Anatomy of a perfect startup video pitch

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Anatomy of a perfect startup video pitch

Some days ago I bumped into what is, arguably, the best video pitch I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s such a fantastic video that I’m gonna use it as a case studio for everyone to learn from it.

First 5 seconds, “Hi I’m Mike, founder of DollarShaveClub.com“. This might be ridiculous, but I keep seeing many startups missing this very simple intro. Who am I and what do I do. The second thing to notice is the high quality of the video. Mike doesn’t appears shaggy, tired or drugged. Many startups record really shitty videos with very bad lighting, dressed in pajamas and half sleep. Resting on a chair as if the recording of this video was a boring homework they’ve been assigned. The idea isn’t to go an record your video with a high quality crew like Mike did, but just make sure it doesn’t seems shaggy.

The next 5 seconds introduce the startup pitch, for 1 dollar a month they send you high quality razors to your door. There are 3 things that are utterly brilliant about this pitch. First, it touches the saving side, giving you an incredible price. Even if you don’t know what they sell, you can spare 1 dollar a month. That’s the hook. Once you bite, you learn what they give you, high quality razors. This is the second brilliant touch. They don’t sell a mobile app that connects with NASA satellites and then streams to your iPad and the cloud and enables you socially. The sell, old fashioned razors. Something everyone, that shaves that is, knows. Tangible object. Easy to understand and grasp. An object we’ve been using for centuries. The third golden touch is the “to your door” part. Not only it’s cheap, not only I understand what they sell. They’re also solving the problem of going to buy them to the stores! Convenience!

The next scene is where the humor starts. Mike stresses out the price, “Yeah a dollar!”. In a genius understanding of how the human brain works, they give you the answer to the question you’re just forming: “yeha for $1 they’re probably the worst blades ever”. But no! Mike, that guy in a suit, with that charming smile and professional looks assures you that they’re not only good, they’re “Fucking great”. Two things here make the magic work. The first one is the unexpected turn, the answering of your unasked question, and the use of swearing to do it. Swearing is demonstrated to fix concepts in your mind much better than regular narration, because it creates a shock to our brains. Combined both unexpected forces and you’ve just engineered a fantastic memory in my brain of the high quality of your product.

Boom, cut to the next scene with an exploding sound, Mike going through a wall paper, razor in hand, detailing what a razor is composed of. It’s so simple that even a toddler could use it. Wham! The video shows us a toddler shaving a guy’s head. Again, the same resource as before. Double impact by narrating and showing and performing the action at the same time. Neuroscience has demonstrated that the more senses you involve in an action, the better our brain records a memory. Mike uses his voice and your sight to send his second message: Blades are as simple as a pacifier, why should the cost outrageous amounts of money?. Here they even introduce an Easter egg by having the guy that’s getting the shaving read Eric Ries’s Lean Startup book. This is superb, as the audience, mostly startups, investors and bloggers will clearly recognize it as the bible of many of the new software development going on around startups. It sends another powerful message: “We are a startup, we know about lean startups and we’re doing it”.

During the end of the scene, he throws some numbers so you can compare prices, $1 vs $20, and if you aren’t convinced, he explains the audience where the $19 difference goes, to Roger Federer, that is, to useless advertising. Again, same resource, narration + image, this time is a tennis racket plus a joke about the quality and usefulness of those advertising. Humor is key here. He rides on the concept that everyone thinks those ads are very lame. No one buys razors because you have a tennis player using them. Sometime people wonder why a tennis player and not a regular guy. It’s always a fit, muscular sporty guy. I’m sorry, everyone knows razors don’t make you fit or sporty or macho. In other words, those ads don’t work because they don’t create an emphatic link with its audience. Mike knows this, the audience too, and so with a fast joke, he pulls the trick.

