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Old Spice Inspires: When in Doubt, Go Dumb

Sometimes, I love marketing and developing long-term strategies that change the perception of a business, increase the reception of a brand, drive sales, and skyrocket a company’s success. Today isn’t one of them.

The online marketing world is ablaze at the brilliant strategy of the Old Spice guy.

If you’re one of the few that hadn’t heard, the Old Spice guy is hard at work answering Tweets through his YouTube channel personally. He’s responding to people with huge followings and those with a small following (but mostly the HUGE following).

Are we really that shallow and dumb? Throw a nice-looking guy with great voice inflection in a towel and give him some snarky comebacks, and the world looks at it as pure genius. Is this original? Isn’t this simply the Go Daddy boob campaigns re-invented? Is it really that amazing?

Twilight? Sex and the City? Frogs in Beer Commercials? Go Daddy Boobs? Old Spice guy? Maybe we should all quit trying to be so damn intelligent and dumb it down a little.

PS: I am that shallow and dumb. I love these commercials, and I’m being a total hypocrite. However, I will stand by the fact that I haven’t smelled Old Spice since seeing my Dad get it as a stocking stuffer in the 70’s. I don’t think he ever used it. It begs the question:

Is this campaign actually selling more Old Spice?

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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  1. I love this campaign! Have you been following the back-and-forth between Old Spice Guy and Alyssa Milano? Alyssa has even filmed her own video response asking Old Spice Guy to send $100k to the oil spill relief fund after he sent her a dozen roses.

    Her reply is at

  2. I totally admit to loving it, too, Patric. That’s my point, though. Should we abandon all our sophisticated targeting and drip campaigns and simply write some funny lines and get someone to show some skin to do our marketing?

  3. Well I’m a guy so obviously the skin factor does nothing for me. Instead, it’s the witty dialog they give him and the way he speaks it that makes it funny for me. Now the ladies on the other hand may have a different opinion.

    So I don’t think this is about skin. It’s about being clever. I think the Toyota “Swagger Wagon” video is one of the most creative and downright funniest videos (commercial?) I have ever seen. And yes, it makes me want to buy a Toyota Sienna.

    As for GoDaddy, of course the skin appeal is effective. But honestly, I bought from GoDaddy before those ads came out and I didn’t buy any more because of the ads. If tomorrow HostGator started showing “skin” ads I would switch everything over to them just because of the ad. Nor would I buy my next domain through them.

  4. “That’s my point, though. Should we abandon all our sophisticated targeting and drip campaigns and simply write some funny lines and get someone to show some skin to do our marketing?” — Doug, no offense but you are way off base on this. Old Spice is repositioning their brand to a younger audience with some very creative marketing. They are using multiple mediums, print, television, online (YouTube),and social media to reach their target audiences. How, as a marketer, can you say this isn’t at least a good start of a very good campaign? Just because they don’t have a drip campaign doesn’t mean it’s bad marketing.

  5. I think ‘will this sell more Old Spice’ is a question many people are afraid to answer right now 🙂

    I think it will. This is all positive for the brand. I think many will take a new look at Old Spice just because we’ve been thinking about it for the past 2 days straight… particularly if they’re using lady’s scented body wash 🙂

    However, is the brand doing anything for me to connect emotionally with it? Is it building loyalty? Aside from being engaging, not really. I think this campaign is just one piece of what’s yet to come from what we’ve formally called advertising.

  6. Douglass, the campaign is definitely funny. It get’s people talking about the brand. Which with a brand thought of as something only your dad or grandfather used, is the first step into getting people to try it again. Old Spice has changed a lot since only having after shave. I think Old Spice is going more for funny and comment provoking ala The Most Interesting Guy in the World, than something else like Axe.

    I can’t agree with you on the comparison to GoDaddy. Obviously, GoDaddy is targeting Men with those commercials. If Old Spice was going to use Sex Appeal to sell, they would have the GoDaddy girls falling all over him, similar to Axe.

    I agree with a lot of the points Patric is making, and the “Swagga Wagon” is a great commercial, and the Trunk Monkey commercials are awesome as well. I think Funny lasts longer and is more memorable.

  7. I just have to say first that I also love this campaign. It’s entertaining and people want to get involved. What more could they have asked for.
    Now, as to your question about if it’s actually selling Old Spice, that’s debatable. I think most people have the same thoughts about you that “that’s what my dad used in the 70’s” but I think that the campaign is trying to change that image. It’s trying to get the younger people to consider it as a fun brand instead of one for my dad.
    I did actually notice someone in my twitter stream this morning say that after watching the camaign their more open to the brand than before. Does it mean they’re going to buy it? Maybe. That will come down to how they like the smell of it, but I think it has a lot more people at least looking at the old spice in the drug store than before.


