Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Take on the Old Spice Marketing Campaign

My grandfather was an Old Spice man. I remember the white glass bottle with the odd silver dispenser on top and its red clipper ship logo. He was always clean shaven, had a winning smile and wore a splash of Old Spice.

And that was the problem Old Spice had as my generation came along. We associated Old Spice with old people. It was for grandpa, not me.

In 1990 Procter and Gamble purchased Old Spice from its original manufacturer, The Shulton Company. And now the problem of making the brand relevant to a new generation became their problem.

Years ago when I first took an interest in advertising as a potential career I saw a list of the biggest advertisers in that industry. Proctor and Gamble sat atop the list at one billion dollars a year in spending to make sure its brands remained household names. Today that has grown to ten billion dollars. Money may not always buy happiness, but it can certainly help bring attention to whatever you're selling, if you have something to sell.

One of the things that drives me nuts when I go shopping these days is how much variety there is. Shampoos come with a gazillion options... for greasy hair, for normal hair, with conditioner, without conditioner, etc. It was so much easier when you could simply go to the store and pick up a bottle of Head and Shoulders without having to read all that fine print.

So the other day I ran out of deoderant and I noticed once more that it is no longer a simple matter of replacing the Gillette Clear Gel Antiperspirant/Deoderant that I always get. No, the shelf was a quarter mile long and every brand had a full array of options, including styles of application from spray to gel to stick. And there, in the midst of all this was the Old Spice brand, all dressed up for the 21st century.

I was impressed by the names for this new generation of Old Spice products. Swagger. That's Mustafa in a nutshell. It has attitude. Like the man you want your man to smell like.

But they had other products as well. Aqua Reef. Champion. After Hours. These latter two were part of their "Red Zone" line. If you don't "get it" the Red Zone in football parlance is the last twenty yards before the goal line, where a team's objective is to score. This version of Old Spice is a whole new ball game.

Did the campaign work? Well, it achieved at least one of its aims. Old Spice is no longer associated with our grandfathers. It's now associated with a fellow named Mustafa, who must have had a hilariously good time making that original spot which has been seen by millions, and all those spin-offs. Will Mustafa have as much staying power as the Marlboro Man, though?

Let's face it, nothing has that kind of staying power in the age of instant everything when fashions are in and out faster than you can move your mouse, I mean tap your tablet And some of the ad agency folks who were probably high-fiving all over the universe when Mustafa went viral are wondering where their next paycheck is going to come from, because ideas are a dime a dozen, but the big ones that big people throw big money behind are not always so easy to come by, or to sell to upper management. 1600 were laid off in January, less than two years after Mustafa made his Super Bowl splash. The campaign caught the attention of the world, but with distribution in place and all the momentum moving the engines of brand-progress at full strength, well... momentum will carry that train pretty far along and those ad guy's salaries were starting to cut into the margins. 

I do like the red packaging. A yacht has replaced the clipper ship as its emblem. And it does make a man smell pretty good. Funny thing is, I'm the grandpa in this picture now.... trying to be young and charming, like Mustafa. Look out, world. I feel good.


boots~ said...

My dad was a white bottle man as well. I'm really enjoying your posts! Keep up the great work!

ENNYMAN said...


Tom Brayshaw said...

It only means that you should not only work on the product, but with the packaging as well. This is what really catches the consumers attention and keeps them as well. And I think Procter & Gamble did a good job on re-inventing Old Spice. See, they succeeded on washing away the previous perception about the product. Thus, they attracted new consumers as well.