Innovation is a battle between two narratives: the old and the new.
If you want to introduce a new idea or product with the goal that we will adopt it, you have to help us realize that the current narrative–aka the current way we do something–is now old, worn out, broken.
This weekend, I needed new razor blades. So, I went to the men’s care aisle at my nearest store. The blades were right there, easily accessible on the shelf. I paid 9.99 for a pack of four really nice 6-blade cartridges.
But it wasn’t always like that. A few years ago, the narrative was different. When I needed new blades, I had to defy the “razor fortress”. It was the locked plexiglass case where razor blades used to be stored like gold in a safe. I also had to pay about twice the price. As a result, I dreaded the moment I needed to get fresh blades, and I would extend the life of my razor by several weeks after it was already starting to get dull. The fortress still exists in some stores in the US, but it’s now from the past for the most part.
The old narrative about buying razor blades was “It’s a fight”.
The new narrative is now something more like “It’s a breeze”.
The company that upgraded that shopping experience is Dollar Shave Club, founded in 2011 by Michael Dubin and sold to Gillette in an all-cash $1 billion deal in 2016.
Dollar shave club’s strategy was to focus on changing how guys could buy care products by selling first razor blades via a subscription model.
The company built a new strategic narrative that required deconstructing the old one first. Dollar Shave Club decided to break down and portray what shopping for razor blades looked like with remarkable emotional realism. They called out the bullshit that big razor companies and retailers used to impose on us.
So, in 2012, Dollar Shave Club launched a brutally fun and effective ad campaign that did this masterfully.
Each ad is about 30 seconds long, treats each aspect of “fighting” for razor blades the old way with humor. In the interest of time, I built the following quick playlist for you. I guarantee these will put a smile on your face if you’ve not seen them before:
Building a strategic narrative is an act of creation. And as Pablo Picasso said, “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”