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Category winner:
Dollar Shave Club: Disrupting the Shaving Industry

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This case was the Overall Winner at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2021. #CaseAwards2021

Presentation of the trophy for the Overall Winner 2021
Ying Zhang

Receiving the prize

As with all our awards this year, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we’re sadly unable to visit the award winners in person, but we’re pleased to say that hasn’t stopped Karin receiving her 2021 Overall trophy.

We are delighted to celebrate Karin’s win by sharing this picture of her with the award in France – congratulations!

Discover more about the winning case below.

Find out more about the Case Awards here.

 
The case

P & GWho – the protagonists

Charles Pierce, Group President for Global Grooming at Procter & Gamble (P&G).

What?

P&G own the dominant Gillette brand, which has monopolised the shaving market since its inventor King Camp Gillette revolutionised shaving with the safety razor in 1895.

DSCThe fast-growing upstart Dollar Shave Club (DSC), using a direct-to-consumer online subscription model, has quickly become Gillette’s main competitor.

Why?

Charles was worried about DSC’s impact as Gillette’s market share in the US shrunk from 70% in 2010 to 54% in 2016.

P&G executives blamed a sluggish US economy, increasingly value-oriented consumers, the rise of low-cost competitors, and even-beard loving hipsters.

DSC rose to become Gillette’s main competitor as its founders Michael Dubin and Mark Levine created the company to ensure there was an alternative to over-expensive, over-engineered and over-marketed products.

Their savvy and light-hearted advertising highlighted the benefits of DSC’s model and unapologetically exposed the flaws of giants like Gillette.

When?

GilletteMichael and Mark met at a party in January 2011.

By the end of 2016, DSC was on track to surpass 3.5 million members and generate more than $200 million in revenues – employing just 190 people.

Where?

Gillette is a worldwide brand while DSC are expanding from the US into Australia, Canada and the UK.

Key quote

“What we’re doing is helping guys find the products they want in a really easy way, in an affordable way, and hold their hand as they make these grooming decisions…What we are doing for razors is what Starbucks did for coffee.” – Michael Dubin.

What next?

Charles and his executive team at P&G had to consider the options open to them to respond to the growing threat posed by DSC and how quickly to act.

Rumours of P&G’s arch rival Unilever acquiring DSC was an alarming development and prospect.

Hear from the authors

On 23 March 2020 Jamie, Karin and Nader will be leading a webinar 'The Ingredients of an Award-winning Case'. 

Sign up to hear from them on the ingredients that make an award-winning case, and how to adapt case teaching for a virtual environment.

Find out more

 
Instructor viewpoint

Discover how this case works in the classroom.

Blanca de Miguel-Molina“Students analysed this case in a course about strategy and business models. They liked it because they were able to compare two very different business models.

“The case addresses blue oceans, so it allows students to compare the value propositions of existing companies versus Dollar Shave Club.

“Furthermore, students can analyse the moves of companies to respond to the new business model, the company seizing an opportunity and acquiring DSC, and doing it, entering a new market. Therefore, without being a long case, it covers a wide range of topics. For the students, it was the last case in the course, so it was used to review many of the concepts addressed in the course and connect them.”

Blanca de Miguel-Molina, Associate Professor at Universitat Politècnica de València (Spain). The case was used with students in the Master GEPS (Faculty of Business Administration and Management).
 

Cliona McParland“Dollar Shave Club is a feel-good case study that students - of all levels - can relate to. Students are instantly drawn in by the famous, and now viral, promotional video that took the razor blade industry by storm. Dollar Shave Club is a perfect example of how a start-up company can be a disruptive force in a well-established industry, using a highly effective yet brilliantly simple digital platform model, combined with authentic and humorous marketing efforts.

“Furthermore, students are easily engaged by the distinct style and flair that is, and will remain, Dollar Shave Club. The case is definitely a classroom pleaser!”

Cliona McParland, PhD Scholar in Public Sector Strategic Transformation at Dublin City University. 

