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Brand Profile: How Dr. Squatch went from a viral social media startup to men’s grooming sensation

How Dr Squatch grew from startup to behemoth

Dr. Squatch bundle
Dr. Squatch / Dr. Squatch

“Most guys don’t think about what bar of soap they use when they are washing their body. Let’s face it, they’re probably still using the soap your mommy bought for her little man. Is that what you want? To smell like mommy’s little man?”

The opening of many of the advertisements from Dr. Squatch feels less like a commercial and more like a skit that you would actually stay and pay attention to. It reminds us of 20 years ago when Geico introduced the cavemen and kept us watching commercials instead of taking the opportunity to go to the bathroom. It is a soap made for men, according to them, “men who build things, men who open the pickle jar on the first try, and men who catch foul balls without spilling their beer.”

But Dr. Squatch is more than just great advertising; they have positioned themselves to be the number one selling men’s grooming brand in the country. Sure, great advertising with engaging and humorous commercials that men can relate to and laugh at are a few of the reasons why. But there is more to it. We sat down with John Ludeke, who runs brand marketing for the company, to get a little insight into how Dr. Squatch took itself from a scrappy social media company to a massive men’s grooming powerhouse.

Dr. Squatch bundle
Dr. Squatch / Dr. Squatch

Focusing on “Edutainment”

Men have a lot going on. We can feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders and the long list of responsibilities we feel can take precedence over everything else in our lives. Sure, we can share the load with our partners, but we tend to feel that, as men, we should be able to handle things on our own. Because of this mindset, many things that we should pay attention to go by the wayside. For instance, tell me what ingredients are in the soap you have in your shower right now. You can’t, can you? It’s OK; most of us can’t. We don’t worry about that because we started using Zest or Irish Spring as a teenager and never felt the need to change.

That is where Dr. Squatch comes in. Ludeke says that their focus is not just to entertain with their advertisements, but they also want to educate men.

“We know our audience very well, and how can we reach our audience where they are and hit them with a message that is both educational and fun?” Ludeke asked. “We focus on what we call an ‘edutainment’ approach.”

He went on to talk about the beginning of their process and how they had to pivot.

“We really want to educate guys, and early on, we tried to be, I would say, more educational,” he explained. “But the message sometimes just doesn’t resonate. You know, I think people are getting hit with advertisements all the time. Most of it is just wallpaper. And so we were trying to find out, ‘Hey, we know we have a really great product here, and we’re trying to create positive change. How can we put the message in a format that’s just going to resonate more with their audience and get them to pay attention?'”

Dr. Squatch’s approach to advertising to men changed around the time that short-form media like TikTok and Instagram reels became a thing, making it the perfect time for them to blow up with humorous commercials.

“So beginning about 2018, we really kind of took it up a notch with the new ad campaign, which is probably what you’re familiar with,” Ludeke said. “And the message itself, like it wasn’t any different. It wasn’t launching a new product. It wasn’t like a brand-new initiative. But I think we really found the sweet spot where, ‘Hey, how can we communicate this in a way that really resonates with our target audience and that was really centered on humor and irreverence?'”

Man smelling soap
Dr. Squatch / Dr. Squatch

Changing the conversation

If you want to educate men, you have to meet them where they are and give them a reason to listen. Dr. Squatch soaps may be the best thing to ever land in a bathtub, but if men don’t hear the reasons for it, the legacy brands will remain the go-to easy buy so they don’t have to think about it. Ludeke says that their approach was always to change the conversation.

“I think in general, like for guys, what we found is that personal care as a category is very low emotional engagement. Most guys don’t really care,” he said. “You know, you buy what you’ve been buying since you were a teenager or your mom was buying for you. You use legacy brands, you don’t really think about the category that much.”

It’s different from other product categories, according to Ludeke. “If you’re buying a car or a phone, or even a new pair of sneakers, you’re usually much more invested in that purchase and in finding something that fits your personality and that you really care about,” he said. “Personal care is more of a habitual purchase. So we’re really trying to find a way of ‘How can we disrupt that category?’ And the first thing we focus on is not even selling Dr. Squatch — what we really want to do in a meaningful way is get guys to think about the category differently.”

So how did Dr. Squatch go from a scrappy social media company to the number one natural grooming brand for men? They did something few others were doing. They spoke directly to guys about their grooming habits and their products.

“I think a lot of brands are sometimes afraid to talk to guys, especially within personal care,” Ludeke said. “And so we found it’s an underserved market. In this sense, ‘how can we focus on a message that deeply resonates with them rather than just focusing on generating top-of-mind awareness via a really heavy media spin?'”

Dr. Squatch Safety Razor
Dr. Squatch / Dr. Squatch

More than soap

When you think of Dr. Squatch, you may only think of Dr. Squatch soaps. But they have branched far beyond just cleaning your body. Now they have ventured into hair care, face wash, cologne, and even Dr. Squatch deodorant. They have never shied away from talking to men about improving their grooming routine, and now they can do so in virtually every other area of the bathroom.

They have recently branched out even further and have teamed up with Henson Shaving to provide their first every Dr. Squatch safety razor. Henson has been making products that end up in space, so when they put their name on a razor, you can bet that it is out of this world (you know there had to be a pun in there). When you hold the razor itself, it feels sturdy and yet impossibly light, making it easy to handle for the best shave of your life.

Your skin is your body’s largest organ and will absorb whatever you put on it. If you use a lot of fake ingredients, it is easy for you to start feeling the effects. Dr. Squatch wants to make sure you know what is going into your body and why, and they make learning that fun along the way.

Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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