What Marketers Can Learn From the Old Spice 'Your Man' Campaign

Stick to P&G's Well-Stirred Mix of the Three Media: Paid, Owned and Earned

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David Hallerman
David Hallerman
Ladies. And gentlemen. The Old Spice "Man" campaign is not for everybody. It is only for the Old Spice Man. If you want your own campaigns to smell as sweet, here's what not to do. And here's what Old Spice really did. And here's how that can apply to you.

One thing quick-witted marketers should have learned from Old Spice is that the horse has left the barn. Copycat campaigns with a series of edgy videos starring a sexy spokesman who talks directly to the audience is not the best takeaway. These marketers learned, as well, that soliciting questions on Twitter, responding with YouTube videos and reposting all of it across various social-media channels is not an exact recipe for winning advertising accolades.

Finally, the most clever marketers saw a major sticking point in making the Old Spice Man into a model for their own campaigns: its success depended on excellent, compelling creative. And while every brand would like to think all its video assets are compelling, that's clearly not the case. Making advertising videos that consumers want to watch is, in truth, very, very difficult.

Instead, even though some have called this campaign the ultimate case study of viral video or social-media marketing, the lessons here are more easily swallowed in pieces than whole. That is, instead of imitating the Old Spice Man, consider its more universal lessons: that this Procter & Gamble division figured out how to effectively blend ingredients from the three marketing media -- paid, owned and earned -- to reach its target audience.

The marketing feat got its start from traditional TV commercials, supplemented by cinema ads (paid). Then the campaign migrated to an interactive mix of brand microsite with Facebook and Twitter pages (owned), and continued its momentum through consumer interaction and word-of-mouth on social sites and beyond (earned). Finally, the campaign gets continued lift from additional online advertising -- both banner and video ads -- which drives traffic back to the brand's site and social-media pages.

The overall lesson for brand marketers from the Old Spice campaign is its well-stirred mix of the three media. Paid media, advertising both online and offline, are often essential in encouraging usage of owned media (brand sites or pages) and setting the spark -- if the creative is hot enough -- for earned media (word of mouth). Therefore, developing a campaign from day one with coordinated plans for all three media types improves the odds of boosting a brand's image, awareness, recognition and consumer favorability.

And for companies in the consumer-goods industries, in particular -- but really any industry -- another lesson comes from enhancing the marketing media with an element of value. For Old Spice, that was a "national drop of high-value coupons," as noted in a recent Advertising Age article "How Much Old Spice Body Wash Has the Old Spice Guy Sold?." For any company, the brand lift they seek can generally be augmented by some kind of give-back to consumers, a discount or free item. Various surveys have repeatedly indicated the importance of brands offering something of worth to persuade consumers. As a 2009 study from Lightspeed Research found, brands offering discounts is the single action that people find more relevant than any other.

Even as skillful branding in the early 21st century requires a blend of paid-owned-earned, when planning for marketing media, "the best brand dollars are spent not in multiple channels for the sake of multiple channels," said Kyle Sherwin, vice president media at Sony Music, in a July 2010 interview with eMarketer. "Instead, you need to derive key insights from consumer research, and do your channel planning from there."

The Old Spice Man campaign also satisfied one classic, but not always executed, requirement for brands. "When people are bombarded by 3,000 messages a day," Sherwin continued, "you need a consistent message across all channels."

David Hallerman is a senior analyst at eMarketer.
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