old spice revisited – viral, but not social?

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the Old Spice commercials of earlier in the year. If you’ve been paying attention to the buzz around social media this week (st eutychus, Gavin Heaton, and mumbrella part one and mumbrella part two, mamamia), you will have noticed that Old Spice were making additional videos in response to tweets.

To try and keep up with everything that’s been written about the campaign would be a mammoth effort. There’s a fast company interview, mashable stats, marketing sherpa’s take on things, snarkmarket’s take, NetRegistry’s take and then you could just start searching twitter and blogs for more.

Two parodies that emerged I’d like to point out: the first was one for an American College Library parody of Old Spice ad (900,000 views at time of posting).

The second is a local one – World Vision Australia’s Tim Costello (13,000 views at time of posting).

Lots of people are calling this the best use of social media for marketing yet, and there’s some merit in thinking this way: it’s certainly been a brilliantly-targeted series of videos, and they’ve succeeded in refreshing the image of a product that had its main appeal in older generations. In the articles linked above, you’ll find the goal of the campaign – to make people go to the stores, and smell Old Spice to see if it’s something for them.

No-one seems to be pointing out, though, that this isn’t quite a social campaign. Yes, it’s using social channels to build buzz around a product, and even to build a relationship between consumers and the advertising character that the company has created. But where is the lasting connection with people? What this campaign appears to be doing is tapping into the “viral” side of the content creation, but not doing much around community building or generating a lasting relationship with the brand.

if your social strategy is linked into creating cool content so that your followers can benefit from the halo effect of sharing the latest cool content, then your relationship with those followers will last only as long as you can keep up the content generation. The missing piece for me in this campaign is the third act: how do you keep the engagement going after the initial excitement around the campaign has worn off?

Worse yet, if you’ve tried talking to anyone outside the “social media echo chamber” about the campaign: have they heard of it? When you explain it, do they just roll their eyes, or do they see some value there? Granted, here in Australia, as kristy points out you can’t even buy the product, so knowledge of the campaign is limited to its appearance on ABC TV show the Gruen Transfer.

Lastly, as we see in the World Vision video above, if you want to derive traffic by jumping on the coat-tails of a meme, you need to put your ad with great haste. Every day that someone waits in making the next Old Spice parody ad is a day closer to obscurity for the parody.

Did I miss anything noteworthy in this summary? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. As the writer behind the Netregistry blog post on the campaign, I was interested to read this more sober take on the whole deal. And I guess in part I agree with you while also wanting to take you to task on some key points.

    I agree that at the moment, this is a limited campaign that will wear off reasonably quickly. But then some marketing only has a short term goal and nothing is implied in the campaign to suggest we should be disappointed that it doesn’t go further. This is in contrast to some ‘social media marketing’ that builds a community for the length of a particular promotion and then puts the brakes on and lets it fade away – losing all those engaged community members – the moment the campaign is over. To be honest, I think that is far more damaging and corrosive in a social media space.

    I am loathe to define what ‘social marketing’ actually is because it can potentially mean so many different things. Is it about building community or is it tapping into social behaviours to share and spread a marketing message? If the latter, Old Spice did it supremely well. Whether this is only the second stage of a longer more pervasive campaign we don’t know yet. But if the goal was merely to change brand perception, get the brand message out to as many people as possible for the least budget and effort and put Old Spice onto the consideration list for many people while failing to annoy anyone even while they’re being marketed to, then we have a winner! (hey, there are people in my office who said they’d consider trying it next time they bought deodorant and we weren’t aware you couldn’t get it in Australia! So that’s a persuasive way to generate consumer groundswell!)

  2. Jonathan,

    Thanks for posting a comment, and for your original piece! It’s indeed very hard to define “social marketing”, and perhaps I’m being too harsh on a campaign that has certainly broken new ground, and seems the logical successor to the Obama campaign in the conference-presentation circuit.

    I think if the goal of a campaign is “spreading a marketing message via social behaviours”, then that’s a viral campaign: – what we’re seeing with this Old Spice campaign is the opportunity for the persona that people choose to spread through their twitter account interacting with a character from advertising (granted, an engaging, witty character) to create new marketing content, which people then spread.

    My own concept of social marketing would be an actual person sharing a part of their real-life, telling stories about how the product has made a difference to them. Sharing stories from real life – to me – creates a deeper, more lasting bond. In this campaign, by the very nature of engaging with a fictional character, it becomes about who can create the funniest question, and actually get an answer from the brand spokesman.

    I don’t want to take away from a brilliant campaign, I just want to caution that there’s more engagement and community generation possible in the social space beyond sharing even these custom-made, high production value, viral videos.

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