Archive for July, 2010

Lessons from Old Spice Guy for Big Consumer Brands

July 29, 2010

Old Spice GuyLast week, the ad world was abuzz over the shockingly smart Old Spice digital campaign by Wieden+Kennedy (the mad men who taught Nike to “just do it”).

The brand’s series of 186 “video responses,” posted to its YouTube channel in a 2-day blizzard of creativity and interaction, attracted 35 million views in a single week. They catapulted this recently-ailing brand into the most popular sponsored YouTube channel ever (with 8 of YouTube’s 11 most-popular videos). And they generated an estimated 1 billion PR impressions in one week.

Best of all, the campaign’s viral success was not a fluke.  Old Spice Guy’s YouTube feat holds lessons for many consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, who have struggling to figure out how to market a fresh, relevant “brand story” for products like body soap, when print and TV are declining, and new media seem more amenable to scrappy micro-brands than to behemoths marketed by the likes of Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and Kraft.

Two Steps to Digital Brand Building

Old Spice’s campaign succeeded with an artful two-step:

Step 1: Traditional Media

  • Pay: millions for a major national media spend (TV, OOH, etc.)
  • Hire: high-end creative talent (if you’re going to be on the Super Bowl, look like you belong)
  • Objectives: concept development & launch;  broad reach & awareness

If you missed it, Old Spice launched a brand character (you remember those warhorses, Tony the Tiger and the Duracell Bunny?) with the most old-fashioned of vehicles: a giant television media buy kicked off with the Superbowl, and a glittering CGI-driven 30 second spot (that overshadowed the character a bit, frankly).  The new character, “Old Spice Guy,” played with rippling abs and comic charm by the former NFL Wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa, seemed to be a keeper.

Step 2: New Media

  • Pay: nothing for free media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Hire: top creatives and a crack social media team
  • Objectives: creative execution matched with interactivity, to drive viral adoption in customer networks

The breakthrough thinking came in stage 2, a new kind of YouTube campaign. For two days, Old Spice Guy announced online that he was taking questions via social media like twitter and Facebook. As queries came in (“How many teeth do sharks have?” “What is the manliest thing you have ever done?” “Can U Ask my girlfriend to marry me? “) the answers started to come back, in the form of hysterically funny videos on Old Spice’s YouTube channel, each less than a minute long, with a new question answered every 7 minutes.

Best of Both Worlds

What Old Spice man shows us is that it is possible (with the resources of a major brand, partnered with a strong agency) to combine interactivity with a truly rich content experience.  That is, in the concepts of my research on customer networks, to combine a CONNECT strategy with an ENGAGE strategy.

Prevailing models for marketing in customer networks have focused on one or the other.

In digital programs like Doritos’ augmented reality packaging (where holding the bag to a webcam generated a holographic concert by the band Blink-182) or Kraft’s “iFood Assistant” app (which helps customers shop and cook, with the aid of branded products), the experience is rich, immersive, and full carefully designed brand signals (ENGAGE), but conversation with the brand (CONNECT) is limited or absent.

On the other hand, in social media programs like Comcast’s @comcastcares Twitter channel (answering customer service issues), or Pepsi’s Refresh Everything website (seeking customer votes on community projects to fund), the emphasis is on interaction and conversation with the brand (CONNECT), but the user experience is quite functional, and not really able to convey an “emotional” brand (ENGAGE).

Old Spice’s campaign shows a model for how to combine the best of both worlds:

  1. the emotional power of great branded content, wit
  2. some of the interactivity of a social media channel

That was the “oh my god” of the Old Spice videos that took everyone’s breath away. To send in a message on Twitter and get a 140 character reply from a person is now old hat. To get 140 characters back from a Fortune 500 company is still pretty cool (especially if they seem responsive and authentic). To get a hilarious comic video with the iconic face of a national brand speaking to you… was thrilling.

What It Takes



  • 2 days, 11 hour shifts
  • 186 video responses produced

A crack ad team to:

  • Churn out scripts and punch up silly lines
  • Run around finding appropriate props
  • Film in rapid-fire in a single setting
  • Select or edit the best takes (all at a rate of one finished video per 7 minutes!)

A web team to:

  • Vet all incoming requests
  • Pick the best (mix of questions, mix of celebrities, social media shakers, vs joe-anybody’s)
  • Get the finished videos up on YouTube and distributed into Twitter, Facebook and other channels

…and most critically:

  • A strong creative concept already developed (the brand icon’s personality and spokesman)
  • Permission from the brand owner (Procter & Gamble) to do this without vetting each video (an amazing level of trust)


Customer network marketing can work.  And it doesn’t have to be a crapshoot. Rather than hoping for your customers to create something spectacular on their own (like the “Diet Coke and Mentos” viral videos), or launching a Web-only campaign that you hope will take off on its own (fine for a small brand like Blendtec, but not for P&G needing to maximize a large marketing budget)… big consumer brands should find ways to keep telling great stories, and using digital media to combine interactivity with creativity. CONNECT + ENGAGE.

P.S. My Favorites

I haven’t watched all 186. But these are two of my favorites so far.

The first is Johaness Beals’ wedding proposal – charming, and a video anyone can get.

The second is Demi Moore – pure wackiness, to show how pushing the brand is what makes it work.


This post originally posted by David on the blog at:

[Video Mondays] The Power of Open Innovation

July 26, 2010

Today’s digital media allow customers and partners of all kinds to partner with companies, and with each other, in incredibly dynamic ways.  These network collaborations may follow a number of different approaches.

