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How Duke Cannon Changed Men's Grooming Forever


On Veteran’s Day in 2011, Anthony Albanese and Sam Swartz launched what would eventually become known as Duke Cannon Supply Company. These two individuals had formerly worked for Pepsi Co, in the company's marketing department. Eventually, they decided that they wanted to create their own business and they eventually made the decision to create something that was geared not only toward men in general, but specifically toward veterans. The goal was to create a product that men would want, one that was useful, and one that would allow them to donate a portion of their profits to veterans in the long-term. That singular product was known as the Big Ass Brick of Soap. It wasn't long before the product with a funny name was making the rounds in homes all over the country. Since then, the company has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, to a point that it has even surprised the two men who were responsible for launching in the first place.

Continued Growth

Five years later, Target executive Ryan O'Connell joined the group and sales continue to skyrocket. It wasn't long before the company that had originated with the goal of selling products directly to customers, all without the involvement of larger retailers, was expanding into stores nationwide. Make no mistake about it, they still sell plenty of products directly to consumers. As a matter of fact, they even have an entire division that works on nothing but direct-to-customer sales. After all, that is the backbone of the company and it's how they got their start. Therefore, it only makes sense that they would continue to do business in this fashion because it has been proven time and again that it works well for them. In reality, it was only after O'Connell joined the group in 2016 that they really began focusing on adding some major retailers to their repertoire as well. Prior to that time, they had been in some independent stores while simultaneously selling directly to consumers. Thanks to O'Connell's efforts, they are now featured in nationwide retailers such as Ace Hardware, Duluth Trading Company, and Ulta, just to name a few.

Moving Forward

O'Connell has been quick to point out that they are one of the only companies (if not the only company) that he can think of that can simultaneously sell the same products in both Ulta and Ace Hardware. After all, these two stores couldn't be any further apart in the types of products that they sell. Therefore, it would only make sense that products from the same company wouldn't be sold at both stores. That said, it seems to work well in this particular case. In fact, they have just as many sales of their products that are available from Ace Hardware as they do from Ulta. In addition, they have continued to expand their product line throughout the years. While they still offer the same product that started it all, that certainly isn't the only thing that they're selling these days. That said, everything they sell is indeed geared toward men's grooming.

Available Products

So, what kind of products does the company offer these days? As it turns out, they offer just about anything that you can imagine. They still offer soap, but they've also expanded their product line to include things like beard grooming products, shampoo and body wash, after shave, and just about every type of hair styling product you can imagine. The truth of the matter is, anything that you want to be able to find as far as men's grooming products are concerned, you can find them right here. Since they still offer their products directly to consumers, you don't even have to leave the comfort of your own home in order to get anything and everything you want. While you can certainly travel to your nearest participating retailer and buy the products directly off the shelves if you so choose, you can also have everything shipped right to your door. Aside from not having to leave your home, the other benefit of doing things this way is that you have the company's full lineup available at your fingertips. That may or may not be the case when you're traveling to a store, as they're only likely to stock the products that sell out the quickest. If you really want to take advantage of everything the company has to offer, it's best to visit their website and go from there.

A Unique Approach to Marketing

Another thing that genuinely sets this company apart is that they have a very unique approach to marketing. Even the people who are responsible for marketing their products say that their own techniques are what appear to some as counterproductive. For example, they don't use models. In fact, they say that you will never find one of their products being advertised with the types of models that people have become accustomed to seeing on television. When they decide to advertise one of their products nationally, they hire people that are already working for the company to do that advertising. Typically, they pick someone who doesn't particularly have the physique of a model and they do it intentionally. The idea is to appeal to the desires of most men by creating a product that these individuals can easily identify with. In doing so, they create an opportunity for them to sell a product where that opportunity might not otherwise exist. They have routinely stated that they are an “unpolished company.”

