CEO David Segura puts it:

“In thinking about Dollar Shave Club’s content and brand strategy, it was pretty clear that they would have both the tech sector and comedy vertical down pretty well. What they were hoping to get help from us was assist them in finding a broader audience in the Male 18-34 vertical.”

And if your video is truly awesome, the echo effect will be exponential.

“I think our contribution was mainly centered on our ability to reach publishers who might not have otherwise covered the Dollar Shave Club video.” David Segura

Final Thoughts

Dollar Shave Club’s story is a publicist’s dream: the once-tiny startup became an overnight giant, a serious contender to the Gillettes and Schicks of the world. It wasn’t luck, however, that amplified the company’s success. It was careful, strategic, and intelligent planning.

Video ROI has less to do with what the world sees and everything to do with the strategy behind it.

About the Author

Ritika Puri

Ritika Puri is a San Francisco-based blogger who writes about trends in business, internet culture, and marketing. She's inspired by the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship, and sociology.

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