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

Oldspice-shoot

Intensity:

  • 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)

Summary

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.

BY DAVID ROGERS

This post originally posted by David on the DavidRogers.biz blog at: http://www.davidrogers.biz

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