Once the Brand of Bros, Dollar Shave Club Is Now Aiming to Conquer the Wellness Market

With corporate parent Unilever at its side

Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion in 2016. Getty Images
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

Could Dollar Shave Club, the former disruptor known for its budget-friendly razors and renegade marketing tactics, be the next big men’s wellness brand?

That’s the vision the company’s been pursuing since being acquired for $1 billion in 2016 by Unilever. The corporate behemoth wants consumers who relied on Dollar Shave Club to deliver high-quality, low-cost razors to now embrace the once-indie company as the ultimate destination for men, both as a resource and for the tools they need for their body and mind. The name for this next era of the brand? “Dollar Shave Club 2.0.”

Mixing products and content is not unprecedented for direct-to-consumer ecommerce companies. Brandless, a home-goods basics company that just raised $240 million in a Series C round, publishes an extensive blog filled with posts on everything from planning meals to volunteering through Brandless’ social-impact efforts. But the challenge for Dollar Shave Club is making the transition to lifestyle brand under a corporation while maintaining the edginess and innovation that made it beloved among its core fanbase (namely, bros).

If expanding its brand identity seems like a logical next step, it’s also a necessary one. In 2016, pre-acquisition, Dollar Shave claimed 48.6 percent of the online razor market and today still commands a 50 percent share in sales, according to data from Slice Intelligence. But Dollar Shave was (and still is) facing competition from other upstarts. Products by Walker & Company’s Bevel—founded in 2014 as a grooming brand dedicated to men of color whose specific shaving needs weren’t addressed in the industry—were carried by Macy’s earlier this year, though the company has raised only $33 million so far (Dollar Shave raised $163 million before being acquired). Billie, a women’s shaving company that aims to combat the “pink tax” (a levy on women’s products), has raised $6 million. Then, there’s Harry’s, which bought its own factory to produce razors and other products and has raised a total of $375 million. Harry’s even has a “minority stake” in Hims, a startup that originally began as a male hair-loss-prevention company but has pivoted to men’s wellness, and has raised $97 million so far.

Harry’s quest for dominance doesn’t end with Hims or its factory. The company’s had several third-party relationships with retailers like J. Crew since 2014, but in 2016, Harry’s inked a deal to get shelf space in every Target store (as well as online). This past May, Harry’s furthered that retail footprint by landing in 2,200 of Walmart’s U.S. stores—along with an exclusive razor in Walmart’s colors. Dollar Shave, however, has no plans to enter this space.

“Right now, our focus is on building a direct relationship with our consumer, and we’re always evaluating options to maximize and deepen that connection with our customers and members,” says Michael Dubin, Dollar Shave’s founder and CEO. “Everything’s on the table, but as of this moment we don’t have plans to be in mass retail.”

Dollar Shave founder and CEO Michael Dubin

Meanwhile, there are signs that men’s grooming trends are shifting slightly from shaving. New data from Gillette reveals that men are shaving less often—3.2 times a week, down from 3.7 in the past decade.

To maintain a competitive edge, it was probably inevitable that Dollar Shave would have to make some significant changes. With “Dollar Shave Club 2.0, we’re focused on head to toe,” Dubin says.

“Our mission at Dollar Shave Club is to help guys take care of their minds and bodies so they can be their best selves,” he says. “We are approaching that mission in two ways: with great products for your body and great content for your mind.”

Those products include Dollar Shave’s skin-care line and body washes introduced in 2016, hair creams, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Content ranges from branded pieces with advice on how much to tip a barber to Mel, a print magazine sent to customers as part of their subscription every month, as well as online material. Mel’s content reaches into the depths of internet culture, feature personal essays (including one on clean bottoms—butt wipes are a DSC 2.0 product) and even does some serious reporting—such as a piece on men with HIV living in Iran. Dubin says the branded content will help the company drive engagement, and Mel is intended to “achieve critical success” for the budding lifestyle brand.

“We think it’s very important for Dollar Shave Club to speak more broadly than just personal care, grooming advice or tips or anything that’s closely related to the product because we’re trying to achieve a broader mission than just helping take care of your body,” Dubin explains.

In July, Dollar Shave released a new ad campaign dubbed “Get Ready,” a video almost four minutes in length that shows men—and women—starting their day, from a drag queen shaving his legs to a woman shaving her head. There’s even a short cameo of Dubin stuffing his underwear with toilet paper. The spot is a push toward making the brand seem more inclusive, growing up from the bro attitude of its first original ad that brought the company success in 2012. Alec Brownstein, vp of creative at Dollar Shave, says he thinks the spot is “flexible enough” to be used continually as the company announces new products or categories.

In July, Dollar Shave released a new, inclusive ad campaign dubbed “Get Ready” that goes beyond blades.

This story first appeared in the September 24, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.
@itstheannmarie annmarie.alcantara@adweek.com Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.