Tag Archives: Old Spice

It’s not as easy as it looks: the secrets of successful online campaigns

So what is the real key to creating campaigns that resonate with consumers? Rob Rose of iMedia Connection looks at some of the unnoticed work Wieden + Kennedy put in to make Old Spice’s campaign a success, and teaches brands some important lessons in the process. The first thing he emphasizes is the fact that Old Spice didn’t reach social media stardom overnight. Instead, it took three years of tweaking to achieve the perfect combination of satire, swagger and dialogue. Take a look at Old Spice’s progression, starting in 2007.

This level of patience is important for brands looking to make a mark in the digital community. Wieden + Kennedy kept retooling their ads as consumer responded, allowing them to create a hybrid campaign that combined the best elements of their previous videos. Brands that want to be online need to accept that it sometimes requires a long-term investment.

That brings us to the second key lesson: digital campaigns also require offline investments. Although the Old Spice phenomenon started online, to take it mainstream Wieden + Kennedy made key investments in traditional media. According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, Old Spice spent approximately $54 million on media in 2006. In 2007 Nielsen estimated approximately $80 million in media spend. It’s a safe assumption that the media buy for 2009 and 2010 was in the hundreds of millions of dollars (Rose). This mass exposure created the level of exposure Old Spice needed to fuel “The Response Campaign” that fed off consumer responses from Twitter, Facebook and other online outlets.

Finally, Old Spice is continuing to evolve. In his recent Q&A session, Rich Silverstein said, “Agencies will never stop pitching, whether you don’t have the account or you’ve had it for ten years.” This sentiment also has important implications for brand-consumer relations. Brands that don’t evolve as popular culture changes will cease to be relevant. Alternatively, brands that constantly strive to connect with consumers in new ways, tap into cutting-edge trends and play on the insights they discover will build long-term brand equity. Those that don’t will become passing fads.

Rose, Rob. (2010). 3 things you don’t know about Old Spice’s success. iMedia Connection. Retrieved from http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/27462.asp.

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.

“Excuse me for saying this, but it’s only a f*@$%ing chocolate biscuit”

This phrase was uttered by an agency planner working on a new chocolate cookie for Nabisco.  His client mistakenly believed that housewives would be reduced to hysterics over a new product improvement that added an extra half-millimeter of chocolate all around the biscuit (Steel, 1998).   This statement reveals a painful, but accurate truth: most people don’t care about the intricacies of a product or service.

With the increasing penetration of online networks in the market, many companies naïvely cling to the idea that consumers are falling over themselves to comment on their brand’s Facebook page, Twitter stream, YouTube video and blog.  And of course after doing so they will promptly run to the store and buy the product.

Unfortunately, many brands are finding out the hard way that it doesn’t work this way.  While there may be 60 million Facebook updates a day (Qualman, 2009), but you can bet that most of them aren’t about products.  To understand how brands can develop effective digital content, we must first understand the core elements that make commercial messages successful.

In “Made to Stick” Chip and Dan Heath explore the common elements shared by   phenomenons such as urban legends and proverbs.  These messages went viral long before the internet was even conceived.  By exploring the commonalities between these messages we can learn important lessons on how to successfully communicate with consumers.  Below I explore the six elements of effective messages, and what this means for digital communications.

Successful messages are…


Consumers have always had limited memory capacity; now they also have highly segmented consumption habits, a diminished attention span  and a need for immediate gratification.  Tweets are 140 characters, status updates are rarely longer than a sentence and even URLs are being condensed.  Thus, if a consumer can’t explain why an online video or site is worthwhile in a sentence or two, it’s unlikely they will ever share it with their network.


The best messages talk in the language of the consumer.  Nabisco’s agency planner knew better than to talk to housewives about how many millimeters of chocolate were on each one of their cookies.  Even if it was put into terms they could understand, it is unlikely that it would break through the clutter and even more unlikely that they would care.  However, they might care if they found out their family was getting twice as much chocolate-y goodness for the same price.  This is an extremely important concept for digital messages.  Consumers have infinite entertainment choices and information outlets online.  They are not going to take the time to wrap their minds around a complex or convoluted statement.


There’s a reason why Old Spice and Nike enjoyed some of the biggest viral successes last year.  People expect deodorant to talk about how well it can keep you dry.  They expect an athletic company to talk about why their products make athletes great.  But these companies didn’t do that. Instead they discovered something the consumer was already familiar with – the desire to impress the opposite sex, the excitement that one moment of a championship game can lead  to glory or despair – and presented these moments in a fresh way.  It paid off: Old Spice’s sales doubled.

To fully understand how brands can develop effective digital messages, we must first understand what makes a message appealing to the consumer.  Although there may be a lot of important things we want to say about the product or service we are offering, it ultimately does not matter what we think.  By focusing our digital messages on simple, concrete concepts and presenting those messages in an unexpected way we can capture the attention of consumers in saturated medium and encourage them to share the experience with their networks.  In the next post we’ll look at how brands can leverage credibility, emotional appeals and stories to create consumer interest and involvement.

Steel, Jon. (1998). Truth, Lies & Advertising: The Art of Account Planning. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Heath, Chip & Heath Dan. (2008). Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Rev. ed.). New York: Random House, Inc.

Qualman, Erik. (2009). Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.