No Posh Products Sold Here

As a matter of fact, they pride themselves on this fact. The company executives say that the last thing they would ever want to do is become super polished or posh because that would go against everything that the company has built its brand on for years. As a result, they have decided to create a product that they feel is available for the average hard-working individual, allowing other companies to focus on the more posh aspects of male grooming. Apparently, it's an approach that has worked quite well, as the company has been expanding almost constantly since day one. While many people expected them to fail with their business model, they have proven those people wrong time and again. In fact, a lot of people told them that they would never be able to succeed when getting started with only a single product that was marketed directly to consumers. Self-proclaimed experts told them that they needed to have a larger number of products available for sale and they needed to involve major retailers in order to experience any appreciable level of success. As opposed to listening, they went ahead with their marketing strategy and it couldn't have worked better. These days, they have plenty of products available and they are involving major retailers, but not because they need to. Rather, this is the result of extreme success as opposed to efforts that they are conducting in hopes of finding that type of success.

Balancing Two Different Types of Sales

The executives at the company are always quick to point out that it is vitally important to learn how to successfully balance sales in brick-and-mortar stores along with digital sales. That is one reason that the company has essentially created an entirely different department for its brick-and-mortar sales, especially as the company moves into more and more stores nationwide. The executives are all in agreement that in order to be a truly well-rounded company, it is necessary to have an online presence while simultaneously being present in various physical locations. Only then are you truly able to reach all types of customers. Despite the fact that shopping online has become much more popular than it was even two or three years ago, it still isn't something that everyone is completely comfortable with. Therefore, focusing only on digital sales would completely eliminate the entire customer base who doesn't shop online. By the same token, focusing only on brick-and-mortar stores would severely limit potential sales for the company, as it would cut out all of the digital sales that are available. Since the company makes a significant amount of its profits from online sales, it simply wouldn't make any sense to eliminate digital sales in favor of selling exclusively in brick-and-mortar shops. That is precisely why it's so important to be able to have a presence in both categories. Failing to do so limits the potential clientele and therefore, also eliminates potential profits.

The Changing face of the Game

There's another thing that company executives are also quick to point out. The entire face of this particular product line has been changing rapidly over the course of the last several years. As such, most companies have found themselves in a position where they have been changing the types of products they sell in order to better market those products to consumers. This particular company hasn't had to worry about any of that. Again, it comes back to having that unique marketing strategy. Their products have always been different to go along with that marketing strategy. Therefore, they haven't experienced the need to change things up in the same way that many other men's grooming companies have. This has given them a definite advantage when it comes to increasing sales.

A Different Outlook

You might think that the executives are looking to monopolize the industry in a way like never before, but their outlook is actually quite different. In fact, they typically talk about the benefits of being able to have additional competitors coming into the market. That's because they focus more on the needs of consumers as opposed to individual success. As a result, they tend to think about the fact that consumers will be the ones to benefit because they will have so many options at their fingertips as opposed to having only one or two products to choose from. That's definitely not the outlook that most people expect to find from any company. The truth is, it's rather refreshing.

A More Accepting Culture

There is also another reason behind the company's continued success, especially in the last couple of years. It wasn't that long ago that many men would flatly refuse to use any type of specialized grooming products. That's because popular culture dictated it wasn't masculine to do so. Fortunately, those types of stereotypes have begun to fall away. As a direct result, more and more men are making the decision to spend more time on personal care. That has allowed the company to sell more hair care products and more skin care products. Marketing officials for the company are quick to point out that the same individuals who wouldn't have been caught dead performing a skincare routine three or four years ago are now doing that same type of routine on a daily basis. There's no doubt about it, skin care and hair care is no longer marketed exclusively to women. People have started to recognize the genuine benefits of living a healthier lifestyle and making that lifestyle more well-rounded. That includes paying attention to things like skin care and hair care. Since more men have come to recognize the need for these types of routines, the company has had an opportunity to dramatically expand its product line and enjoy ever-increasing sales at the same time.

As things continue to evolve in the market, there is no doubt that the company will evolve as well. In fact, they have even entertained the idea of slowly expanding into some additional markets, but only when they feel like the time is right for them to do so. Until then, consumers can find contentment in the fact that there is an entire range of high-quality products available for them to use and enjoy. Whether they choose to shop online or visit their nearest retailer, there is no doubt that they will be able to find products that are truly useful, often without all the pomp and circumstance that might go along with some other brands.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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