retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

Okay, I confess. Along with millions of American women, I have fallen for the Old Spice Guy.

But I am not writing this column because he is an ex-NFL hunk who looks incredibly hot wearing nothing but a bath towel, has a sultry baritone that could melt an iceberg and I want an excuse to watch his videos.

No, I’m writing this column because the Old Spice Guy revolutionized interactive marketing on the social web this month, rewriting the playbook for a successful viral campaign and elevating consumer dialogue to a new level.

Portrayed by former NFL wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa with wit, over-the-top bravado and a chiseled physique, the Old Spice Guy made his debut in an award-winning ad during the Super Bowl in February.

Sales of Old Spice, a 73-year-old stodgy staple from Procter and Gamble, skyrocketed after the “Smell like a man, man” ad premiered, with recent sales figures showing a 107 percent hike over the past three months. A more recent body wash commercial opened with Mustafa asking “Ladies, does your man look like me? No. Can he smell like me? Yes.”

The folks at P&G were smart enough to realize that women purchase 70% of the shower gel used by men in their household, and tailored a tongue-in-cheek “manly man” campaign that both women and men found entertaining. It was laugh out loud funny.

Fast forward to July 13, when Old Spice sent out a tweet urging followers to post questions through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and for one day the Old Spice Guy would answer those he deemed worthy with “incredibly manly and witty and amazing responses.”

They asked and he answered with 186 personalized videos responses to regular folks, social networking trendsetters, and celebs such as Ellen DeGeneres, Alyssa Milano, Ashton Kutcher, and Ryan Seacrest. Mustafa even delivered a marriage proposal complete with candles and a ring (the recipient later tweeted back that her answer was yes). Cranked out over 48 hours in a Portland, Oregon studio, the responses were as creative and deadpan as the commercials.

Here’s what happened next:
• As of July 18, Old Spice had become the No. 1 all-time most-viewed sponsored channel on YouTube, with 94 million views.

• In one week, the 186 videos generated more than 40 million views, eclipsing the nearly 29 million viral videos of Mustafa’s four original TV ads.

AdAge reported that Old Spice saw its Facebook fan interaction jump 800%, up to more than 700,000 followers.

• Traffic to was up 300 percent, and its Twitter account soared by 2700 percent to more than 93,000, according to PRWeek.

So what is the takeaway on this for smaller marketers, retailers and service providers who don’t have a shirtless Lothario like Mustafa and an award-winning ad agency such as Portland’s Wieden + Kennedy?

Plenty. Quite simply, Old Spice identified its target audience – woman and men – and created a distinctive persona for the brand. It then used every social networking tool available to connect with its consumers in real-time. The brand reached out to bloggers and tech heavyweights and core consumers, encouraged them to be witty to be recognized, and made it easy for everyone to get in on the action and share the posts and videos with their friends. Even the hard-to-please advertising media columnists are calling the campaign “brilliant.”

The Old Spice Guy’s final response/farewell to his friends on the internet drew 3.4 million views on YouTube.

I have a feeling he’ll be back, and as a dedicated MNB columnist, I’ll just have to watch. It is a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Comments? Send me an email at .
KC's View: