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Why businesses are failing to brand themselves successfully in the digital era

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

"Okay, but how does this push the products and services we offer?"

It's this phrase that usually pummels me after I pitch a storytelling branding campaign for a business.

Let's take a look at Dollar Shave Club

On March 6, 2012, Dollar Shave Club released a video advertisement that was made in one day, in a warehouse, for only $4500. Within 48 hours, that same ad had turned Dollar Shave Club from an anonymous startup into a flourishing business with over 12,000 orders. Today, that ad has over 26 million views.

Dollar Shave Club's first ad catapulted the company towards success.

Not a bad effort, to put it mildly. Even seven years later, that ad is still hilarious and does a fantastic job of promoting the humorous, irreverent brand image that Dollar Shave Club touts to this day. But it is a little dated. So what is Dollar Shave Club doing with its ads currently?

The answer, miraculously, is somehow: better.

"Get Ready," Dollar Shave Club's July 11, 2018 video ad, manages to outdo its the company's first advertising effort in almost every way. It retains the cheeky, in your face attitude of its 2012 predecessor, while also pushing an image of cultural diversity and inclusion. It's the 2012 ad, revamped to reflect the massive societal changes that have taken place over the past seven years and directed at evolving Dollar Shave Club's brand image to capture a broader customer base than ever before.

Even better, no product or service is pushing in the entire ad.

You never once hear a deep-voiced announcer rattle off the features of a razor or a hair gel.

There's never a slow, 360-degree close-up shot of a product.

There's no too-good-to-be-true rundown of what Dollar Shave Club's services offer.

It's just an ad of people from every walk of life getting ready for their day using Dollar Shave Club products. Remember, when your English teacher told you, "show, don't tell?" Yeah. That's this ad in spades, and it's genius.

The focus isn't on the product or services. The focus is on how the products and services enable a diverse group of individuals to live their ideal lives.

Dollar Shave Club's latest branding effort presents an effortlessly authentic take on their service and cultural diversity.

This is what people want from advertising campaigns in 2019. They don't want to be preached at. They don't want ads that oversell a service or push a product down their throat. They want authentic, relatable representations of what a product or a service is allowing its target demographics to do.

I work with so many businesses that have fantastic products or services that don't realize how much aggressively pushing those offerings is hurting their bottom line.

Today, 66 percent of consumers - and 73 percent of millennials - are willing to spend more for a product if it comes from a brand with sustainable practices. People tune out ten-second ads on their Spotify playlist just as fast as they tune out billboards. Nine out of ten millennials would switch from their preferred brand to a different brand that supports a cause they believe in.

It's time for businesses to face the facts: old methods of product or service-centric advertising don't work as well anymore, and they're only degrading in efficacy as time draws on. Millennials and Gen Z's - the individuals poised right now to take over every market - want socially responsible businesses that can deliver not only products and services but also communities and lifestyles.

The most effective way for businesses to appeal to these sensibilities is by respecting the intelligence of consumers. Run ads that show consumers what type of life they can lead if they purchase your product or service. Show consumers what kind of community your products or services create and what kinds of ethical missions your brand supports.

By creating ads that tell stories, instead of merely selling products or services, businesses - both in the B2C and B2B industries - can actualize their potential and move forward successfully into the digital age and the fourth industrial revolution that it's brought with it.

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