What Can We Learn From the Old Spice Guy?

About two weeks ago, Old Spice’s advertising partner, Wieden + Kennedy, had a brilliant idea: have the star of their commercials, Isaiah Mustafa, aka “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” personally thank people online for their comments about his videos. Some ranged from celebrities like Alyssa Milano, some included media outlets, and others had less than 100 followers on Twitter.
 
It was a brilliant campaign, and I, like other of my colleagues, applauded them for doing it. It’s sometimes hard to agree on whether there is benefit of this kind of one-to-one outreach, but I think we can all agree Old Spice is seeing it.
 
Hey, wait a second: Time.com, among others, say the ads got attention but not sales. According to WARC, body wash sales had fallen 7 percent.
 
Except now others are disagreeing, saying sales were actually up 107 percent. According to Nielsen, as reported by Adweek.com and others, “Overall sales for Old Spice body-wash products are up 11 percent in the last 12 months; up 27 percent in the last six months; up 55 percent in the last three months; and in the last month, with two new TV spots and the online response videos, up a whopping 107 percent.”
 
And there’s the fact that Isaiah is now going to guest star on Chuck and appear in a movie with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
 
So what made the Old Spice campaign such a success, both in terms of media attention as well as sales?


  • He was funny. Plain and simple.

  • It was an incredible combination of traditional media and social media. You probably saw him on TV but didn’t really connect with it until the buzz started hitting online and people started sharing his videos. So while the social media part of the campaign cost very little (I assume), it did cost a lot in traditional advertising spending — at least six figures I would wager.

  • In the video responses, the Old Spice Guy talked in his “character,” but the content of the video was all about talking about what the commenter wanted to talk about . . . like helping someone with a marriage proposal. We always work with our clients to ensure that when you’re engaging online, you shouldn’t just talk about you and your brand — you should talk about what your audience wants to talk about. Old Spice Guy proved our case for us.

The numbers are early and they are good, but it’ll be interesting to see if they remain on the uphill climb. It will certainly depend on the next phase of the campaign – I can’t imagine they’re done just yet – but one thing is for certain: Old Spice is now on a lot of people’s minds and it’s definitely for a different reason than it was six months ago, one year ago and five years ago.

Alan has been with Ketchum for more than five years. Follow him on Twitter at @adanzis if you want rare insights about PR and social media, and tons of stuff about video games, technology and other sci-fi and nerdy things.