    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    Now I’m on a horse!

  8. Yep, I’m dumb enough to think that Old Spice is cool and it works. Considering that most people still pigeon-hole Old Spice as an Old Man’s brand – it begs the question – Did any of those fancy branded, commercials, and print ads work? I guarantee that they were much more expensive than the Old Spice YouTube effort.

  9. My girlfriend came home last night and told me she picked up Old Spice and smelled it for the first time ever yesterday because of those videos. Turned out she liked it, and wants me to try it.

    It’s a sample size of one, admittedly, but within that sample it’s working. 🙂

  10. They certainly achieved what most brands would love to have these days (a campaign propelled and spread by the consumer), and Old Spice has ultimately become ‘cool’ again. (Um…was it ever cool? I think I might be too young too know much about Old Spice..)

    To me, this kind of ad doesn’t necessarily make you ‘trust’ the brand, like in the case of GoDaddy (website hosting being something that needs a level of trust – a man’s scent; not so much) but if I saw Old Spice on the drugstore shelf, I’d probably give it a sniff now, just to see what he actually smells like 🙂 I’m engaged with the brand, I’m interested in the brand…that all counts for something, right?

    Dumb is good. Dumb is approachable; mainstream. Dumb is an escape. But you can’t call this dumb. It’s clever, and it’s sex. A combination that’s impossible to resist. 😉

  11. It’s great to hear an opposing viewpoint rather, but this campaign is SO very different than GoDaddy Super Bowl ads. Not a fair comparison IMO. Not apples to apples, it’s apples to ribeye.

    The only similarity to the GoDaddy campaign is the “showing skin” part.

    I agree that’s skin for skin’s sake is inane and dumb if that’s all it was but in this case it’s used in a complementary fashion to a more engaging campaign.

    Proof? I don’t think many girls shared the gratuitous GoDaddy gratuitous ads with their friends and networks. Alternatively, PLENTY of guys shared and continue to share the Old Spice ads, despite having a shirtless man as the primary visual element. The fact that they’re willing to do so shows that the “skin” isn’t the reason they’re sharing.

    GoDaddy’s ads were traditional one way advertising, correct? There was no personalization and no way for me to “engage” with Danica Patrick directly. Same with your other examples. Even if the Old Spice guy doesn’t respond to a certain person who asks him a question, that hope that he will and fact that he does respond to so many differentiates it from GoDaddy, Twilight, Sex and the City and frogs in beer commercials.

    It’s the engagement and personalization that makes this different. A wise marketer once told me that all email marketing should be 1) anticipated 2) personal and 3) relevant. Most companies can’t even do with with email and Old Spice managed to do it with an ad campaign.

    What do you think?

  12. Prior to the last week, I don’t believe that I’ve uttered the words ‘Old Spice’ unless jokingly referring to the smell of an old man. However, I too have drank the ‘Old Spice’ social media campaign Kool-Aid. I love it. It’s engaging. It makes me want to run to Twitter and come up with something really crafty in hopes that Old Spice Guy will make a video just to me. Does it have anything to do with his sex appeal? No. It’s the thought of momentary fame (yes, I’m that shallow), a really cool engagement with a brand (whether I buy it or not) and something really fun to share with friends. Has all of this excitement translated into a sale for me? No. But I will tell you that the next time I’m at shelf, I’m going to pop the top off of one of their packaging bad boys and take a whiff. There’s one very important barrier between a great campaign and me shelling out money at the drugstore. That’s the product. If it doesn’t smell good, work well and provide value for money I’m not doing the transaction. Good on Old Spice for compelling me to put their brand in my consideration set.

  13. Per @davefleet:

    – Awareness: Check
    – Conversation: Check

    This is as far as most ad campaigns are able to go, however for me this has gone farther:

    – Consideration (see it on shelves and NOTICE it, think about it): Check
    – Single Purchase: Check

    I can see my gf (if she was in Canada) stopping, smelling and wanting to try it on me due to these. It might only drive a single purchase per 1/20th of viewers, but at that point it’s the product’s job to drive repeat purchases.

    It’s a win in my books, which is actually kind of hard to say because it is shallow. Brilliantly executed, hilariously funny, magically integrated into social media but still shallow. And I love it.

