Dollar Shave Club: a case study in retail industry interruption (and a very funny video)
14Jan13

My theme this year is “adapt or die”. Last week I explained 5 ways businesses must adapt in 2013 to survive and thrive. I am convinced that organisations must either commit to making significant changes to the way they do business or keep doing what they’ve been doing and try survive while their market share is steadily eroded by smarter, faster, more nimble competitors.

I’d now like to introduce you to one of those smarter, faster, more nimble competitors….Dollar Shave Club.

Here’s a start-up that launched in mid- 2011 and then relaunched in March 2012 and is already making a big splash in the exciting world of…..men’s razor blades. You know, that purchase you have to make at the grocery store once a month. Its been dominated for a century by Gillette and Schick. No other challenger comes close. Until now.

This video (which had had over 8 million views) is their main marketing tool and hilariously and effectively explains why you should stop buying blades at the grocery store and start buying from Dollar Shave Club. It’s pure genius. In 90 seconds they have skewered the industry leaders, entertained us and invited us to be part of their”club”.

A close look at their website is like a blueprint for online retail success:

  • the aforementioned video tells you everything you need to know…and its laugh-out-loud funny.
  • a prominent call-to-action “A great shave for a few bucks a month – DO IT”
  • a testimonial (which is fairly tongue-in-cheek)
  • a simple range of 3 packages to choose from
  • a simple and fun rewards program for sharing the Dollar Shave Club story, “Free blades for life”
  • a quick and easy payment gateway you’ll only ever need to visit once
  • Facebook sign-up option for membership
  • social media sharing

The whole site contains the same irreverent, “they’re just razor blades guys” style humour. Its fun, its compelling and it works a treat. I signed up within minutes and was actually excited when my blades arrived.

But the real genius is in the very simple proposition and business model.

The blades are made in South Korea and can be found under different brands in Pharmacies across the USA. They’re pretty good, not much more than that.

But Dollar Shave Club turns a traditional $15-20 grocery store expense into an easy $7 / per month subscription. They don’t just get the sale, they get your repeat business and a nice big database of customers.

Their product line is ridiculously small. Just 3 types of razor blades. By focusing in this way they maximise buying power and minimise overheads.

The Dollar Shave Club business model doesn’t rely on advanced computer algorithms and other amazing tech innovation like many startups we follow. It’s simply a business where the founder Michael Dubin looked at an industry and said he wanted to help men have fun with shopping online, because, “Women have all the fun [shopping online] with fashion, shoes, and accessories.”

By making shopping for blades easy, fun and more affordable they have seen explosive growth and have attracted an impressive $10.8 million in VC funding. For razor blades??!!

An old industry suddenly interrupted by a simple but new way  (subscription) of selling an existing product, executed extremely well. Hell, any of us could do that…couldn’t we?

 

Townsourcing: InsiderJobs launches to keep outsourcing local
13Sep12

Insider Jobs. Freelancing microjobs. TownsourcingThe job market is changing. Freelancing and outsourcing are changing the way we do business and make a living. A new generation of young entrepreneurs realise that the traditional 9-to-5 job is no longer their only career option.

At the recent launch of the report A Snapshot of Australia’s Digital Future to 2050 futurist Mark Pesce predicted the employment market is “going to look a lot more like eBay than it does like Seek.”

“The idea of employment, as in a job that lasts for more than a few days or a few weeks, is going to be this very weird term by 2050. Our grandkids will go up to us and say, ‘You had a job and you did it for years at a time?’”, says Pesce.

“That much connectivity in the economy creates this enormous capability for fluidity, and so jobs are going to start to become gigs and those are going to start to become tasks, and eventually we’re all just going to be doing a little bit here and a little bit there and it may not be until we get up in the morning and check the smartphone that we’re going to be knowing what we’re going to be doing that day.”

That’s where InsiderJobs comes in. Its the place where freelancers and businesses can offer their services and buyers can find amazing outsourcing options. Our vision is to be Australia’s premium freelancer and microjobs site; a dedicated Australian marketplace for Australian freelancers and professionals.

Unlike other freelancing and microjobs sites, our aim is to try to keep outsourcing local. Do business with dozens of talented people in your area whilst keeping your overheads down and profits up. We call it TownSourcing.

One thing we are keen to maintain is a high quality of services and offers. Any offers considered to be “black-hat” or “spammy” may be blocked or moderated. The reason is that we want InsiderJobs to be a place where buyers can shop with confidence that they will receive a range of good, reliable services.

The first InsiderJobs has launched with a focus on Newcastle. This allows us to iron out the bugs and test responses in our home town before expanding nationally very soon.

