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On The Scene: The Old Spice Guy

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On the Scene
Monday, September 20, 2010
BY EMMA HALL

Hello ladies.

With that far-from-subtle opening line, Isaiah Mustafa slid straight from a boat onto a horse and right into the hearts of "ladies" everywhere.  His charming performance for Old Spice appeared during the Super Bowl, and immediately became a hit.

Dean McBeth, Old Spice Community Manager at Wieden + Kennedy, as well as Senior Strategist for Procter and Gamble brands (if that's too much of a mouthful, just call him by his office nickname, which is Robot), gave a talk called "Old Spice and Exotic Social Media Animals" at The New Communicators, giving a behind-the-scenes look at how the successful marketing campaign came together.

More so than the iconic commercials, McBeth addressed the genre-bending marketing strategy utilizing emerging platforms—specifically YouTube, Twitter and Facebook—to interact directly with fans.

"It was what I would call one of the biggest brand thank yous in the past decade or so," McBeth said. 

The team wanted to reach out to YouTube users who had commented on their uploaded commercial (which currently has over 20 million views).  They got in contact with YouTube to see if they could post a video thank you response directly on each YouTube comment, calling out individual users personally.  Not yet, YouTube responded—although it can be infered from the "yet" aspect of the response that YouTube is also trying to jump on the interactivity bandwagon.  So, the Old Spice team decided to make separate uploaded videos thanking some of their fans: 186 response videos in all, filmed over 2 days.

So exactly how did a "frat house where the creatives wear sweat pants" (McBeth's words, not mine) execute the integrated advertising campaign where Mustafa—wearing naught but a towel, of course—responded via YouTube videos to users who asked him questions on Facebook and Twitter?

The most important step, McBeth stressed, is identifying who is showing up to your party.  For the team working on the Old Spice campaign, there were six different types of people:

  1. Influencers—"somehow [social media] created a shift in which nerds are now referred to as influencers. Hmm."
  2. Fanboys—These are the superfans/dorks.  People who would go so far as to dress up like your character. The important thing to consider with these people are how will you be able to keep them engaged and sustained longterm.  (Old Spice has already moved on to another campaign, this one featuring Ray Lewis.)
  3. Seekers—anonymous commenters.
  4. Social Spiders—these are the digital couch potatoes, who use a web to take down larger things.  For example, if you were to write "this is a hate free zone" on your YouTube channel, it would instead invite more hate speech.  It would be better to distract these users with something else.
  5. The Lost Boys—these are (competitor) Axe fans, or adolescent boys that need help navigating manhood.
  6. Haters—these are people who already view Old Spice as a "Dad" scent.  You have to deal with them differently (for example, direct them to a gallery online that shows Old Spice has many scents, not just one, then throw a coupon at them).

Once these six types of "partygoers" were identified, the team started crafting responses.  From the time it took to receive a question to the time a video response was posted, it took an average of less than 15 minutes.  The one that really made them sweat and took a few extra minutes? When George Stephanopoulos tweeted "Hey Old Spice Man -- Political question: President's lost some female support. How does WH get those women voters back?" The advice included the suggestion that President Obama should henceforth only be seen in a towel, along with the idea of ending the State of the Union address with "Presidential Ab Point."

Although it is doubtful that President Obama will be appearing shirtless at his next appearance, the Old Spice guy campaign was very successful.  Body wash sales were up 107% year over year as of last month.  The campaign also kick-started a trend that brought more women consumers to the brand, which—clearly from the first "hello ladies"—was the strategy. Since women are more likely to be the shopper for the household, going after the female demographic was a winning approach.

After the wild success of the  innovative campaign, why not continue working with that one character?  McBeth likened it to the Geico cavemen, and no one wanting to see them for the next ten years.  Now, while many others are simply copying the response video campaign (think big names like Snoop Dogg and Conan O'Brien), Wieden + Kennedy and Old Spice are looking ahead for the next big thing. 

Did you know that Emma Hall, web editor for Oregon Business, is riding this horse backwards?

 
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