  14. The idea of these commercials is to:
    1. Increase awareness. Done.
    2. Start conversation. Done.
    3. Get people noticing Old Spice on the shelves. Done (read the comments above me).
    4. Get people to buy the product. Again, done. Sure the numbers are still coming in but already I noticed that my friends are trying it out even though their dad used to use it way back in the day.

    BUT I wouldn’t go so far as calling it a social media success story just yet. Is it successful at raising brand awareness? Hellz yes. In fact, I’ve got a running tally on who would win a brawl between Old Spice guy and Dos Equis guy (assuming Chuck Norris didn’t exist because we all know he’d win) BUT until I see numbers on sales of the product thus far it’s only been used as an awareness campaign.:) The question is can you be loved but also move the product?

    You can love the Dos Equis guy, but do you love Dos Equis beer? Did you buy it once after the first few commercials? Did you continue to buy it afterwards? If there is a disconnect between the brand and the product you’re only going to get one-off purchases which is not the end goal. You want to create a brand loyalty – no matter how catchy the slogan(s).

    Think I’m off-base?
    Call me out but be warned: I’m a lover not a fighter but I’m also a fighter so don’t get any ideas.
    Now look at your woman, now look at me. I’m on a horse.


  15. The other night walking the aisles of the grocery store I came across the Old Spice. Were I not well stocked on toiletries I’d of bought it to give it a try. The campaign is definitely pushing it to top of mind and anecdotal evidence would show it’s making a sale or two.

    What I love about the campaign is that it does understand the quirky nature of the internet culture. The team wasn’t just executing, they were listening and they were responding. The flirtation with Alyssa Milano, right down to sending roses to her house. The delivery of a marriage proposal. The direct response to someone with no huge following who was scoffing that Old Spice Man only talks to the famous folk. The delivery of soundbites so that the reddit community could create

    Is this high art? No. But then, was selling soap ever high art?

    I am definitely interested in learning what sort of results P&G will see from the campaign and would love to learn how this recent stretch of the campaign compares against the initial super-bowl ad, both in terms of impressions and in terms of sales.

    …monocle smile P_^

  16. You know how you know this is a big winning campaign?
    Because of the reaction it’s received. You are absolutely correct in your analysis but at the end of the day advertising is like art. If people think its good, then its good regardless of being shallow, tacky, smarmy, hackneyed, tired, lame, whatever. Funny is funny, good is good and results are what matters.

    Numerous folks below have already testified people are already considering, trying and buying a product that no one under 60 has bought for 20 years.

    These guys motivated some of the most experienced and cynical social media influencers to jump on board and promote their campaign and give it real street cred. Something very few brands ever do.

    That is a home run!

  17. I know that I currently use old spice products and that I started buying them around the time of the famous ‘I’m on horse’ commercial. Is that entirely thanks to the ad? I’m not sure.

    Whether we can measure new business with this campaign or not to me, isn’t the most important result. I think that, as Jeremy Wright implies in his comment, that conversations should be considered a worthy metric because positive conversations define the brand’s experience and how it is positioned with the public. Social Media is cool way to letting a brand be influenced by consumers, which allows it to resonate more with a buyer. I feel that Old Spice has stumbled upon a similar sentiment where they the customer feels ‘part of the team’ so to speak.

  18. Sorry Chris! I don’t think @GuyKawasaki and @AlyssaMilano aren’t a ‘younger’ audience. As well, social media isn’t a ‘younger’ audience. Trends are showing that mid-30s and older have the fastest adoption rate in social media. This was a pure viral play… point to people online with big audiences, capture their attention (and their EGO) and do something that makes them talk about Old Spice.

    I didn’t say it was bad marketing, I’m just curious if it’s marketing that will actually work.

  19. Your analysis of the Old Spice stunt = FALSE.

    The Old Spice videos were brilliant not bc of anything on the screen, but bc what he is saying is awesome. I’m pretty sure it’s two things: (a) he’s talking TO us and (b) what he’s saying is clever. The amount of diffuse knowledge they brought into their little responses are both concise and incisive. They knew exactly what to say, and the timing & timeliness of those responses is what we’re fascinated by. We are so used to a dehumanized, anonymous experience while surfing the web, that any attempt to talk back to Joe Everyman (i.e. to break the monotony) is welcomed with open arms. Why are flash mobs so popular right now? For exactly the same reason (but relating to our inane experience within the polis). It’s almost less expected on the internet since it’s almost second nature to get lost in the fray. Old Spice made the possibility of being talked to incredibly evident, and if we participated, we wanted to be included with Joe Everyman So yeah.

