What the Old Spice Guy Videos Lacked: Real Messaging


An article late last week on BNET noted that the hilarious viral videos that Old Spice put out recently in tandem with ad/marketing agency Wieden + Kennedy, showcasing The Old Spice Guy (former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa) responding to celebrity and fan tweets, e-mails and other social messages to instantly create one-hit wonder viral videos actually did very, very little in the way of boosting Old Spice’s sagging year-over-year sales.

From Brandweek:

For instance, it was none other than P&G that picked up the Film Grand Prix this year for Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” TV spot from Wieden + Kennedy. There is little doubt about the viral hit’s popularity. Launched in February, the official version has racked up nearly 12.2 million YouTube views.

But sales of the featured product—Red Zone After Hours Body Wash—aren’t necessarily tracking with that consumer appeal: In the 52 weeks ended June 13, sales of the brand have dropped 7 percent according to SymphonyIRI.

(NB: Some media outlets reported last week that Old Spice body wash sales jumped 107 percent in the past month, but that figure comes directly from a P&G spokesperson in a PRWeek article, and has not been qualified by outside sources or analysts. And as B.L. Ochman rightly points out, a sales increase in the past month means little – in this case – considering this campaign is less than two weeks old.)

Twelve million impressions. Pretty damn good, but at the end of the day, if it’s not selling the product long term, over a prolonged period of months and years, and it’s only marginally moving the brand-affinity needle, what good did this campaign really do for Old Spice?

It got the brand’s name back out in the market and probably introduced Old Spice to a generation of consumers who only thought their 75-year-old grandfather used Old Spice (the word “Old” in the brand’s name doesn’t help matters much in that regard, as Lindsay Robertson of Jezebel.com points out), but the fact remains that the online video ads, no matter how successfully they generated social buzz, had little to no actual messaging to them to help shape consumers’ feelings and affinity toward the product. That is where this campaign faltered.

Because all the social buzz in the world doesn’t change the fact that the almighty dollar still rules when it comes to consumer spending. Yes, we’re getting closer to the point where virtual goods and virtual currencies will begin to influence how consumers shop within social networks, and perhaps this social campaign should have incorporated some type of virtual goods platform to immediately engage consumers to buy the product while viewing the videos, but if your messaging isn’t there, the sales will likely not maintain the sudden boost they get from the initial campaign because consumers don’t know why they should feel inclined to purchase your product.

And it’s becoming quite obvious that despite how wildly successful these videos became, they did little to change consumers’ perception of Old Spice as an old, outdated brand, not worth the time or money to become a spending fan of the product.

And at the end of the day, those are really the only fans that matter: ones who spend money on your brand—whether within Facebook, on your website after being directed from a tweet or in an actual store.

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  • FitCity

    Here is a similar article from Ad Age which discusses many of the same topics…

    Nice visuals and stats here along with one telling quote – “Old Spice began to reverse share losses as soon as it (the campaign) began in February.”

  • FitCity

    Here is the link to the article – http://adage.com/article?article_id=145096

  • Thanks for sharing that AdAge article. That's the best display of sales figures I have seen thus far for the Old Spice Guy campaign, though I do have to agree with the reporter that while the ads do appear to now be moving some body wash (as one would presume they were meant to do), it still appears that Old Spice is suffering from messaging and branding issues that will plague the product line's year-over-year sales.

  • There actually is data that the ads did improve sales, from Nielsen: http://bit.ly/aaZ93l .
    Additionally, I would argue that there were two main objectives in the campaign: 1) Increase Sales (of course) and 2) Rebrand Old Spice away from the stuff you imagine your father and grandfather using. And while we will have to wait a few months to fully gauge the success of objective 1, I think they were quite successful on objective 2.

  • Rob – Thanks for chiming in and for offering those stats. I'm going to have to disagree with you about Old Spice having successfully achieved the second objective you laid out in your comment. I think it's a stretch to say in a matter of two weeks, Old Spice has been able to turn around decades of branding and public perception that its products are old and outdated. That actually goes back to my entire point to this post: Nothing about any of those videos with the Old Spice Guy included any type of messaging to demonstrate how and why the products are relevant for a new generation of men's hygiene product buyers. All the videos really demonstrated is that Old Spice is able to very, very quickly listen to its fans (well, mostly those who are either celebrities or famous within the social media world) that they can listen to and engage with them in a real time. That's great, and Old Spice is absolutely to be commended for that, but that still doesn't do much to fix the issue that its products are still largely viewed as being for older generations.

