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Old Spice Man: Epic fail

As reading this blog requires you to be on the internet, it’s a pretty safe bet you’re familiar with the Old Spice campaign that has the entire web talking. And, hard as it is to believe on our jaded internets, the talk is almost universally positive, even the YouTube comments. Now that is an achievement. But while the videos are entertaining and hilarious on a level seldom seen in marketing, they aren’t doing any favors for the Old Spice brand. 

Debuting during the Super Bowl in February to instant acclaim, the campaign features a half naked man who is the symbol of all that is manly. It recently won a Film Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions, the advertising industries highest honor. But the ultimate man’s man didn’t become a bonafide sensation until a few days ago when he started posting video responses to fans’ questions – 180 of them in two days

They even directed a video at 4chan without getting burned


It’s a noble effort from Old Spice to reposition its brand. They are trying to make the leap from the cologne your grandfather used to wear to a young, hip brand that can compete with the likes of Axe. But there’s one big problem: it’s the same product. It’s scent is associated with a time gone by and that won’t be broken by an ad campaign. So while the audience is entertained, their minds aren’t being radically changed about Old Spice – sales have actually dropped 7%


Showing some heart by sending a message to his daughter


But those numbers were tallied before this recent flurry of interest stirred up the personalized videos. Will this new viral surge send Old Spice sales rocketing upwards? Probably not, as all the same problems remain with the disconnect between the message and the product. If they had launched a whole new product line (New Spice?) in conjunction with the campaign that was tailored to what today’s young people want to smell like, then the campaign would have had a much higher chance of converting views into sales. Or even if the campaign had played off the nostalgia for the good old days somehow, like having a Sinatra-esque character talking into the camera. But what we’ve got is youth oriented messaging on top of a product it isn’t suited for. 

It’s still a great example of a viral campaign done right. It’s impossible to say what content will go viral, but Old Spice did as much as you can to deliberately make it happen. They had funny content that people can universally relate to, they spread it through multiple channels, they got fans intimately involved and even exploited new online promotional channels like Promoted Tweets. You can learn about how they made the videos on Read Write Web


The last in the series. Silver fish hand catch!


Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is the beginning a new era for Old Spice that will only become clear in the long term. But I doubt it, they certainly haven’t made a dent in my feelings about dabbing myself with their distinct scent. Has the campaign done anything to change how you feel?



Jason Ross is a copywriter for The Duffy Agency. He loves working on both traditional and social media projects and speculating on the future of the ad industry.



Reader Comments (1)

I have actually tried two of the newer Old Spice lines and they're pretty good. One is called "Swagger" and the other is (fantastically) named "Showtime".

I'll admit that I was a little confused about these new products, since they're not referenced in the ads... but I guess my point is that they are out there.

The ads with Terry Crews are pretty funny too, but are specifically for their odor blocker line.
July 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason Arican

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