Old brand, new abs and webby success

July 22, 2010

I’m sick of hearing about how awesomely funny the videos starring the “Old Spice guy” are, and I really don’t need to hear an update on how many bajillions of times people watch the 200-some YouTube videos. They’re very funny and clever and, apparently, effective. I get it. (If your power has been out and you have no idea what I’m talking about, BusinessWeek has a good summary of this wildly popular campaign.)

You know what I’m not sick of? Discussion of why this campaign was such a home run. I haven’t heard much along these lines, even after actually seeking it out. So here’s my attempt at filling the void.

Why did the live-response “Old Spice guy” video campaign work so damn well?

  • They’re building on the popularity of a character from a successful Super Bowl ad. The creative team didn’t simply fabricate a character and hope he would catch on; they had already developed some rapport and somewhat of a personality for the character.
  • The brand gave up some control. A small team was tasked with everything from monitoring incoming online messages to script writing to video production. They sat in a room and pounded these out in a couple of days. When an opportunity arises, take a team you trust and let them do what they do best. Be creative, smart and fast. Don’t bog the process down with the typical ad production run-around. This program, and others like it I’m sure we’ll see in the coming months, wouldn’t succeed without this kind of speed, flexibility and freedom.
  • It’s about more than just “talking to consumers.” That’s expected these days. But when a fictional character, one with a bit of cachet stemming from a popular Super Bowl ad, talks directly to real people, that’s unique. When you can see and hear that character in a video, watch him speak your name and answer your question, it’s profoundly more¬†powerful than, say, having a character like the Burger King or the Pillsbury Dough Boy “talk to you” via Twitter — especially when you’re pretty sure the Dough Boy is just some recent college grad who’s referred to as “the Web guy” in the marketing department because he was the only one who had a Twitter account before the recent campaign started.
  • The good old ego stroke is a powerful thing. When you make a video just for Ellen DeGeneres (see above) or Ashton Kutcher (one of the most popular Twitter users), you can pretty much bank on a some extra reach for those videos. “Hey, a guy with great abs and a lot of Internet fame is talking about me! Aren’t I cool? [link to your brand’s marketing messages]”
  • Isaiah Mustafa, the actor who plays “Old Spice guy,” is a handsome devil. And those abs!
  • The video are just plain funny. These videos aren’t commercials with a hint of funny; they’re funny with a hint of commercial. And that’s all you need. People share funny stuff. Voluntarily.

This campaign helped push this brand — which is perceived to be an old guy’s product, though this 27-year-old has used it for years — to the forefront of popular culture in less than a week. Have you started brainstorming how your brand can create some similar magic?