    That's where messaging should have come in and where messaging should have played a central role in this campaign. Be fun and silly and do it in incredibly real time. But do so with some real brand messaging that helps to establish new brand perceptions and brand affinity for an old, vaunted brand that is looking to push sales within new markets and new generations of buyers.

  • jeffespo

    I will be interested to see if this is the tip of the iceberg in the rebrand of the Old Spice brand. Now I for one love the smell and don't care if I smell like an old dude. They are usually wiser any way.

    The sales numbers will be interesting to see if they ever go into the true details.

  • mikeschaffer

    Great points, Keith!

    I think this is an interesting case study in merging advertising and viral marketing in a Web 2.0 world.

    For the record, I needed new body wash this weekend and did support Old Spice (I smell like Swagger!).

    Unlike many consumable products, body wash isn't something you buy all that often. Even if you shower every day (which I do, thank you), a bottle can last several weeks and even months, depending on how sudsy you get. Meaning…there is a built-in lag time in seeing the results of this two-week campaign, man.

  • Mike – Thanks for chiming in. I definitely agree with you that if anything, Old Spice has developed an entirely new model of how we should measure some parts of the success of merged advertising and viral marketing going forward. Really, what Old Spice created was an ad category (real-time online video marketing) that has only before been used on small scale, and typically, in the form of real-life marketing on streets and at events. This takes that to a new level, and it will be very interesting to see how it shakes out in terms of success on sales, long-term branding and other key factors.

  • As our friend PRCog pointed out to me last week, it would be great if this online video ad campaign was just the first phase of a long-term branding campaign by Old Spice, where, instead of simply rebranding or reluanching the brand, they actually take some unique risks and initiatives to develop an entire storyline around the rebranding and messaging process. If that's the case, I would be thrilled, as not only will Old Spice mostly have proved me wrong on this, but the company will go a very long way toward distinguishing itself from other corporate rebranding efforts.

  • Email

    Keith, please cite your sources. Looks like you took some of this from other articles without giving them credit (i.e. the statement about Old Spice having “old” in the name not helping the brand definitely came from this article http://jezebel.com/5591548/alas-the-old-spice-g…).

  • I think that you make a valid point but at the same time I don't think the idea of this campaign was long term results. I personally was a big fan of it. No one expected it and it kept people talking about BODY WASH for days! Even a week after there are still “look at the top 10 funniest” videos that they posted.

    I would be hard pressed to find a way to let people talk about a body wash for a week. They took their TV campaign and made an outstanding social media campaign.

    A big thing that I see is the ROI for social media and the “what do we get out of it ourselves?” question. I personally feel that it isn't always about your ROI. We weren't talking about Axe, Dove, Dial, etc… They had a grasp on the market for that time period. I'm sure they saw a sales spike. Advertising works (disc.: I work in an ad supported field). A great campaign will deliver results.

    Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, the water cooler, etc…all were talking about a guy in a towel in a bathroom talking about random facts and answering questions. I'm sure their YouTube channel grew by miles that week.

    Then they put out a new ad and those thousands of people watch it. Maybe I'm just ranting but I wanted to put in my $.02

    Nice article.

  • Thanks for pointing that out. Citation has been added, and of course, my apologies for the confusion. Nothing intentional, and frankly, I had not read the Jezebel article until now, but seeing that Lindsay Robertson of Jezebel.com had first claim to similar phrasing, I wanted to give her the proper credit.

  • Summerbl4ck

    I agree that it's “a stretch to say in a matter of two weeks, Old Spice has been able to turn around decades of branding and public perception that its products are old and outdated.” BUT I also think it's too soon to call this effort a failure. Also it's not fair to imply that Old Spice has been BRANDING itself as old and outdated, that's a perception problem. The key to this campaign is, I think, in targeting. You say 12 million impressions is “pretty damn good” but more important is whether those impressions were the RIGHT ones. The campaign grabbed my attention for sure, but as a woman I'm not buying Old Spice body wash and my husband buys his own damn soap. So any spending on me as an impression was wasted. I think we have to wait to see what Old Spice does next and see more long-term data on what happened during and after Mustafa.

  • Seems pretty successful to me. Sales are up and now when I think of Old Spice I think of “Old Spice Guy” and this campaign. They definitely need to back it up with continued spots and a phase 2 campaign, but all-in-all I don't know how it could be viewed in any other way than an extremely successful campaign.

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