Dude, Where’s My Wipe? An Interview with Dude Products co-founder Sean Riley

Euromonitor International is pleased to present an interview with Sean Riley, co-founder of Dude Products, a Chicago-based company that manufactures and sells Dude Wipes. The story about the creation of Dude Wipes reads like a fairy tale for a start-up company – four lifelong friends living together post-college, coming up with a single idea that aims to improve the daily hygiene routine for men and hopefully make an imprint on the billion-dollar tissue and hygiene industry. The company has garnered national media attention via innovative guerrilla marketing techniques, such as purchasing sponsorship space on UFC fighter Tyron Woodley’s shorts, and even gained a spot on the American television show Shark Tank, which eventually yielded a US$300,000 investment from Mark Cuban.

Dude-Wipes-teamWhy did you decide to launch Dude Wipes?

After college my friends and I were all living together in Chicago. During that time I was buying baby wipes in bulk and placing them in the bathrooms for all of us to use. Some of them had never thought about utilising baby wipes as part of their “routine”, but once they started they were hooked. Soon guys were mentioning that they wished they had wipes to use at work or at the bar and that is when we had our “aha” moment. We knew we needed something small and discreet and that was how single-pack Dude Wipes were born.

Who are your target consumers? Do you see this changing?

Our target consumer is the 24-35-year-old male demographic. This is the sweet spot for us as this group’s disposable income is increasing and they are often beginning to become more aware of their own hygiene needs and the products that are out there. That being said, there may be other demographics out there that may be drawn to our product. We approximate that 30% of purchasers of Dude Wipes are women. Our wipes are for dudes – and both men and women certainly fall in the dude category. We have also gained quite a following in the outdoorsmen community. These consumers tend to spend a lot of time away from conventional bathrooms while they are hunting or fishing and Dude Wipes are a convenient product for those situations.

What is your category positioning in terms of price and how did you choose this price segment?

Dude Wipes started out at US$10 per box of single pack wipes and we really based that on the typical mark-ups that we’ve seen across the industry. As a small company we weren’t really trying to get too fancy with the price, rather we wanted to keep it as simple as possible while producing a product that was larger and made from a higher-grade composition compared to its competitors. Over the long term we are looking to bring down prices in order to be more competitive. Additionally, as we move into larger retailers, their economies of scale will allow for our products to come down in cost as well.

How are you different than other wet toilet paper? How are you breaking down barriers for men’s grooming products?

We are absolutely breaking down barriers in the male hygiene category. We are the first company to directly talk to men about how wet toilet paper can improve their lives. We aren’t beating around the bush; we want our product to become a part of a person’s hygiene routine. We were the first company to really reach out and talk to the “dude”. Other products attempt to speak to everyone in very vague and generic terms. This has created confusion and has possibly hindered the growth of the category. By being straightforward, Dude Wipes has been able to target the consumer in a fun and direct way.

How do you aim to change consumer expectations and pre-conceived notions of your product?

There are some struggles in terms of educating the public on the use of Dude wipes. We are utilising graphics and really trying to drive the point home that toilet paper plus dude wipes makes you king of the throne. This is an uphill battle, but it is part of building a first-mover brand in this category.

Could you talk a little bit more about your strategy and how you see Dude Wipes going forward?

Our strategy is simply to continue to introduce the idea of utilising wipes in one’s routine. Our core product falls within the moist toilet tissue category and that is the basis of our business and we see it as a complementary product to tissue paper. Currently, our single wipes and our larger packs are approximately equally popular in terms of purchases by format. While the single wipes were the original format that we started in order to promulgate the idea of discretion and accessibility, the larger 48ct packs were a natural format evolution as people wanted to keep Dude Wipes in their home bathrooms.

That being said, while we continue to concentrate on growing market share for the Dude Wipes, we still recognise the need to look for new product innovation in order to grow our brand. Due to updates in industry technology, we will be able to roll out an updated Dude Wipe that is made up of 100% biodegradable resources very soon. Additionally, we are looking to introduce a new product to our line in the spring of 2016 called the Quick Dude Shower. It is a product that provides all the benefits of a shower in the convenience of a large wipe.

Dude Wipes currently claim that they are made with over 95% biodegradable and renewable resources. What is the reasoning behind going with the environmentally-friendly route?

We really want to stress the idea that we can put a product out there that is good for people and good for the environment. We believe these two concepts are complementary and utilising that as a benchmark will allow us to strive for continuous improvement of our products. Additionally, the flushability aspect of our current Dude Wipes product is very important to us. We have worked with industry experts in order to ensure that our product breaks apart when flushed and we want to continue to educate consumers on the differences between flushable and non-flushable products.

How important is digital media in the branding and marketing of your product?

Social media is extremely important to us. We are very active on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. This allows us to really drive our message of speaking directly to the consumer in the most straightforward way possible. Additionally, it allows us to have fun in our messaging and is a great way to build a community of consumers that are passionate about our product.