Do online campaigns promote all talk and no action?

Many brands have succeeded in connecting with consumers online, but some in the ad industry doubt if these connections actually translate into real profit and/or growth for the company. Sources have argued each side, some saying online buzz is powerful sales tool while others say that digital chatter doesn’t always translate into results. One of the most highly discussed campaigns of 2010, the Old Spice Guy, shows how online brand communications can drive real action in consumer segments. Wieden + Kennedy released the following case study video highlighting the results of the campaign:

According to Nielsen data, overall sales for the body-wash products are up 11 percent over the last year. They went up by 55 percent in the last quarter. And following “The Response Campaign” sales are up 107 percent.

To find out more about how Old Spice effected consumer attitudes and behavior, I interviewed a group of 18-24 year olds. Reactions to the campaign were overwhelmingly positive in both male and female consumers. “I just felt like its one of the only campaigns in a long time that was real. They didn’t pretend to be some high-class product that they weren’t. They weren’t afraid to make fun of themselves a little bit,” said one male participant.

Females appreciated the humor too, “I really liked that they incorporated me even though it’s a guy’s product. A lot of the things they said just made fun of stereotypical relationship issues and interactions within couples – which I found really entertaining. I’ve probably watched the commercial on YouTube over 20 times.”

But did it really translate into new customers for Old Spice? For some yes, for others no. “I definitely have bought Old Spice a few times since the commercial and before I didn’t even really think about it. I think all guys products are pretty much the same, so I usually buy whatever I think of first. Sometimes its Old Spice, sometimes its not,” commented one male participant. A female participant jumped in saying, “My boyfriend loved the commercials, but I know he hasn’t bought Old Spice since it came out. I think when you go the entertainment route, you risk people viewing it as just a funny video instead of something to do with the product.”

Although opinion and involvement may vary, the statistics make an undeniable case that the campaign worked on some level. It used storytelling to present the audience with funny human truths, allowed them to interact with the character and stayed relevant by recognizing how consumers engage online. Only time will tell if the campaign was able to create long-term brand equity, but it has certainly positioned Old Spice in a new light for young consumers.

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