3 Lessons the Old Spice Guy Taught Us About Marketing

Social media was abuzz last week with a campaign featuring Old Spice Guy, otherwise known as The Man Your Man Could Smell Like. (Still don’t recognize him? Hint: He’s on a horse.)

Beginning on Monday, July 12, ad agency Wieden+Kennedy made a series of 87 short videos featuring Isaiah Mustafa, the actor in the original blockbuster Super Bowl ad, responding to comments on various social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The video responses were posted to YouTube and the Old Spice Twitter account alerted the original commenters to their personalized replies.

Because the creative team was savvy enough to respond to both highly visible personalities online, like Ashton Kutcher (who has over 5 million Twitter followers), and to non-celebrity users, the campaign was instantly popular and spread quickly and widely. In one of the most notable cases, a man proposed to his girlfriend through the Old Spice campaign—and she accepted. (It even spawned an offshoot site on which you can generate an outgoing voicemail message for yourself featuring Old Spice Guy’s voice.)

While a viral and highly entertaining social media campaign can be lots of fun for internet marketing folks like us to watch unfold, does it apply to regular companies and organizations who don’t happen to have a team of ad-libbing copywriters and a very handsome, half-dressed spokesman?

Actually, it does.

Here are our takeaways from the campaign that lit up the internet—and the kinds of questions we ask clients in order to apply these lessons to their campaigns.

1. Attention from Influencers Still Matters.

For all the newness of social media, much of what worked for this campaign is drawn from the pages of old-school PR. The greater the influence of the outlet that covers you, the wider your message will spread. If your product is reviewed in the New York Times, over 1 million readers will see its name. If your product is tweeted about by Ashton Kutcher, 5 million followers will hear about it. Old Spice recognized this by ensuring that it interacted with social media influencers.

Who is influential in your market? How can you get your message in front of them?

2. Good Creative Amplifies Your Message.

In the case of Old Spice, it wasn’t just the use of “new” marketing channels that caused the campaign to spread like wildfire. A huge part of its appeal was the highly entertaining nature of the videos, from the snappy copy to the actor’s dry, winking delivery of his lines to the silly visuals. Not every good campaign has to be funny, of course—but every good campaign is creative.

Have you re-evaluated your marketing creative lately? Do you treat it like an after-thought?

3. Reach Your Audience Where They Are.

Old Spice wanted to increase its market share among young men, so they’ve advertised and marketed in the channels where young men are found. They began with a traditional, offline channel—a TV commercial during the Super Bowl, later aired during prime time shows. This latest component of the campaign builds on that existing awareness with this audience in the places where they live online, from Reddit to YouTube to Facebook.

Where can your audience be found? What’s the best way to reach them?

More Coverage

As with any good PR campaign, Old Spice Guy generated an avalanche of media coverage. Here’s just a sample of some of the other blogs and outlets that wrote about the campaign:

Your Turn

  • Did you catch the campaign while it was happening? What was your favorite video?
  • Have you ever used social media to amplify an overall sales and marketing campaign?
  • Has the campaign made you more or less likely to buy Old Spice body wash?
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