  20. I use Old Spice shower products. No deodorant or anything else. Their shower products are really good. I found it hilarious when these commercials started on the scene.

  21. They are younger than my dad, so yes a younger audience! 🙂 They had TV spots rolling way before the social media aspect…it’s still a multi-channel marketing effort that appears to be part of a bigger campaign. The proof is always in the #’s so we will have to wait and see if it worked. Right now it would appear that it is working…it got you to write about it…and knowing that you are a smart marketer yourself, I bet you knew this post would garner a lot of discussion and link juice too 🙂

  22. Is driving revenue the defining factor for whether or not this campaign is a social media success? I might beg to differ because it would seem to me that 26 comments on your article alone, countless (millions maybe) tweets and other social media interactions all point to a social media marketing success story.

    Even if there isn’t a direct sales increase it is hard to say that the increase in brand awareness and introduction to a new market doesn’t have value and provide a platform for the next efforts.

  23. Aleksandra,

    ‘Some purchases’ or even a spike in purchases still may not have the Return on Investment necessary to indicate success on a campaign like this.


  24. I’d bet its selling more Old Spice – because its creating an awareness so the next time you’re in the store you’ll notice the Old Spice of today isn’t the same Old Spice your dads wore on the 1970’s. They’ve expanding their line greatly and some of the new stuff is absolutely fantastic.

  25. Marty,

    Us old guys that have been around for a while have seen many campaigns like this come and go. We’ve seen everyone scream from the rooftops on brilliant campaigns, only to see stock prices and sales continue to fall later. That’s why I’m critical of this campaign. I love it personally and I’m astounded at how much noise I hear… but I just wonder if the long-term impact will be there.


  26. Agreed on all points … except the question or reservation about whether this campaign is a success or not.

    The slam dunk, for any company, is to have amazing marketing AND amazing products. I have no doubt this campaign will nudge people to make a purchase … but if the products “stink” (pun intended 😛 ), then you can’t blame the marketing.

    In other words, I believe the campaign objective – for Old Spice or Dos Equis – is ‘Try my product’ … not ‘Become a lifelong advocate for my product’. In that regard, this Old Spice campaign is WILDLY successful!

  27. True but was that the goal for this particular effort? They are obviously trying something new, attempting to revitalize the Old Spice brand and make it more appealing to a younger generation. Ultimately this will lead to sales but was that the goal for this effort or was the goal more about awareness and re-branding a product that was perceived as an old mans product? Now they have a great platform from which to step forward and promote the product with driving revenue in mind. Is that not a success? Was that not driven by social media?

  28. Dumb it down? Yes. Otherwise it won’t go viral. Here’s a real-world scenario. Because Old Spice launched their viral campaign to stimulate non-advertising discussions like this one, several guys I know are in here raving about how great their products are. Now I feel compelled to check out the Old Spice section of the shelf the next time I go to the store. They just won a new customer.

  29. I agree with Adam, the real success stories lie in the rebranding campaigns companies like Dominoes and Old Spice are able to pull through that generate the buzz necessary for people to engage and evaluate- then they hopefully change their opinion in favor of the product. Yes, a lot of the activity on social media platforms by big business is difficult to measure with direct revenue changes, but the value generating a truly engaging conversation is enormous.

  30. If it’s so dumb and so easy, why aren’t more doing it? The spots are brilliant because people are talking about Old Spice. Period. Exclamation point.

    Your point is valid but irrelevant. It’s marketing & it’s brilliant in it’s dumbness. BTW, I think the repartee in the Old Spice ads is a little smarter than GoDaddy.

  31. Gentlemen, you are missing an important market segment… This campaign isn’t targeted at men…It’s targeted at women. We buy the stuff for our husbands, and boyfriends. And we like the campaign.. :*

  32. Yes, this campaign is selling more Old Spice products.

    According to Neilson Co. Sales are up by 11% over 52 weeks, and over the past three months, sales jumped 55 percent and in the past month, they rose 107 percent. (Brandweek July 25, 2010)

    Sales for Red Zone hit $1.6 million for the four-week period ended July 11, a 49 percent jump over the four-week period ended Feb. 21, SymphonyIRI’s data shows. The other four Old Spice Body Wash products also show a lift. Overall sales for Old Spice Body Wash rose 105 percent for that period

    If these numbers are correct, it looks like an amazing success to me.

    Pre 2010 “Old Spice = Old Man Gross!”
    Post 2010 “Old Spice = Man on a Horse everybody is talking about and sharing via Social Networks”

    LOVE IT!


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