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Now What?
By Jonathan Salem Baskin

Old Spice Needs to Translate Awareness Into Sales

Old Spice has made history, dominating YouTube late last week with 8 of the 11 most-watched videos on Friday and racking up tens of millions of views. Its "Smell Like a Man" campaign, in which its spokesmodel quickly shot mostly unscripted and hilariously funny replies to nearly 200 online inquiries (including some from famous people). It prompted numerous copycat videos and got covered by just about every news outlet in America.

Now what?

The half-life of viral fame is short. A gnat lives 200+ times longer. There have been numerous top ten lists on YouTube since Friday, not to mention other notable clips, burps, accusations and sundry ephemera discoverable across the web. Old Spice didn't announce or share anything particularly memorable, and certainly nothing ownable. The campaign was wildly creative and fun; no brand can claim either quality. The bet is that the residual afterimage will make it more likely that the Old Spice logo will jump out when shoppers next face that wall of otherwise identical deodorant options at their favorite stores. Kinda like remembering an accident on the side of the road, only with a smile.

Who cares if the vast majority of viewers were even potential or current customers who may or may not do the shopping? The entire audience might just like to smell bad for all Old Spice knows. The campaign got lots of people to think about the brand, even for a moment, and it was brilliant on any number of levels. I'm most impressed by the execution...the thing was fast and still really, really good. There's probably a lot to learn from how they pulled it off (kudos to Wieden + Kennedy).

But still...now what?

I polled the dim bulb universe and we've come up with three thought-starter ideas, all of which skew heavily toward our bias for selling:

  • The Most Manly Man Contest -- A proof-of-purchase will let people submit their own stories for possible selection and feature on sites, in a commercial, or whatever. Repeat purchases up the chances of winning.

  • Secret Admirer Program -- People can buy and send product to men anonymously, perhaps with a playful note or something. Make it risque and charge extra for the service.
     
  • Shoppers' Inspiration -- A purchase coupon activates access to a "personalized" vmail that shoppers can get from Mr. Manly Man before they have to embark on their next set of errands. "You're sexy and beautiful and I smell good" sort of thing.

Riffing even further, imagine if one of these ideas (or a better one) were attached to last week's virtual shenanigans? A sales conversion process that closer to "here's this, do that" is usually far more effective and profitable than one that relies on the "somewhere, someday, somehow, think something for some reason" approach. An extreme version of this angle would be Denny's Super Bowl ad that helped it give away 2 million free breakfasts. It did nothing to build on those behaviors (i.e. what incentive encouraged those eaters to come back and bring their friends?) and they've just recently fired their agency (Goodby, Silverstein & Partners), but you get the point.

Now what?

should be the baked into the front-end of every new campaign creative; in these days of clutter and distractions the deliverable can't only be awareness or chuckles, no matter how immense the numbers. Just making noise is an idea that was old 50 years ago anyway. Truly new thinking requires creative approaches to connecting all that activity made possible by the Internet into actions that put money into the pockets of businesses.

Maybe Old Spice has done just that, and we're going to be blown away by how brilliantly they translate their initial, passing fame into sales transactions. I hope so. The manly man thing is just too funny to waste on branding.

Added: 19th July 2010

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