he suave startup shaving company taking on Gillette, who at the time of launch had monopolized 66% of the men’s razor market. They were part of the wave of well-branded DTC products launched with the help of Gin Lane (similar era to Casper, branded by rival agency Red Antler) and they started a couple of years after Dollar Shave Club took the market by storm.
Harry’s have consistently made headlines, from their famous pre-launch campaign which signed up 100,000 people, to the time they bought a 93-year-old German razor factory to their move to launch in Target and Walmart stores, their launch of a women’s brand (Flamingo) and then the acquisition for $1.4b by the company that owns Wilkinson Sword. With such a strong brand we’d expect their Facebook marketing to be top-class, so let’s take a look.
If you’d like to download all of the ads featured in this post, we’ve made them available in this google drive folder, as part of our Facebook ads library resource. All ad examples come from the Facebook ads library tool.
What did we learn?
Harry's Facebook advertising is a masterclass in creative assets. They test a wide array of product shots from static image to testimonials, all of which look extremely premium. The gaping flaw in their marketing right now however is copy. There were barely any variations of adcopy, with the vast majority of ads featuring the same testimonial. There were some fantastic areas of opportunity for them to double down on, for example the funny video we cover at the end, and they follow a lot of B2C Facebook ads best practice.
If you’re interested in Facebook ads (if you’re reading this article, I presume you are!) then you might want to take a look at Spotlight. It uses machine learning to see what’s IN your images and text, then automatically show you what’s driving performance.
Testimonials To Build Trust
The main ad that Harry’s seems to be running features a testimonial as the main text at the top of the ad from someone called Clay B. It’s a solid testimonial because it sounds authentic (including clumsy spelling / grammar) while painting the product in the best possible light. This version uses the iconic Harry’s razor design against a bold blue background.
This is really good work and a solid Facebook ad, and of course you should follow the advice “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”... but did they really need to use this same testimonial for 60%+ of their ads in the past few weeks? How about a little variety!
To give them credit they are doing a great job of testing a wide variety of different images and videos showing the razor in various guises. Testing creative is often harder and more expensive than testing copy so it’s unusual and admirable to see a brand lean so hard on it, but they should give themselves a break and test a handful of new testimonials.
It gets even weirder when they combine that one testimonial with a video like the one above. I mean this is an actor portrayal (it says so in the bottom right corner) so already a little less trustworthy, but this guy is clearly not 53 years old! If he is, I want to know where he buys his skin lotion, not his razor. This can be one of the dangers of running copy that works across every creative asset—you have to look out for points where the narrative breaks.
There is some variety in the Headline and Link Description—Harry’s is testing a Trial offer versus showcasing their 20,000 5-star reviews. It’s hard to know what performs better and I saw a pretty equal distribution, with some cases showing both combined. In any event I think the testimonial plus premium design already makes me trust the company, so I’d go for a harder sell over adding more social proof in this case.
There are some really talented designers on Harry's marketing team for sure. This example of showing the days counting down to visually communicate the razor lasting for a long time is genius. This was just one of too many examples to showcase here of unique visual concepts that really build a lot of trust. If a company goes to these lengths to be creative, then quality is fractal so you know their razors will be good too.
My favorite of the ads is the one above, showing the bold orange razor against a clean white bathroom background, and a well placed testimonial hovering above. The combination of the attention-grabbing product with the testimonial and then the checklist of reasons to choose Harry’s, is a masterclass of what works on Facebook ads.
Good Reasons For Difference
One thing that Harry’s does really well is give you good reasons to buy. In this simple video they cycle through the different reasons whilst changing the color of the handle each time. Five German blades is kind of a weird one until you realize that people associate German engineering with quality — this is the same reason people buy Audis thanks to the tagline “vorsprung durch technik”.
The trial offer seems to be a big hook for Harry’s, where they give you a kit including shaving gel and a blade cover. This combined with the no risk guarantee is a good way to tip new users over the edge when they’re unsure. Note that the quality of the ‘award-winning’ razors is the main point of leverage. This is the exact opposite of Dollar Shave Club’s message which is that razors are interchangeable.
There is an element of simplicity and fairness baked into Harry's brand. They make the whole endeavor of selling razors uncomplicated—a welcome reprieve to an audience exhausted by the endless parade of largely useless shave tech coming from Gillette. This point was also parodied by Dollar Shave Club in their viral video, though it’s interesting how Harry’s attacks the same point from a different angle.
The main takeaway from all of this is that Harry’s is remarkably consistent with their value propositions. There is a lot of scope for testing of course, and they have tried these in different forms, but it always leads back to the same message of high quality at a good value for money. I bet if you asked a few Harry’s marketing employees at random why you should choose their razor, they’d come back with the same five things.
The five benefits they offer are also consistent with the ads. If they said ‘simple clean design’ and then slapped a bunch of random bells & whistles onto the ad, it would be a jarring experience. They don’t use gimmicks in their marketing, and everything reinforces the quality of the razor. This is all just really well done.
Value Proposition Carousel Ads
A classic ad format for startups is the carousel ad with a single value proposition on each panel. It just works exceptionally well, and if you let Facebook optimize the best performing panels will show up first. Engagement with the carousel ad increases your ad engagement metrics, which will convince Facebook to show your ad to more people.
Harry’s unique spin on this is that they invented funny value propositions they used in offline ads too — handsomer, sharperer, etc. This is a clever way to make the ad stand out (we all know how well trained we are to find typos!). Each panel shows the razor in an interesting way and with that ever present 53 year old testimonial at the top, this ad works well.