One approach that has garnered a lot of attention is contribution systems, such as Wikipedia or Linux, where a great many participants each contribute a small piece to a large project (Wikipedia’s encyclopedia, or Linux’s operating system). But there are other successful models of network collaboration as well.

One of these is the open competition, wherein a network of participants is invited to each attempt their own solution to a defined challenge, with one or more “winners” selected for reward (money, fame, peer recognition, or combinations thereof).

InnoCentive has been a leader in this kind of collaboration. They have developed a global network of 175,000 of “solvers”—independent academics, graduate students, and experts in a variety of fields who are based in 175 countries and linked by the Internet. More than a hundred organizations, among them Procter & Gamble, Eli Lilly, and the Rockefeller Foundation (called “seekers”), turn to InnoCentive’s network to tackle the toughest problems that have stymied their own research and development departments.

I was delighted to have InnoCentive’s CEO Dwayne Spradlin speak at this year’s BRITE ’10 conference on “The Power of Open Innovation.”

Below is a video of his talk in full. Enjoy!


If video does not appear, click here to watch it on

This post originally posted by David on the blog at:

What Media Want vs What Customers Want

July 23, 2010

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my previous post challenging the notion that apps for the iPad and smartphones are somehow signaling the coming end of the open Web (“iPad Dreams and the Delusions of Big Media.”)

But this deluded idea has not gone away. In fact, more wishful journalists keep piling on, declaring the impending doom of the Web with unconvincing displays of regret (to cover the giggles of their schadenfreude).

One of the better such pieces was Michael Hirschorn’s “Closing the Digital Frontier” for The Atlantic.  He offers a thoughtful assessment of the utopian ideology of early Web pioneers, including Stewart Brand’s famously truncated statement that “information wants to be free” (… and expensive).

Yet I still don’t buy Hirschorn’s prediction that the growing power of Apple will make a “rush to apps” irresistible, despite the “lack of uptake” by consumers for paid content.

In an interview with Bob Garfield on On The Media, Hirschorn sets the issue up as a looming digital Cold War between Apple (pushing closed systems) and Google (promoting the open Web).

But the crucial flaw in Hirschorn’s argument was pointed out by the next guest on the show, DailyFinance media columnist Jeff Bercovici:

There are a lot of people who think that all of this talk about how apps are going to be the dominant mode of consumption on tablets and on smart phones are kidding themselves.

All the things that make apps so hugely attractive to media companies–the idea that they can really control the environment, that they can, you know, serve you this sort of richer advertising that’s harder to opt out of–all of those things are exactly the things that make it less attractive to a lot of media consumers.

And that’s the crux of it.  Shifting to closed systems is attractive to media companies, but not to their customers.

In the wide-open, hyper-competitive world of digital media (where an innovative startup will happily steal your audience in a minute), I would put my money on the customers winning.


This was originally posted by David on the blog at:

Verizon Rebrands Itself for the Digital Age

July 22, 2010

I really like Verizon Wireless’ new brand positioning – which hones in on the importance of digital access to today’s customers.

For years now, Verizon has been focused on the strength of their network – and have established that as a perceived point of difference in the minds of customers. But the execution has been lagging.

“Can you hear me now?”, with its exclusive focus on dropped calls, doesn’t match an era when customers use their smartphones to access music, maps, social networks, work applications, and countless other digital experiences.  At the entrance to Penn Station, I’ve seen Verizon’s billboards for months, trying to point out the advantage of their network for these new, mobile-networked customers. But the ads have been boringly rational – focusing on functional benefits (giant coverage maps of the US) and telling you how you can download a song instead of waiting for a signal.

Verizon’s new slogan is “Rule the Air.”  (microsite here).


I love how this takes network access and distills it into a powerful, compelling experience. Instead of focusing on the functional, it stresses what the experience of greater connectedness feels like for the customer – and wraps it up in a pithy and powerful phrase, “rule the air.”  (Dig that, Nike.)

The focus on the customer comes to life in the handsome and diverse faces of hypothetical Verizon customers, each proclaiming what “rule the air” means to them:

“I don’t just use signal. I wield it like a master.”
“I discover myself 140 characters at a time.”
“I don’t just consume media. I live off it.”
“My data stream is a tsunami of brilliance.”

I saw Verizon’s new billboard entering the Lincoln Tunnel from Jersey this weekend: “Be See. Be Heard. Be Published.”  Today’s networked customers want more than a phone call, they want to connect and express themselves.

Look out Ma Bell.


This post originally posted by David on the blog at:

Video: Airline Best Practices in Social Media

July 20, 2010

I’m starting a new series of posts, which I’ll call “Video Mondays.” For the next couple months, at least, I’ll be featuring videos I’ve produced on topics related to customer networks, business, and strategy.

The first is an interview I shot last winter in Mumbai with Shashank Nigam, Founder of Shashank was with me at the World Brand Congress. He was talking about brand strategy in the airline industry, and focused on the impact of social media and networked customers.

Shashank talks about the unique branding problems faced by the airline industry, about the ROI on social media programs by airlines like JetBlue and Virgin, as well as the organizational side – how airlines may best organizing their new customer-network-facing teams.

Enjoy the interview!


If video does not appear, click here to watch it on YouTube

This post originally posted by David on the blog at:

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