Old Spice and Moneyball: Embracing Social Media

In the first post in this series, Old Spice and Moneyball: How Marketers Must Learn to Love Social Media, I asked “What do the Old Spice body wash ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like‘ campaign and the movie Moneyball have in common?” The post examined Old Spice’s campaign, which was a smashing success by almost any measure.

Old Spice Video Responses

According to Chris Cortilet, Principal of human-centered design firm, Azul7, “The advertising community noticed the effect of the campaign and, because the ads started on YouTube and achieved such success, likes to use it as a case study of effective integration of social media and traditional advertising. Agencies talk about the initial 19% increase in sales. Very good. But then Old Spice did the unthinkable: They stopped producing the commercials. Six months later they relaunched the campaign and saw a small 7% uptick in sales. Then they did the unthinkable again: They stopped updating content, and six months later they saw a negative effect on sales.”

There may have been seemingly rational reasons for this. Ad agencies and brands are afraid to let an approach get stale (tell that to Mr. Whipple, the “Don’t Squeeze the Charmin” guy featured in ads for more than 20 years). Perhaps the effect of the campaign was diminishing. There was discussion in the ad community that the campaign had done nothing more than maintain Old Spice’s share in the face of Dove’s launch of a competing product.[1]

Whatever the reasons, in some way, the traditional way of managing ad campaigns won out, and Old Spice moved on. Advertising folks figured the campaign was clever and splashy, but changed nothing. I’m sure there were plenty of naysayers saying things like “It’s a fluke; you can’t replicate this” to Old Spice. I think they were wrong. Old Spice minted gold, and the industry had no idea.

What the advertising community did not catch is that Old Spice invented a new way of relating with individual users — YouTube custom video responses to individual fan comments.

Old Spice’s video response campaign, in which the Old Spice Guy responded in near real-time to fan tweets and posts, was the fastest growing interactive campaign in history, according to Social Times,[2] who noted the following statistics about the campaign:

  • The campaign received a shocking 5.9 million YouTube views in the first day. That’s more views that Obama’s victory speech received after the first twenty-four hours!
  • On the second day of the campaign, Old Spice accounted for 8 videos out of the 11 most popular videos on the Web.
  • By the third day, the Old Spice response campaign had more than 20 million views.
  • A week after the campaign launched it boasted over 40 million views.

OMG. Imagine if it were your tweet they responded to. Wouldn’t you tell everyone you know? Wouldn’t you think Old Spice was the coolest brand ever? Wouldn’t they have a fan for life? Now, if they’d taken the next step of hooking those fans in to an evangelism program, that would have been even better. (See our social media evangelism series, beginning with the post How Can Social Media Scale?)

Sure it was probably expensive to do those spots, but the way they did it — in almost real time, with writing, shooting and editing taking a half hour for each bit — was, I think, sustainable. And probably fun for all involved. After 48 hours, during which it sparked nearly 200 viral response videos and receive tremendous coverage via blog comments and tweets, Old Spice shut the campaign down. It’s like creating a golden goose and leaving it in the barnyard to move on to regular geese.

Cortilet said, “Advertisers may get social media strategy, but they still don’t understand the human part, the engagement on an ongoing basis. It’s still a media-driven mindset. They loved the idea of what they did to get the attention of the consumer, but they didn’t consider the ongoing relationship. And it seems like, in this one, they really missed an opportunity.”

What’s this got to do with Moneyball? That’s the subject of the next post.

Next up: Old Spice and Moneyball: Integrating Social Media

[1] Advertising Age’s How Much Old Spice Body Wash Has the Old Spice Guy Sold? bit.ly/t7C2pS

[2] Social Times’ Old Spice Response Campaign Was More Popular Than Obama: bit.ly/voggHI