They had been wiping themselves with baby wipes, seeking a product that produced a clean better than toilet paper alone. They decided they could create something better – a product that could disrupt the wipes market.
DUDE Wipes was born, launching in 2011. And the founders haven’t looked back.
DUDE Wipes, which went through SKU’s second track, now makes fragrance and fragrance-free, on-the-go flushable wipes and wipes for the face and body. The brand has become a household name through grit and a strong determination to differentiate the brand from everything else in the $10 billion toilet paper market. The founders appeared on Season 7 of ABC’s “Shark Tank” – one of several SKU companies to pitch to the sharks. Dude Wipes is one of the show’s top 10 companies for all-time sales.
The past few months have been an exciting time for DUDE Wipes. The New York City FC soccer team announced a new partnership. And they recently launched the DUDE WIPER 1000™ – a bidet attachment that boasts a dual-action nozzle to “clean with precision” and requires no electricity or plumbing.
The success of DUDE Wipes is proof that innovation can happen in any category – even the toilet paper aisle.
Sales are soaring, with annual revenues surpassing $60 million a year – an estimated “1.1 billion butts.” During the pandemic when toilet paper disappeared off store shelves, DUDE Wipes saw a huge sales increase. On a single day in mid-March 2020, DUDE Wipes sold 10 times more than their typical day’s worth exclusively through the DUDE Products website. They also are sold in large retailers nationwide as well as on Amazon.
The future looks bright for the category. According to an analyst at Euromonitor International, a global leading independent provider of strategic market research, there is stronger growth for general purpose personal care wipes at large. Per capita usage of wipes is higher than pre-pandemic times due to greater hygiene awareness.
Pandemic fuels kick-ass sales
Over the years, DUDE Wipes has leaned into bathroom humor, which has resulted in a viral social media success, A video titled “DUDE Wipes, Take it to the Hole,” – in which Mark Cuban has a cameo role – is an example of the brand’s marketing savviness. Some of the most popular videos are user generated posts that don’t cost the brand a penny. One TikTok video, titled “When your dad tells you to stop renaming DUDE Wipes,” has gotten 6.2 million views.
Their journey hasn’t been without its stumbles. A foray into deodorant and soap wasn’t successful, moving too far away from their core products. But overall, they have made few missteps by having a strong sense of their mission and purpose.
“Figure out who you are and keep doing it,” Riley says.
Riley, DUDE Wipes Chief Executive Dude, shared some entrepreneurial tips with the SKU Atlanta 2021 founders during the kickoff class on Brand Positioning.
Be ready to succeed with or without investment
As an early entrepreneur, Riley thought he needed investment money to succeed. If you’re too focused on raising money and it doesn’t happen, it could be devastating for an emerging brand, says Riley. The only money that DUDE Wipes has raised since it was founded is a $250k deal from Mark Cuban on Shark Tank. He advises founders to adopt a dual mindset: put together business plans and seek out the right investors, but also have a plan for how you’re going to grow without investment.
“Nobody is going to guarantee you a check,” says Riley. “If you don’t raise money it doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path. It just means you’re on a different path.”
Read, Read, Read
Riley encourages founders to read everything they can get your hand on. High on his list of are books by marketing gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout, including The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Marketing Warfare and Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.
“I read every single thing they wrote and it changed the trajectory of our business,” says Riley. “It literally changed the strategy of our business by sawing through books that cost $10 on Amazon.”
The slippery slope in CPG are line extensions. “We’re entrepreneurs and we have lots of ideas – the shiny objects,” Riley says. “We always think, “We can do this and we can do that.” Before innovating, you should focus on being the king of the category.
At one point, they wanted to become a male grooming brand and decided to make soap and deodorant. It didn’t work out. Anytime you divide your capital and energy, you’re going to be less successful in the war you’re trying to fight, he says.
“Every piece of energy and capital we spent not on the toilet paper aisle took away from our focus,” Riley says. “If I was an investor and a brand was talking about expanding into other categories, the founder would need to explain to me why it makes sense. Your brand isn’t going to mean more than one thing to people. That was an important realization.”
Differentiate or Die
Brand positioning is everything to a brand. Without it, everything is difficult – from marketing to operations to channel strategy. When DUDE Wipes first entered the wipes world, they decided they would make their products for men.
“Nobody had done that in the history of the world,” said Riley. “But every day, people were asking why we didn’t come out with Dudette Wipes and Little Dude Wipes.”
Riley said successful brands do something your competition isn’t doing and and know who their customer is.
“Everyone is going to try to make you everything for everyone,” says Riley. “As soon as you try to be everything for everyone, you water down your brand. Great brands mean something to some people. We’re this fun black sheep of the toilet paper aisle, even down to the color. That’s why we’re winning this war in the paper aisle.”
Obsess over Quality
“Branding is really important, but don’t kid yourself,” says Riley. “Nobody gives a shit about your brand (no pun intended). People buy things because they work, they work beautifully, and they solve some problem they have in your life.”
If you have a bad product, word spreads and people won’t continue to buy. You should always put yourself in the shopper’s shoes. When the shopper comes to the aisle, they want to grab something that works. He says DUDE Wipes is always learning, improving and perfecting the brand. For example, they look for the cutting edge of flushable fiber.
“The big boys are pulling pennies out,” Riley says. “You should be putting pennies in. They’re playing a shareholder game. You’re playing a customer game. As fun as DUDE Wipes is, it’s quality over everything.”