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Finding Something New in Old Spice: How This Body Wash Brand Ruled Social Media

What are the brand lessons we can learn from one of the most favorite body wash and deodorant brands of all time? Old Spice is famous for its humorous and quirky ads, but they were not always like that. The brand has evolved by adapting through the years. Did you know that the first Old Spice product was called the Early American Old Spice for women in 1937? Yes – the brand was originally made for the ladies.

In the modern era, Old Spice has yet again proven that branding could mean everything in a competitive industry – fending off competitors like Axe and Dove for Men. After being acquired by Procter & Gamble in 1990, it underwent numerous changes that changed the brand forever, especially after the appointing of a new ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy.

The New Attitude

While Old Spice stuck to its nautical theme and classy roots, the brand’s ads have taken a much more daring step. The goals were simple; to prevent the brand name from losing ground and target a younger demographic. They wanted to remain competitive and be more relevant to the new generation. This revolution was started by the Old Spice Swagger campaign.

W+K’s take on this matter was to incorporate a new attitude with Old Spice’s long heritage. The word “Swagger” was perfect as it was a cultural phenomenon back in 2008. It describes great confidence that appeals to the younger audience, which was ideal for the brand’s goals. The campaign was tremendously successful and quadrupled the sales of “Glacial Falls”, which was performing horribly before the Swagger campaign.

The Swagger campaign generated much traction, which Old Spice leveraged by establishing its social media presence. Remember that whatever the industry, social media is the best way to connect with your target audience, particularly the younger generation. The brand also solidified its foothold in the online arena with, which is an Old Spice website that helped users appear on search engine results pages.

Be Like a Man, Man

Realizing that over 50% of body wash sales were coming from women, the brand readjusted its approach to appeal to that demographic. Thus, the “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign was born.

In their first commercial, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”, the actor (Isaiah Mustafa) spoke directly to women, stating that their man will never be like him. However, with Old Spice, they could smell like him, and cue in the imaginative transition to a yacht. The ad was an overnight success – raising brand awareness through the roof. It even garnered attention from celebrities with much social following.

Old Spice advert - smell like a man, man

Isaiah Mustafa – The Herald of “Smell Like a Man, Man.” (source)

The brand took full advantage of the momentum by featuring “Questions”, another ad, in which Isaiah Mustafa – now more popular as the “Old Spice Guy” – raised several issues that are still aimed towards ladies. The ad was equally as creative and entertaining as the first. It was also equally successful.

In addition to their ads, Old Spice engaged their social media audience by publishing a total of 186 personal video responses to fans. These videos were released in major platforms and social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The result was the cherry on top of an already successful campaign; tallying over 65 million hits. It was the most popular and fastest-growing digital advertising campaigns ever. In total, the campaign earned 1.2 billion media impressions, a 2700% increase in Twitter followers, 800% increase in Facebook fan interactions and 300% increase in traffic for the Old Spice website. 

There is no doubt that there are plenty of branding lessons to learn from Old Spice’s success. This is evident of social buzz generated with each of their advertising campaigns. To help you understand this further here is a breakdown of all the key lessons you should learn:

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1. The Brand is Fully Aware of its Target Group

Ever since the beginning, Old Spice has always been very specific about their target audience. Each campaign used materials that are highly appealing to their target group. They also made the necessary adjustments when needed. For example, they repositioned their brand away from the older, more serious age group and targeted the younger group using creative advertisement antics.

Their decision to develop their “Be Like a Man, Man” campaign as if they were targeting women was a crucial factor in their success. By learning the market, there are always ways to position your brand for the maximum visibility. You need to grasp a perception that perfectly aligns what that of your customers. This is how you can tap into a connection that’s on an emotional level, which is what people respond to.


2. The Brand is Fully Aware of Itself (and Had Fun with It)

Despite being funny and creative, the Old Spice brand embraced its old-time legacy and called it “Experience”. They highlighted this as the secret to manliness, which in turn grants confidence and high self-esteem. They may have been making risky leaps when it comes to their ads, but they’ve always upheld their experience when it comes to manliness.

Everything else from their website to their product packaging has remained true to the original nautical theme of the brand. Their advertising materials such as business cards, emails, brochures, and social media pages also offered a consistent “experience” with the same theme, logo, fonts, and color scheme.

Still, no one can deny the fact that “his or her” new advertising and branding strategy was refreshing. It was light, humorous, ingenious, and unique – something that’s “share-worthy” on today’s popular social media platforms. With this approach, they let word-of-mouth carry their brand throughout these social networks. This developed their brand’s authority and built solid connections with their target audience.


3. The Brand is Fully Aware of Its Goals

Another reason for the brand’s successful campaigns was their specific goals. Their primary objectives were to establish social media presence, surpass the competitors for the younger age group, and exceed the annual 7%-9% growth in the body wash industry. Part of the goal was also to engage consumers in an entertaining and relevant fashion, which explains the “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign.

Focusing on social media strategy was also perfect since it allowed Old Spice to gauge quickly the effectiveness of their approach. Through the number of views, shares likes, and the feedback through comments, it was clear that the audience was responding overwhelmingly positively to their campaign. They even became the #1 Most Viewed Sponsored YouTube channel. This influenced the release of the succeeding ads and how the brand maintained their social media presence through the personal response videos.


4. The Brand Focused on Simple Key Ideas as Foundations

Although their ads seemingly made fun of the brand, Old Spice has always remained consistent with their brand values: self-confidence and self-esteem. These are the two core foundations of the brand, and they successfully conveyed this message in a light-hearted manner so their target audience could relate. This strategy was crucial for their brand positioning.

In their commercials, the Old Spice Guy acted as the pinnacle of self-confidence and self-esteem. The bare-chested actor maintained a confident attitude with his posture and positive facial expression. From the audience’s standpoint, the Old Spice Guy promoted competition. The actor compelled men to “smell like him” because they can never look like him anyway. The Old Spice website also remained consistent with the company’s brand with the nautical design theme and the pillars of self-confidence and self-esteem.

You can say that the advertising strategy of Old Spice hinged around exemplifying these key ideas in an entertaining way. Their branding strategy differentiated them from major competitors who take themselves too seriously.

In the modern era, people are more appreciative of humour. It inspires an almost personal connection between a brand and its target audience; reinforced with Old Spice’s wacky advertisements. This is why their customers are more open to whatever’s left in their creative sleeves – no matter how over-the-top it can be.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & CEO of SpellBrand. Since 1998, Mash has helped conscious brands differentiate themselves and AWAKEN through Brand Strategy and Brand Identity Design. Schedule a Brand Strategy Video Call with Mash.