Dorco’s “All The Firsts Make the Man” campaign, which Vero ran in Vietnam from August 2020 through January 2021, gained millions of views and responses despite the Korean razor brand’s underdog status and unconventional messaging for its target audience. Its success came down to two main factors: an inclusive concept and emphasis on user-generated content.
A TVC-style brand video introduced the concept with a comedic depiction of a young man’s firsts: following his crush home, being cheated on, getting drunk, traveling alone, and coming home late. But the core of the campaign was a contest in which Dorco invited young people to share experiences of their “first times” doing something (with the double-entendre as a winking attention-grabber) and thereby encourage young men to identify the brand with their own formative experiences.
People submitted their stories and photos to a Dorco landing page, and Vero curated them to post on Dorco’s Facebook page, choosing to feature stories that were likely to get attention and lead into other activities. The stories that got the most votes received prizes, including Dorco razors and Sony mini-speakers. The top three respectively involved traveling to Ha Giang, volunteering to help people during Covid-19, and a boy choosing which university to attend. Other popular posts included first times traveling the country, going to the big city alone, working a new kind of job, becoming a parent, cooking for one’s family, going on a family holiday, taking a university exam, volunteering with children in the highlands, and climbing Mt. Fansipan.
For Account Lead Amy Tran, it was its own kind of first. “This was the first time that I got to run a user-generated campaign,” Amy says. “I mostly work on social and PR campaigns, which are fundamentally one-way. When we wrote the plan for this Dorco campaign, we tried to brainstorm which activities are suitable for Gen Z, who are media-savvy and averse to anything obvious, cheesy, or sentimental. Young people today already create so much of their own content to entertain others, and many of them see themselves as micro-influencers. So giving them the kind of one-way content they could make themselves won’t cut it. They want authentic involvement – something that’s as much their creation as ours. It’s more impactful because it’s not about the razor, it’s about themselves, with the razor as a trusty companion along the road of life.”
The contest idea seemed simple and fun in theory, but its execution was more complicated.
To spread the word, twenty micro-influencers spread the story contest on Facebook and Instagram using a viral challenge in which they took a photo of themselves doing something for the first time – from exciting travel (the contest-winning trip to Ha Giang was one of these) to mundane activities like their first time eating cereal with orange juice. This required a balancing act between giving participants the freedom to keep them interested while maintaining enough editorial oversight to keep the stories on-topic.
“For this kind of campaign, you have to decide how much control you want to have,” Amy says. “Give up too much, and there could be controversy with your client’s name on it. But if you don’t give people enough, you’ll kill the sense that people are creating the campaign with you rather than being spoon-fed it. We wanted it to feel fun and young, but some stories were very deep and meaningful, so we had to decide which of those to include. As with any first experience, I had my worries – that nobody would participate, despite all our ads and influencer promotions, or that the stories would be unsuitable for the other activities we had planned. I was so happy to be wrong on both counts.”
Three key influencers who also shared the brand video – a game streamer, a young pilot, and a singer – used Facebook to spread the concept. They told their own stories and linked to the landing page in the captions. Later, Vero used the same influencers in a music video – which Amy scripted based on the team’s ideas – in which they played six young men facing trials in their lives, some of which were based on the stories people had submitted.
Vero also worked with Beat.vn to create a collaboration vlog featuring street interviews with young people in Hanoi about their first times doing something. While the stories were genuine, Vero seeded in references to razors and shaving and branded the vlog as sponsored by Dorco. The street interviews ran concurrently with the contest to maintain buzz.
Following the contest, Vero collaborated with comics page Chuyen Thang F.A to create three animated videos inspired by the winning stories, tweaking them to be shorter and more eventful while maintaining the core of each story. Each video included an image of the Dorco razor in a way that made it seem like a natural part of the story. The product placement is obvious and meant to be cheeky and fun rather than sly and manipulative.
Each activity in the “All The Firsts Make the Man” campaign supported and synergized with the others to form an inclusive message about the diversity of men’s experiences and ideas about what it means to be a man. It also positioned Dorco as the young person’s alternative razor brand – hip, aware, and relevant to those who do not see themselves in the “aspirational” style of mainstream brands.
“Ironically, the market leader in razors here famously created a very gender-progressive ad for the US market a couple of years ago,” Amy says. “But here in Vietnam, they use the same old aspirational stereotype of a man who has it all – an athletic body, handsome face, great job, and beautiful girlfriend, as if simply shaving well can give you all that. Most young people these days recognize that as a fantasy. They are less bound to the gender ideals of previous generations and wary of anyone who says that a product will change their lives. Rather, they want to integrate the products into their lives – to make them part of their identities. By failing to recognize this, Dorco’s competition miss a big part of their potential audience, which has opened an opportunity for Dorco to stand out.”
“As a marketer, one of our key tasks is to recognize opportunities like this and convince the client to take the risks they need to take advantage of them. Fortunately, for Dorco this was a major success that has helped to define their identity in the Vietnamese market, and we’re working on the follow-up campaign now.”