How David Mitchell’s comic rants helped make Bulldog the UK’s fastest growing male grooming brand

Simon Duffy, founder of male grooming brand Bulldog, reveals how online TV shows fronted by Peep Show’s David Mitchell helped the business take on the industry big guns

Simon Duffy, founder of male grooming brand Bulldog, reveals how online TV shows fronted by Peep Show’s David Mitchell helped the business take on the industry big guns

We set Bulldog up as a challenger brand in the male grooming market and wanted to stand out. As a whole, the market is incredibly boring and dull.  The likes of L’Oreal and Nivea spend many millions of pounds on marketing their brands, yet there’s nothing really unique about them and they pretty much do everything the same. For example, they all use very similar formulations, market their products in exactly the same way, and just repackage traditionally female products for men. We wanted to do something that didn’t involve cheesy black and white shots of half naked sportsmen or actors.

Bulldog competes with them by being different. In the same way that Bulldog is the only brand that is bringing something exciting and fresh to the category in terms of our product formulations and ethics, we wanted to do the same with our marketing. That is why we explored comedy and pioneered a new way to connect with people online.

Challenging the norm

We hired the production company Channel Flip, which had fantastic credentials in comedy and in creating internet television in the UK. One of the founders, Justin Gayner, was part of the team behind Stephen Fry’s QI. So when we were introduced by mutual friends they seemed like ideal partners to work on this project with. We brainstormed a few ideas but as soon as the idea for working with David Mitchell came up, it seemed like a perfect fit.

David Mitchell’s Soapbox is a unique partnership between Bulldog, the comedian David Mitchell, and production company Channel Flip. When we approached David with the idea we were delighted with how interested he was. David has already had phenomenal success with shows like Peep Show and The Mitchell and Webb Show, but seemed intrigued by the idea of doing a solo show. He was also keen to explore the idea of doing something purely for the internet as no other British comedian had tried this previously.

Audience engagement

David’s self-deprecating British humour is a great fit for the Bulldog brand. For us the bulldog sums up all the positive attributes of men: he may not have a rippling six-pack, in fact he’s a little overweight and quite wrinkly, but he’s also tenacious, loyal, honest, hard-working and protective. We see him as ‘man’s best friend’.

The aim was to create an online series that would allow us to raise awareness of our brand and engage our target consumer group. We wanted the shows to feel authentic, so we gave David complete editorial control. When we started we hoped to achieve one million views, and today we’ve exceeded eight million, with users able to download for free via iTunes, where it’s one of the most downloaded shows in its history, or view on The Guardian website’s homepage,  Youtube, or our own website

We knew that online TV was a really exciting concept that we felt wasn’t being utilised by brands properly.  The response has been phenomenal. Like anything, if you start with a great idea it’s easier to build momentum. We’re always keen to try new things. I don’t want to go into how much we spent exactly, but to put it in context the last series cost us about the same as it would to run a handful of ads in a major men’s magazine, which when you consider the eight million views, seems good value.

Getting down to metrics

But what measurement metrics and return on investment (ROI) measures did we put in place at the outset? We used three metrics specifically:

Consumer engagement – measured through a series-long online competition promoted via the branded bumpers at the beginning and end of each show. To date we have had over 15,000 entries – our most popular competition so far.

Online sales – by creating  ‘The World’s First 3D Podcast’  we were able to offer branded, limited edition 3D glasses with every online purchase to drive sales at We also incentivised purchase through trackable online coupon codes. Online sales have risen by over 20% since the start of the activity.

Show views – we have been able to measure the shows’ success by tracking the views from the different media channels (iTunes,, Youtube, etc). As mentioned above, with a goal of one million views at the start of the activity, we have now passed a total of eight million, smashing internal expectations.

We’ve also had more than 180,000 people download our Soapbox iPhone app so far. Had we anticipated this level of interaction, perhaps we could have used this opportunity in a more engaging way as part of the overall campaign, but you live and learn.

Bulldog continues to be the fastest growing skincare brand in the UK. As our biggest marketing investment to date and having generated so many views, we attribute a lot of this continued growth to Soapbox’s ability to raise brand awareness in our core consumer group. Bulldog’s retail sales in the UK grew 65.4% in the past year to £2.1m. This year we have also launched Bulldog in Scandinavia, America and Japan. We think David’s quintessentially British style of humour will be warmly received by people in these countries too. The integrated approach to the campaign has allowed us to communicate the brand story and engage consumers in a way where traditional marketing techniques would fall short.

When you’re a challenger brand you need to do exactly that: challenge. If you follow the same boring marketing blueprints drawn up by the larger established brands you won’t make an impact as you won’t have the budgets to compete on the same level. What you can do though is be more intelligent and innovative. We’ve been absolutely delighted with the success of the first two series of David Mitchell’s Soapbox and we’ve got some very interesting marketing activity scheduled for 2011, so watch this space.           

David Mitchell’s Soapbox

Did you know that for centuries the giraffe was known as the camelopard, as in, ‘a bit like a camel, a bit like a leopard’? That seems extraordinary. Say what you like about the giraffe, but it’s pretty distinctive. You don’t look at a giraffe and confuse it with a leopard. Or a camel. So why call it a camel-leopard? I can only assume the poor creature fell foul of the marketers. ‘Look at this extraordinary creature I’ve found!’ cried the discoverer. ‘It’s totally new!’ ‘Yeah’ replied the marketer. ‘People don’t like totally new things. They like things like they like already. Like leopards. People are crazy for leopards. Is your thing like a leopard?’ ‘Er, no, it’s nothing like a leopard! It’s not like anything! It’s fifteen foot tall! It’s got a six foot long neck!’ ‘People don’t like necks. They like spots. Has it got spots?’ ‘It’s got patches.’ ‘There you go! It’s got massive spots! Now we’re getting somewhere. What else has it got? Has it got a hump? Cos people love camels!’ ‘No…but it is an even-toed ungulate.’ ‘I have no idea what that means, but it sounds camel-y to me! Sold! We’ll take 5,000 of your camel-leopards, and if anyone asks you, downplay the neck.’ And thus began the science of animal marketing. Remember when they tried to market the cat to people who like dogs? ‘Introducing Cat – the new, compact, selfish dog! Do you love your dog, but hate the space it takes up, and its selfless devotion to you? Then you’ll love new Cat! Small, neat, and doesn’t care if you live or die! And don’t miss our new lines coming soon: Panda – the penguinny bear! Snake – the new, streamlined lizard! And Gerbil – the kiwi fruit that wakes up!’




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