Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teaching an Old Dog a New Trick

Who hasn't seen the funny Old Spice spots?

This one, was recently selected as the best TV spot at the Film Grand Prix in Cannes. Why? I suspect it goes to the ability this spot has at holding your attention, the use of humor and the juxtaposition of one of the world's stodgiest brands with the new "Mustafa" pitchman. Thing is, Proctor & Gamble's gamble, actually started in 1990 when it acquired the brand and worked on revitalizing it's image. Long the mainstay of any mature man's medicine cabinet, the old ivory bottle of Old Spice aftershave seemed closer to a ship wreck than ship shape. It wasn't until 2003 that it overtook Gillette's Right Guard as the no. 1 men's personal care brand. What's been happening lately, is just the logical extension of a bold path and vision they had for their brand. Namely, "We want to own what men spread or spray on their bodies."

In a $10 billion industry, that's not a timid statement.

The Isaiah Musafa "Smell Like a Man, Man" commercial that went viral was the continued extension of applying solid branding principles to a brand. Wieden + Kennedy, the ad agency behind the effort, has been one of the world's great creative firms, ever since it first tackled the Nike brand in it's early days. So sharp is this recent round of spots, that many may have forgotten that just a few month's before, they launched the Terry Crews Old Spice Odor Blocker Body Wash campaign. It too, was a smash online sensation.

Now, for their third act, W+K's creative team pulled off the proverbial social media trifecta, by upping the ante on Twitter - utilizing the buzz around Mustafa by writing and filming video responses to popular Twitterers like Perez Hilton, Yahoo!, various regular Tweeters and even his own daughter, Haley. It's good clean zaniness, delivered Flip video style in a single 24-hour period on the 13th of this month. The "buzz factor" is over the top, as each "tweet" video link has received well over 300,000 hits a piece (many, in excess of 1,000,000 views). That's a lot of eyeballs on your man... er, your brand.

So what's the take-away for the rest of us? If you or I simply supplied shower video answers to the many followers we have on Twitter, would it go viral? Does one need to have a million dollar ad campaign already underway to attempt such a thing?

The answer is no, and thankfully, no.

Doing the shower scene now would be viewed negatively because it's a copycat; wouldn't be written nearly as cleverly or performed with as much panache, and, let's face it, takes balls (ahem) to deliver this kind of marketing campaign. But for any of us to create simple and fun real-time video replies to customer oriented tweets... I think it's safe to say that you'd generate some buzz for your business. OK, maybe not the 1,000,000 views kind - but what's the harm in trying? Everyone is looking for a positive surprise. When the manager of the store actually handles the complaint, negative feelings are usually dismissed. When we're given a little something extra for our efforts, we smile and place a mental note to think more kindly of even the cheapest of trinkets. Doing the unexpected is the very essence of changing stodginess into contemporary value. 

Find that in your brand, and you win.

The key to updating the branding image of an old brand is in affording your marketing team the kind of freedom to risk failure.  That's the real test for the rest of us: Do you really want to do what it takes to create publicity?

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