Old Spice case study: How a 75-year-old brand changed digital marketing forever

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Before this now-legendary social media and video campaign, Old Spice was a brand that was previously associated with old men. This case study looks at how the ‘Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ YouTube ad got 6 million YouTube views in its first week, netting the P&G brand a sales increase of 125% year-on-year in a highly competitive market dominated by Unilever’s Axe.

Old brand with an big image problem

The Old Spice products were manufactured by the Shulton Company, founded in 1934 by William Lightfoot Schultz. The brand’s first product, Early American Old Spice for women, originated in 1937, and Old Spice for men followed not long after in 1938. Bought by Proctor and Gamble in 1990 to break into a new market, Old Spice attempted to broaden its appeal through marketing spin-offs to younger men in 1999. They waited until 2002 to launch a rebrand but began to be edged out of the 12-24 age market by deodorant brand ‘Axe’. In response, they launched the largely unsuccessful ‘Swagger’ campaign. By 2006, Old Spice was falling in the ranks. In an effort to improve its market share and revenues, the company engaged the award-winning advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy, known for its iconic Nike “Just Do It” and Chrysler “Imported from Detroit” ad campaigns, among many others.

The agency had two key challenges:

• Draw on the long-standing history and expertise of the brand and reposition it to make it relevant to young men

• Target both men and women in order to generate conversation about body wash.

A fresh and funny new take that was impossible to ignore

The agency’s solution was the now famous ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’, casting former NFL star Isaiah Mustafa, as the “Old Spice Guy.”

In the 30-second ad, which aired on YouTube a few days before the 2010 Super Bowl and then on TV the day after the game, the charismatic (and shirtless) Mustafa delivers promises of what’s possible “when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady.”

Based on its humour, delivery and direct style, the ad went viral, and the brand along with it. The online and televised ad garnered 75% of all conversations in the category.

Following the launch of the ad campaign, the company’s sales more than doubled, their website traffic increased by 300%, the Old Spice YouTube channel became the #1 Most Viewed Sponsored YouTube Channel, and Old Spice became the #1 body wash brand for men. The ad was also the recipient of the 2010 Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix award and Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial.

View the original ad below:

Follow up Q&A session

The success of the ad led to an ongoing social media campaign to keep the internet buzz going. Wieden+Kennedy's solution was the Response Campaign, in which the Old Spice Guy would respond to questions submitted by fans through a variety of social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter, through a series of YouTube videos. In less than three days, Wieden+Kennedy filmed over 180 video responses to questions from fans and celebrities, and then posted them on YouTube.

Within the first day, the Response Campaign had accumulated 5.9 million views; within one week, the number grew to over 40 million. The brand’s YouTube channel more than doubled from 65,000 to 150,000 subscribers, while their Twitter and Facebook followings soared by 2,700% and 800%, respectively.

By the end of July 2010, sales were up 125% year on year, and by the year’s end, Old Spice had become the #1 selling brand of body wash for men in the US. In May 2013, the company once again leveraged the success of its YouTube campaign and launched two new video ads to sell its latest shave gel products. Together, the two videos totalled over 7.6 million views in just two weeks.

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