New scene and new concept, before the jab was about pricing, now it’s about useless features. He describes the features current blades have, demoting them, establishing a link to the past where people, no, not people, YOUR grandfather, used simple blades to achieve the same outcome and he was fine. Again, brilliant use of visual + narration + emotion to create an emphatic link with the audience. In my opinion the Polio joke is the weakest point of the video for two reasons. First, most people don’t remember Polio, but second, Polio is bad, it kills, it’s a disease. You don’t want to associate the lack of features with a disease. Another important thing to notice is the use of the walk and talk resource, popularized recently by Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, Studio 60). Mike is constantly walking through each scene, talking while walking, while the camera does a travelling and follows him as he uncovers different visual elements that reinforce his narration. It effectively transforms the scene into a living timeline or infographic. If you’re using a specific media, make sure you get the best out of it. Mike did it. A video isn’t static, for that you have the radio. Movies are effective when combined with showing of things, moving, acting, creating dynamics.

Next scene, recapitulation of the previous points, forget about useless features, running out of stock or overprices blades. This is what we call, the strength message. He’s being telling you this, but at the end he repeats the message so you don’t forget it. Master stroke when he adds a new message, one we’ve been hearing all along, support startups, they create jobs. By adding a new character that represents Latinos he plays with our prejudices and emotions. Most people think about Latinos in terms of wet-backs, people that came illegally into our countries and are the main reason for unemployment. By picturing job losses with Alejandra and riding the same wagon it evokes not only job creation, but racial integration, another of the pending subject in the US. Genius.

Final scene, repetition of the strength message, save money. Chaining of economic downturn problems, unemployment, racial integration and now saving money. It all comes together with the repetition of the company name, DollarShaveClub.com and the use of rhyming to conduct us to the clip’s climax, the hidden desired goal of many, which is to party like a Wall Street rockstar. Keep in mind that Mike can pull this off because his looks, his speech and his clothes are aligned to that of someone that makes money, in other words, it’s credible. Three elements build this climax, the music, the US flag in the back, evoking national pride and capitalism and money being blown all over the place. To avoid the image of capitalist pig, two more elements soften this image, the inclusion of Alejandra, our Latino employee and the funny bear, evoking playfulness and startup spirit. All in all, absolute master piece. Kudos to Mike, the DollarShaveClub team and the filming crew for an outstanding video.

  • http://twitter.com/NeilCocker Neil Cocker

    Great blog, Alex. Watched the DollarShaveClub video yesterday and thought it was superb. We filmed a pitch video last week, and I now wish we’d had a spare bear suit when we shot it… ;-)

    @NeilCocker

    • http://twitter.com/abarrera Alex Barrera

      Yeah the video is amazing! When you go deep into it and analyze each part is incredible the thought and work they poured over it. Would love to see the making of this video. haha the bear rocks! You can always do a part II – with bear :P

  • http://twitter.com/NeilCocker Neil Cocker

    Great blog, Alex. Watched the DollarShaveClub video yesterday and thought it was superb. We filmed a pitch video last week, and I now wish we’d had a spare bear suit when we shot it… ;-)

    @NeilCocker

    • http://twitter.com/abarrera Alex Barrera

      Yeah the video is amazing! When you go deep into it and analyze each part is incredible the thought and work they poured over it. Would love to see the making of this video. haha the bear rocks! You can always do a part II – with bear :P

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  • Santiago Corredoira

    What about the factory ambiance that gives you the sense that they already have a huge business (inventory in all those boxes) going on? A master piece! Thanks for sharing

  • Santiago Corredoira

    What about the factory ambiance that gives you the sense that they already have a huge business (inventory in all those boxes) going on? A master piece! Thanks for sharing

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  • http://www.onemarketmedia.com/ Jimm Fox

    Alex, Dollar Shave Club is a great pitch video, without a doubt… and yet Mike’s second pitch video had all of the same elements (including Mike) and didn’t register a fraction of the attention: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FOae1V1-Xg

    • abarrera

      I think you nail it, he didn’t register the attention because he replicated the exact same video structure. Good pitches and stories are about the unexpected. If you do the same thing, the same way, people get bored. In this case, the fact that he’s promoting a product that doesn’t has such a pain element to it as razors had, also affects the outcome a lot. Pitch and product go hand in hand, you can’t take what work from product A and stamp it on product B, because product B’s audience is quite different. Thanks for the comment and the video, hadn’t seen it ans you raise very good points!

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