Two words completely changed the trajectory of Old Spice’s sales and would change their marketing for years to come. “Hello, Ladies!” This campaign thrived on knowing its target audience, capitalized on a comedic dialogue between males and females, and was a knockout when it comes to social engagement. It is often among the top listed campaigns of all time, and rightfully so. It sets the standard for what it looks like to engage with your audience and won the campaign over 100 awards, including an Emmy!
Since ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ campaign first went live, it has generated over 1.4 billion impressions for the Old Spice brand. And it’s not just about impressions – the brand’s sales are also up 107%, making Old Spice the number one brand of men’s body wash.
This body-products, cosmetics company is not new to the market. Old Spice was first founded in 1934 and started selling fragrances, inspired by the smell of potpourri, for women in 1937. Only a year later, they came out with their male line, primarily shaving soap and aftershave lotion. Early on the brand chose to target its products using nautical theme, introducing a trademark featuring colonial sailing ships, hoping to appeal to its male consumers familiar with military and Navy masculinity. It soon dropped its female product line. Procter & Gamble acquired Old Spice in 1990, updating its branding and adding products to its line including deodorant sticks, body washes and hair products. But their branding remained the same, appealing to the male consumer, affirming Old Spice was the definition of masculinity and a magnet for females. Fast forward to the beginning of 2010, Old Spice was in a losing battle against the over-saturated market of men’s products, among which were Axe, Suave, Nivea Men & Dove Men. High school locker rooms were synonymous with Axe body spray in the early 2000s. Statistics showed that Old Spice was not selling to the younger demographic who saw it as their grandpa’s deodorant brand, and it’s something they needed to fight.
Knowing they had to do something drastic, Old Spice partnered with marketing agency legend Wieden + Kennedy to do a complete 360 in their marketing to change consumers’ perceptions. Knowing Unilever was launching a campaign for its Dove Men products at the Super Bowl on February 7th, Old Spice launched its campaign not on TV but on YouTube and social media on February 4th, the era in time when online was primarily a market of millennials. They directly challenged the competition, but with one little statistic up their sleeve: Proctor & Gamble had found through market research that 60% of men’s body products were bought not by men, but by women. Thus, the sensuous charismatic opening one-liner of their campaign was born: “Hello, ladies!” The ad’s copy broke the 4th wall, starting dramatized conversation between couples on exactly what they wanted viewers to be talking about: Good smelling body wash. The video went viral on day one. To keep the conversation going, the creative team filmed over 180 direct response videos to fans and celebrities on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit calling out their usernames and citing answers to their questions. The brand message became a brand conversation. It became the most successful interactive campaign in history.
Old Spice was founded
Losing interest with younger demographic, impacting sales
The campaign received 5.9 million YouTube views, more than Obama’s victory speech after 24 hours
Old Spice had 8 out of the top 11 most popular videos on the web
The campaign eclipsed 20 million YouTube views
The work had been seen more than 40 million times
The success of this campaign went far beyond what was expected. The initial goal set out in the creative brief was to raise sales by 15%. Three months after the campaign was launched, Old Spice Red Zone body wash sales had increased 60% from the previous year. After five months, sales more than doubled (125%) their sales from the previous year. This skyrocketed Old Spice into the number one spot for men’s body wash. Old Spice ran spin-off commercials featuring “the old spice guy” Isaiah Mustafa until 2015 (and he was featured in paid parody variations until 2019, for those who don’t like math that is 9 YEARS LATER). Sales alone were not the campaign’s only success. Due to the direct response interactive campaign, Old Spice’s online presence soared to new heights. Only two months after the initial launch, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” had more than 10 million views, amounting to more than 10 times the number of Dove’s Super Bowl commercial.
The campaign catapulted Old Spice into the #1 most viewed branded YouTube channel of all time.
There are four things this campaign did well that we can learn from as marketers:
1. This campaign thrived on knowing its target audience. By understanding whom the ad is speaking to, decisions on what kind of dialogue should be written and where the conversation should be launched all become intentional and successful choices.
2. Capitalizing on a comedic dialogue between males and females made the ad relatable to both the female buyer and male consumer. Dramatizing the idealistic possibilities of smelling good made this ad stand out by relating to their younger and desired new market. Comedy is a very powerful tool in marketing when it is used well.
3. This campaign was a knockout when it comes to social engagement. Staying consistent and personal on social media can take a lot of effort, but it’s what brought this brand to the top of the newsfeed. They filmed the response campaign for 2 days, creating 186 videos and it paid off in the end.
4. Old Spice trusted their agency to deliver. At the time, this campaign was a huge risk. It completely changed the brand’s tone and voice to something they hoped would appeal to an audience that thought of them as old and outdated. They hired Wieden + Kennedy, the same company that delivered us Nike’s “Just Do It” and Bud Light’s “Dilly, Dilly” among many more. Trusting their agency’s reputation might have been an easier thing to do. But trusting the idea of teleporting a man from his bathroom to a yacht to a horse all while remaining in eye contact with the viewers might have sounded like a crazy idea at first. But they trusted in the power of creative advertising and it paid off.
“How the Old Spice hunk took over the world.” MarketingWeek.com, September 2011.
“The 18 Best Advertisements & Ad Campaigns of All Time.” Blog.Hubspot.com, May 2020.
“Old Spice Response Campaign Was More Popular Than Obama.” AdWeek.com, August 2010.
“History of Old Spice”. Historyofbranding.com, N/A.
“Old Spice: Smell Like A Man, Man”. Weiden+Kennedy, February 2010.
“The Ad Campaign That Saved Old Spice – Cheddar Examines”. Youtube, July 2018.
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