They are also testing this ad without the clever names which I think it key. All too often a smart creative agency or internal creative comes up with a good line like the ‘cleverer’ proposition... and then just plaster it everywhere. Just because it’s clever doesn’t mean it performs, so it’s really great to see Harry’s testing it against this plain version. Everything else is held the same so they should get to see what is really driving performance.
Close Competitor Comparisons
Most advertisers steer clear of competitors but Harry’s must be particularly bold—they published a direct comparison to each competitor and ran them as ads! It’s kind of like breaking the fourth wall and saying “look, we know you’re using competitors, here’s why we’re confident we’re better”. This type of tactic also works well on SEO and this is the first time I’ve seen it employed in Facebook ads, but it looks great.
Note that they never say the name Gilette in the ad? However I noticed on their other competitors like Dollar Shave Club, they mention the name. I wonder if they struggled with ad approvals or are worried about getting sued?
The other interesting thing is that they tailored each adcopy to the specific competitor. For Gillette they talk about overpaying, because their razors are more expensive. However for Dollar Shave Club, they emphasize the subscription plan, because that’s key for that segment.
The Anti-Subscription Movement
Interestingly Harry’s is also experimenting with a lack of a subscription as a value proposition. With any innovation in a market there is likely to be a backlash against it, and with subscriptions there will be plenty of people who want a nice razor, but don’t want to be locked in for refills.
The freedom to choose removes some of the anxiety that people face when signing up for subscription services. We don’t want to feel like fools with an abundance of new razors we don’t use, and maybe we just want to try out this razor without making a big commitment.
Within this category Harry’s are also testing several different images, though mostly focusing on the up close razor shot with bold backgrounds. The tagline “Subscribe… Or Don’t” fits perfectly with Harry’s casual brand tone of voice. However advertising the blades are as low as $2 each seems to me to be anchoring the price way too low. In reality I’m going to be spending $30 plus including the razor and shipping, and the low price runs counter to Harry’s premium look and feel, making me question the quality of the blades after all.
Show the Unboxing Experience
One great trick marketers have been using since Steve Jobs popularized it is focusing on the unboxing experience. The packaging the product comes in sets the tone for the whole experience, and the box an Apple computer comes in is just as well engineered as the computer itself. The unboxing experience also makes for fantastic ads, as the viewer can imagine themselves unwrapping the product for the first time like it’s Christmas!
It’s also good to finally see another testimonial—you have to scroll down pretty far to find anything other than that Clay B quote! This testimonial works well because you can really imagine yourself throwing out those old razors. So much so that you want Harry’s to be that good, so you can have the cathartic experience.
There it is again, that quote from Clay B! It’s a shame they are blanket using that across everything because again it clashes with this creative asset. This is clearly not the hand of a 53 year old man! While I’m thinking about it, It’d also be interesting to test that quote against different age groups and see if it actually resonates with the younger crowd or not.
Bathroom In-Situ Product Shots
One winning way to make ads that perform is to show the product in its natural habitat. Just like the unboxing videos, it helps people get into the right mindset to imagine themselves with the product. Seeing a bathroom, and a nice clean, fashionable bathroom at that, with a Harry’s razor pride of place, is a great way to persuade people to purchase it.
These ads are also using some of the other best practices, for example showing the five star reviews and using a strong call to action “get offer”. They show the product as the hero, and an aspirational surrounding.
One thing I have to wonder is if this is two aspirational. I don’t expect someone buying a $2 razor from Walmart of Target to have a marble bathroom with gold taps. Is this really a bathroom that the target customer of Harry’s would connect with? There needs to be more testing of different styles of bathroom for different demographics to see what works. Oh, and try something other than that infernal Clay B testimonial!
New Product Line Brand Extension
Once you’ve built an established brand in a space, it only makes sense to extend that brand out to new related product lines, like we saw with Casper’s Facebook ads. For Harry’s that means hair products and their ads are pretty bold.
For the texturizing putty it’s showing the putty itself zoomed in so far it commands your attention. It’s overlaid with the words you normally associate with bad putty products, but crossed out. This is a very different brand from the original Harry’s tone of voice, and impressive, but I have to wonder if this is a stretch too far. I mean what does making good razors have to do with making putty?
Another example is the sculpting gel. Again some bold in your face art direction for the ads, but no real relevance or connection back to the Harry's brand. If you hid the logo could you even tell that this was a Harry’s product?
Attention-Grabbing Funny Video
I’ll finish on something I think Harry’s should do more of. This video is short and funny—it grabs attention and is shareable, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. It feels like the exact right mix of the casual Harry’s brand and the right positioning for the product’s benefits.
This ad is clever because by saying ‘you can shave, just a little’ with a single hair falling on his jacket, you’re seeing something you didn’t expect, so it grabs attention. However if you think on it, it also helps position the product well—if this guy can afford to buy a Harry’s razor to only share one hair, then the razor is probably good value, and very precise to cut a single hair!
This ad would be even more perfect if this gentleman turned out to be the 53 year old Clay B featured in every testimonial...
If you’d like to download all of the ads in this post, they’re located in this google drive folder for this blog post, in our Facebook ads library, categorized by section. All ad examples come from the Facebook ads library tool.
Now that you’ve finished reading, I’m sure you’ll be inspired to run more tests of your own. When you’re testing at least 3-5 ads per week, you need a tool like Spotlight to help you get insights into the plus or minus factors driving creative performance.