Old Spice campaign for dummies

If you’re wondering what this whole “Old Spice Guy” thing is about, you’ve come to the right place: this is a brief explanation of the “Old Spice Guy” ad / social media campaign, (and a few thoughts on it too for good measure).

Let’s put it simply: this marketing campaign will be remembered as the most fantastic use of social media in years, and the beginning of a new way of interacting with your audience and customer base… In the next few months, you will start seeing a lot of brands trying to adapt and reproduce their methods. As they should.

Here’s what happenned:

1) A few months ago (February 2010), Old Spice body wash launched an incredibly successful commercial video that went viral on the net in days:

2) This week, they capitalized on their success by releasing a new video:

3) But that’s not where the genius lies. Coordinated with the release of that latest ad, the “Old Spice guy” took to YouTube, Twitter, and other social media outlets.
For three days, the creative team was reading the comments, writing and shooting incredibly wacky responses and posting them to their various accounts in real time.
They of course targeted prominent personalities to propagate their videos (both from the traditional media and the twitter sphere), but also answered questions and comments from “regular” people. Here are a few examples:

Note: Haley Mustafa is the “Old Spice Guy” (Isaiah Mustafa)’s real daughter.

And the goodbye video concluding the campaign:

All the videos are of course available on the Old Spice YouTube channel, and the responses created for this campaign have their specific playlist. You can also find all of it on their Twitter page.

As you can guess, this was an unprecedented success: overwhelmingly positive perception of the brand, the character, and the marketing effort…
Here are a few notes on why this was so intelligent and exactly why it worked out so well (in my opinion):

  • I won’t dwell on this, but the writing staff and Isaiah Mustafa himself are all incredibly talented people. It needs to be mentioned, even if it is obvious.
  • The responses were incredibly fun. That’s a given. But they weren’t just “regular funny”, they were “internet funny”. The writers knew their audience, and they wrote specifically for it. It’s not easy to talk to “The Internet” without sounding condescending or old fashioned. These people knew what they were doing, they’re genuine social media and Internet users, and it showed.
  • Consequently, the conversation was very personal, even if the responses weren’t addressed to you personally. The brand wasn’t talking at you, it was creating a real global social media conversation / event.
  • Even though this was very carefully crafted, none of it felt like it was a piece of advertisement that was trying to sell you something. The message felt “heartfelt and sincere”.
  • The creative team was allowed to work with the enormous amount of creative freedom that enabled them to work fast enough to make this happen the way it should. Old Spice has always had wacky communication, but P&G should still be commended for the risk they took here, going outside the beaten path.
  • And most of all, the brand was not shoved down the throats of the viewers. Barely mentioned here and there, cleverly integrated in some responses and in a relevant way. But there was no big logo, no signature sound, no nothing that a traditional marketing manager would have demanded to see in an ad. Still, everyone was talking about Old Spice and the Old Spice guy as a result of the campaign. The result is that people now associates the Old Spice with “incredible coolness”. Hell, I even want to check it out!

My conclusion: this is a work of genius and will be taught in schools for years.

And a note to those who will try to copy it: there were so many different things that were done so right here that it will be very difficult to replicate. Many will focus on one or two things that they think made the success of the campaign: “have a funny dude”, or “answer @replies”, or “be wacky”. And they’ll be pointed to as wanabes. My advice would be: watch, analyse, learn, and take this into account for your next campaigns, but for the love of all that is holy do not try and create exact replicas of this. Don’t make the “weird Mountain Dew dude”, or the “strange Rover explorer”, or the “funny Duracel rabbit”, it will not work. (Well, maybe the rabbit). And please please please do not create the “sexy beer bimbo”, please. This would be so obvious and silly it would be painful.
In short: learn and adapt to your needs, don’t just copy. Except of course for the next Old Spice campaign that I’m sure will come in a few months. I can’t wait…

July 16th, 2010