If you are based in the Hunter region we’d love you to list some of your products or services on the site. It could be a lead generator, an automatic digital product or your usual service. In testing this we’ve learned that great deals get the biggest responses.

If you live outside the Hunter you are very welcome to list any products or services that can be delivered online and aren’t limited by geographical location. These will be able be offered nationally as we expand.

Conversely, if you’re a business owner looking for service providers and other freelance resources then check InsiderJobs might have the answer. You can also request services and have freelancers come to you.

My team and I are really excited about the launch of InsiderJobs and hope it becomes the trusted site where businesses and talented Australian freelancers can connect.

For the record: InsiderJobs was created by the team at Sticky. We are also responsible for online magazine Urban Insider and SEO tool NLYZR.

 

Digital Newcastle launches to help grow the local digital economy
19Jun12

Digital NewcastleThe rapid advancement of technology, especially online technology, presents a multitude of challenges and opportunities. Its something I am keenly aware of as I do business with a wide range of organisations whilst also trying to launch new ideas and applications into the marketplace.

I consider myself to be pretty conversant in the latest happenings in the digital world, but even I have to ask around at times or risk missing opportunities. So I can’t even imagine how the average business owner, marketing manager or government agency must feel trying to keep up with such a rapidly changing environment.

The roll-out of the National Broadband Network only increases the need for knowledge in order to understand its implications and opportunities.

What we desperately need is someone who can help connect the dots.

  • Someone neutral and knowledgeable who can point us in the right direction.
  • Someone who is talking to government agencies and knows where funding is available.
  • Someone who can help advise organisations about putting together good tenders and inviting the right people to pitch.
  • Someone passionate enough about the industry and region to identify opportunities and help them to fruition
  • Someone who can help provide training options to those who need it.

Fortunately in Newcastle we now have that someone, Gordon Whitehead aka @the_git.

And that brings me to a significant announcement. After 6 years at Sticky, Gordon is moving to a new role that has evolved from his founding of The Lunaticks. The project is called Digital Newcastle and Gordon will be doing all the above and more.

He’ll be connecting the dots between government, government agencies, local business, education, start-ups, digital agencies and services providers.

To be clear: this is a new role with a different organisation and totally independent of Sticky.

I’ll be signing on as a sponsor of Digital Newcastle and I encourage other agencies to sign on as well. Collectively we’ll all benefit from this initiative and it will only be truly effective if the right dots are being connected.

I’d like to congratulate to Gordon on this exciting new role. Already he has garnered considerable support from local government and business groups, and I urge all Newcastle and Hunter businesses and agencies to support him so he can help the entire region flourish in this burgeoning digital economy.

 

How Austin – home to SXSW – stays vibrant with tech and innovation
19Mar12

A growing theme on this blog has been about how to grow a smart and innovative city. Its something we’ve been tackling here in Newcastle as we evolve from our old industrial base to something more vibrant and sustainable.

One model we’ve been looking at is Austin, Texas. Over the last decade Austin was the 3rd fastest growing city in the USA, booming to its current population of 790,000.

Its no coincidence that Austin is home to the famous SXSW festival, part of which is one of the biggest tech industry events in the world. This has led to Austin becoming home to around 3900 tech companies employing over 100,000 people.

Here is a 30 second video from Susan Davenport, senior vice president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce explaining how technology and innovation have helped build a great city.

Other posts on this topic:

My plan for creating an innovative city

How to build a smart city

Launching, blogging, speaking, meeting
30Sep11

Its been a busy month since the launch of NLYZR. Interestingly, launching a new product like this has resulted in a considerable lift in enquiries across my other businesses and general activities for me. Suddenly I am doing a lot more guest blogging, interviews and speaking at some really fascinating events.

It demonstrates to me the importance of taking new ideas to market in order to keep your name or brand relevant.

Here’s a quick summary of what been happening:

  • Joining a panel discussion for the New Institute on how to help make Newcastle an Ideas City.

……And there’s a few more trips for speaking engagements on the horizon.

Seems launching something new can be good for business in more ways than expected. What ideas, apps, sites, businesses or campaigns are you launching to get your name out there?

 

 

 

 

 

New metrics for new businesses start-ups
8Sep11

Inbound marketing metricsTimes have definitely changed. Until recently a new business would measure itself against a series of metrics like foot traffic, advertising reach and frequency, number of phone calls, number of calls or meetings by sales people, presentation to sales ratios, and of course actual sales.

But that was before the web, before Google and before social media networks took off.

In the era of inbound marketing the metrics have totally changed and I am studying them frantically in the wake of our recent NLYZR launch.