The authors

authors

Jamie Anderson, Karin Kollenz-Quétard and Nader Tavassoli

This is Jamie’s second Case Award, Karin’s first, and the fourth for Nader.

The award is the second for Antwerp Management School, first for EDHEC Business School, while London Business School have won a total of 19 over the years, including five Overall Case Awards (2003, 2006, 2010, 2020 and 2021).

A special feeling

Nader said: “I won the award before, in 2010, with the first case I had co-authored (Red Bull: The Anti-Brand Brand). I don’t think I appreciated just how special winning the overall award was at the time. I do now, and I am extremely happy that so many of my colleagues have found value in the case for their own teaching.”

Karin explained: “It is very special to win this award in the midst of the pandemic, which – I think we all agree – has made teaching much more challenging, because most of us are teaching online. My colleagues and I have discussed a lot about how our case teaching changes when online – and we have shared that widely, using the Dollar Shave Club case as an example. This might have helped colleagues worldwide to use our case and teach it successfully online. I am happy and proud, if we have in some way contributed to enhancing online (case) teaching for professors and students worldwide.”

Kamran and ChristopherJamie commented: “Winning the award is just amazing. I remember starting out in my career as a case teacher and admiring brilliant case authors like Kamran Kashani and Christopher Bartlett. I never imagined that one of my own co-authored case studies might one day become not only a best-seller but also be so highly awarded.

“So, what is my advice to any aspiring case author? You don’t have to be great to start with case writing, but you have to start writing to (eventually) create a great case.”

Detailed teaching note

Nader stated: “It is a fun case to teach and the wonderful video supplements always trigger laughter. The case provides a great example of how a start-up has taken on a dominant industry player. It brings to life direct-to-consumer subscription models – a hot topic today – and provides a basis for more academic topics such as content marketing, the customer experience, double-marginalisation and economies of scale, as well as synergies like economies of scope in the Unilever acquisition. So, while the case is relatively brief, it provides a memorable basis for an in-depth discussion and several ‘aha’ moments for students.”

Jamie added: “The teaching note also plays a big part in the success of the case. It took us even longer to write that than the case itself, and is quite unique in that it provides several different options for instructors in terms of the models and frameworks from strategy, marketing and entrepreneurship that can be covered. The teaching note allows the case to be taught in as little as 45 minutes, or up to a full-day session.”

The power of multimedia

power of multimedia

Nader added: “A highlight when teaching this case are the engaging online videos that made DSC so popular. Another, which is not part of the case itself but is covered in the teaching note, were Gillette’s various attempts at reacting to the threat posed by DSC and other upstarts such as Harry’s. Keeping the case alive are developments such as the FTC blocking related M&A in this space, including P&G’s attempted purchase of Billie in the female market just this January.”

Top tips

Nader said: “This case was a collaborative effort by three people coming from different academic disciplines, which brought a set of rich and diverse perspectives. So, we really encourage people to bridge academic disciplines and to write cases with people who bring different ideas and insights.”

Karin concluded: “The case grabbed our attention as it was a David versus Goliath story, only for another Goliath to acquire David. But what made us invest in writing up the case, was the simple question “Why are DSC blades cheaper?” This required a multi-faceted answer with a deep understanding of the brands’ business models. This provides the case with a memorable anchor for a rich set of learnings … after all, it is not what you put into the class, but what they take away from it.”

About the authors

Jamie Anderson is Professor of Strategic Management at Antwerp Management School.
e jamie.anderson@ams.ac.be
tw @JamieAndersonBE

Karin Kollenz-Quétard is Professor of Strategy at EDHEC Business School.
e karin.kollenz@edhec.edu
tw @karinkollenz

Nader Tavassoli is Professor of Marketing at London Business School.
e ntavassoli@london.edu
tw @proftavassoli

 
Interested in finding out more?
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Dollar Shave Club: Disrupting the Shaving Industry
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Teaching note
Ref 518-0137-8

The teaching note provides tips for teaching this case virtually.

 

View all the 2021 winners