As men who shave, we've been taught to accept a few undisputed truths: There are two brands of razors. The more blades the better. And refills are expensive, ridiculously expensive.
Well, the walls around Schick and Gillette are crumbling. With start-ups going after every industry under the sun, leading Marc Andreessen to famously proclaim that software is eating the world, not even the shaving juggernauts are safe.
They were up until three years ago.
That's when a satirical video from a Southern California company called Dollar Shave Club, hit YouTube and went viral by asking the question: "Do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a back scratcher and 10 blades?"
The video has been viewed almost 19 million times and not only kick-started Dollar Shave Club but spawned a whole subscription shaving movement.
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Razor blades can now be sent to your doorstep monthly or with less frequency from emerging brands such as Harry's, Bevel and ShaveMOB. So preferable has this new model become and so much money have the challengers raised (around $300 million combined) that Gillette has recently turned on its own subscription offering.
But this movement is about much more than just Amazon.com-like convenience and Netflix pricing. It's about personalization, branding, Internet marketing and building relationships with customers, all via virtual storefronts.
When was the last time you heard a guy rave about his razor?
"I love telling people that I use this stuff," said Steven Murphy, a freelance video producer in St. Louis who switched to Dollar Shave Club from Schick about a year and a half ago and now pays $6 every two months for four cartridges. "There's this thumbing their nose at the rest of the industry, and they have a sense of humor about it that I absolutely love."
The Dollar Shave Club ads are humorous. One shows a man in a pharmacy getting shocked by a security guard for wanting to get blades that were locked behind a glass case.
But shaving is, quite literally, a sensitive matter. Razor burns and bumps, ingrown hairs and frequent cuts are the result of mass-market products that treat all skin as if it's the same. Close shaves are great, except when they create painful, unsightly blemishes.