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Old Spice: the man, the brand, the new marketing feat

July 16th, 2010 by | 9 Comments

By now you’ve probably seen Old Spice as a trending topic on popular social networks. And by now, you’ve also probably seen videos of ex-NFL wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa cruising around the social media spectrum delivering personal meme-tastic messages directed at famous personalities and the common social network denizen. It’s a pretty creative marketing approach that captures the Internet’s modern age culture and references, and it sure looks like it could set a marketing revolution that changes the way products are promoted across the online platforms.

If you’ve been particularly busy this week to sneak a peek, here’s the low-down and why it works:

Part of the Wieden+Kennedy-backed marketing campaign for Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice line of men’s products, the campaign was launched by a video titled “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” which was conceptualized and fleshed out into its current hilarious meme-happy direction by Craig Allen and Eric Kallman.

In it, Mustafa promoted the product, delivered in near-deadpan showing one fantasy scenario after another as he performed awesomely manly feats. It was done in a single continuous shot and unleashed during Superbowl Sunday and into the Interwebs in early February.

And then it became viral. As of writing, the initial video has since garnered 13,475,888 views and 18,051 responses from Old Spice’s YouTube subscribers which, as of writing, has reached 98,218 and is still growing. Word soon spread across online social channels including giants Facebook (on which it now has about 596,6178 Likes) and Twitter (with over 70,799 followers), as well as both Digg and Reddit. The figures alone are testaments to the success and overall reach of the campaign.

Obviously, the video’s primary selling point is humor, and the team behind the campaign executed it so well, pulling in the general demographic they intended to appeal to and then some. To some degree, it has succeeded in combining viral elements (like ridiculously manly attributes of the Chuck Norris meme variety) with a deep understanding of their audience and has been kept afloat by a strong social media marketing presence. Humor’s also spread evenly across the company’s Youtube, Facebook and Twitter accounts where Mustafa is photographed with facial hair and armed with a battle axe on a motorcycle—all are made of thick, frothy bubbles.

During an interview with the TWiT Network’s Leo Laporte where he talked to both Kallman and Allen as to how the spot was made, Kallman remarked “This ad was aimed to talk to women as well as men, since women do a lot of soap and body wash purchasing for households. So we tried to still do a funny Old Spice spot that guys would love but also one that hopefully women would like as well.”

And indeed it works, proving to be highly amusing to the brand’s target audience because of the impossibly awesome feats from a muscled shirtless guy addressing the viewers in deadpan irreverence that coasts along the fringes between machismo-driven suave and downer-buoyed chill.

Or in the words of one @cowbelle78 on Twitter: “I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel, but I’m enjoying the sh*t out of the Old Spice guy videos.”

Mass media, as they are wont to do, has since picked up on the campaign which did nothing but boost its already northbound online reputation even further. It has spawned several parody videos and has even gone on and parodied itself in a handful of ads with the obnoxious Terry Crews replacing the smooth Mustafa.

While it and its subsequent ads also gained considerable fame and a strong following, what came next was absolute genius: the Old Spice Guy began personally addressing several popular celebrities and responding to inquiries and requests from random followers off its social network profiles in video form.

The new step in the campaign had the Old Spice Guy giving a “get well soon” message to Kevin Rose as a response to the Digg founder’s tweet about being under the weather, pseudo/faux flirting with Alyssa Milano (to which the actress responded with a dare) and producing a rather absurd video to Demi Moore’s request for a special video response which involved beating up a piñata with a petrified freshwater fish. The spokesperson has also asked a hand in marriage on behalf of some random follower.

The idea is simple and yet it’s ingenious. And at the end of its 24-hour run, the campaign has produced more than a hundred video responses. Though it eventually bid adieu with a closing farewell video (silverfish hand catch!), it managed to reinvent Old Spice’s image and online reputation. And with it, the company continues to deliver its underlying promotion without having to shove the product down everyone’s throats. The audience, meanwhile, has recognized content that’s valuable for them and has thus become the brand’s unofficial link-spreading engine on the social networks.

In a world littered with ads and conspicuous product placements (which the Old Spice Guy also makes fun of), the Old Spice campaign is truly a success. It has arguably raised the bar in product promotions and both reinvigorated and revolutionized the use and relevance of social media in today’s marketing world. It has debatably secured for itself a notch among other successful social media marketing accomplishments possibly alongside the likes of Blendtec’s Will It Blend? videos, Gary Vaynerchuk and his Wine Library TV and Starbuck’s My Starbucks Idea among others.


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