Speaking to Mary Keane Dawson, at MAD//Fest London last month on the Kantar Marketplace Hexagon Stage, Dancer was keen to stress the importance of doing things differently, failing fast, and focusing on people, internally and externally, are key for any challenger brand wanting to succeed. 

Dancer joined Harry’s in 2017 at the start of their UK journey, disrupting a category which “pretty much looked old, grey, pale and stale.” Right from Harry’s inception, when it was founded, Dancer said that they wanted a razor “that was a bit more relatable, more human and a bit more real.” This is something that has since flowed through all aspects of its growth, communications, and marketing. 

So it was all about subverting the category norms. Harry’s thought about the men's care space, and specifically the razor space. As Dancer explained: “I'm sure if I ask you all to think of the dominant shave brands, they have a perfect view of masculinity. The shelf is very cluttered and confusing. Often a lot of communication is very corporate and cold… Therefore Harry’s saw those category norms and thought ‘we can switch that on its head’”

Dancer outlined key aspects of launching in the UK specifically relating to competing against larger corporates. “You've got to act smarter and more clever with the limited resources you've got.” He went on to say that challenger brands need to use the experience and talent of their partners, (agency, PR etc.). 

The spirit of the launch was very much “the antithesis of what the bigger players in the market would do… down to earth, self deprecating.” They launched in the beard capital of the UK, Shoreditch, “the worst place to launch a razor brand… but importantly the launch had nothing to do with the typical tropes of masculinity, no celebrities with chiselled jawline six pack abs holding a razor.”

Having a culture of disruption at launch is one thing but Keane Dawson was interested to find out how Harry’s maintains that ethos as they have gown and scaled up. Dancer said that that was “the one thing that keeps me awake at night. The idea of of maintaining the past 6 years as we scale the business” 

The answer, he believes, lies in “staying true to your customer and having a constant conversation with them.” He added that Harry’s are continually, “building brand experiences which are meaningful to people allowing them to say something about who they are. Exceptional product experiences that are key”

Another key aspect is the fact that at Harry’s their internal focus on people is as strong and important as their focus on external people, aka, customers. “At Harry’s there’s an internal spirit of failing fast to learn fast, encouraging vulnerable conversations, encouraging direct and honest feedback.” 

This has created an environment where staff feel safe but “highly motivated and energised… it’s it's something that you can't replicate that we've built up over time” and is a great place for a true gold standard of a challenger to be as it expands into retail beyond its early days as a DTC only brand.

Ben Dancer’s full MAD//Fest London interview which also covered topics such as purpose within the men’s health industry, charity, and much more is available here on our YouTube channel.