One week into my new start-up’s life I am able to track key metrics on an hourly basis to determine what’s working and what’s not. Here are some of the things I’m keeping track of:

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Will agencies of the future be start-up incubators?
6Jul11

agencies as start-up incubators

(originally uploaded by Triplepundit.com)

My last 3 posts have had a pretty strong theme running around innovation; Think Like a Tech Start-Up, What is Your Gateway Drug? and My Plan for Creating an Innovative City.  So its pretty easy to see where my thoughts are at the moment.

As an agency that likes to work on innovative side projects, like NLYZR and Urban Insider, my team and I are often questioning the role of agencies going forward. I mean, we’re all supposed to be highly creative aren’t we? So why aren’t we getting more involved in creating more new businesses and revolutionising industries instead of just trotting out another 30 sec ad?

Then along comes the always clever Neil Perkin with a new post on his Only Dead Fish blog titled Agencies as Incubators. In it Neil looks at the Cannes Lions (formerly advertising awards), an amazing program supported by Wieden & Kennedy called the Portland Incubator Experiment which has some parallels to the excellent Y-Combinator concept in Silicon Valley and how Apple fund and secure new technology breakthroughs.

You must read this if you are interested in innovation or if you are going to be at the next Lunaticks event Smart and Innovative City Part 2. THIS  is the sort of thinking we need in our industry, not more self-indulgent award wankfests.

It seems to me that the time is ripe for agencies to start challenging their clients to think beyond business as usual and use that creativity to radically interrupt industries in the way new technology is reshaping the landscape.

Is yours?

 

My plan for creating an innovative city
30Jun11

Last night we had a forum in Newcastle discussing the desire for this once heavily industrial town to become a center for innovation. Unfortunately much of the panel discussion, and subsequently the audience questions, got bogged down in discussing the past, the limitations of council and old technology. It was a lost opportunity for what is an important and exciting discussion.

Smart and Innovative Newcastle

Newcastle offers many advantages for innovative companies - photo MattLauder.com.au

Near the end of the night I couldn’t help myself and grabbed the microphone to offer my simple plan for creating an innovative city. Here it is in writing for anyone who cares to take the discussion further or help expand and act on the ideas.

Incremental examples of creeping innovation from existing players won’t be enough to launch a town like Newcastle to national or international prominence as a smart and innovative city. A couple of major initiatives are required to create that catalyst for a dynamic leap forward.

Firstly, universal access to high-speed broadband is essential for a community to compete and indeed lead the way in innovation. In the digital economy we must be connected. It is not good enough to wait for the National Broadband Network to finally arrive in town. It doesn’t give us an advantage, it just puts us on par with the rest of Australia when (or if) it finally arrives.

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What is your gateway drug?
23Jun11

Drug dealers are sophisticated marketers

Drug dealers in The Wire are sophisticated marketers

Is it possible that drug dealers are smarter marketers than many multinationals?

Consider the two. Multinational pharmaceutical companies sell drugs. They spend a fortune on expensive media to convince us we need their drugs. Their cost per acquisition is high.

Illegal drug dealers also sell drugs. They often start with a free sample of their “goods” to a few key locals in their community. This gets the potential buyers “hooked”, creates a sense of loyalty and obligation and leads to strong word-of-mouth for their product. Their cost per acquisition is low and conversion rate is almost 100%.

Now, while I don’t suggest you move into distribution of illegal goods, I do recommend you emulate drug dealers with your marketing. Make a good product or service, make it addictive and give away a small amount for free in order to generate ongoing sales and word of mouth. Anyone who has ever watched The Wire has seen the sophisticated marketing and distribution of street level drug dealers.

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Think like a tech start-up
10Jun11

Evan Williams from Twitter at Web 2.0 Summit

Evan Williams from Twitter at Web 2.0 Summit, San Francisco 2010

I live a secret life. By day I’m a mild mannered advertising agency exec (the manners might depend on who you ask) whilst in my spare time I am building a start-up tech business.

The start-up is NLYZR. Its been around for the last 2 years in various evolving forms but now we’re getting down to brass tacks as it’s large scale commercial release is nearing launch phase.

The interesting thing is that while we’ve been using our knowledge at Sticky to create NLYZR as a business, we’re actually learning more from NLYZR that is helping the agency and our other clients. We’ve learned to think like a tech start-up and its been incredibly liberating.

Tech start-ups require a totally different mindset to that used in the day-to-day running of an agency, or any business for that matter. In fact, tech start-ups are radically different from other (non-tech) start-ups. But, importantly, we’re learning that the defining characteristics of a successful tech start-up can be applied to most industries to create something much more exciting.

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