Social Media Lessons from the Old Spice Man Campaign

The Old Spice Man has taken social media by storm. Utilizing all of the Web 2.0 tools at his towel-clad disposal, the Old Spice Man we first met riding a horse backward while shirtless during the Super Bowl interacted with, and responded directly to customers. Businesses of all sizes can learn a lesson or two from the Old Spice Man on how to incorporate social networking as a marketing tool.

Procter & Gamble, the company behind the Old Spice brand, conducted consumer surveys and found that the vast majority of male body wash is actually purchased by women. Admittedly, my wife often makes such purchases because the goal is to smell good to her, not to myself.

That survey was the initial impetus for the creation of Old Spice Man. The marketing character offers a stunning dose of masculine eye-candy to appeal to the female audience that apparently makes most of the body wash purchasing decisions, while still also giving the subtle message to men that if they just used Old Spice body wash, they too could be as suave and masculine as Old Spice Man. The Old Spice Man is like a mash-up of Taye Diggs and the Dos Equis beer "Most Interesting Man in the World" commercials--combining both feminine and masculine appeal.

Identifying and targeting the market in that way was brilliant marketing in the first place. But, this week the Old Spice Man marketing campaign took its game to a whole new level with viral Web videos and custom video responses to customer comments and questions posted through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. The Old Spice Man proposed for one customer, flirted with Alyssa Milano, and had some sage advice for President Obama.

The genius behind the Old Spice Man social media marketing campaign is Procter & Gamble ad agency Weiden + Kennedy, based out of Portland, Ore. Weiden + Kennedy apparently have a firm grasp on how to embrace social networking to engage customers, rather than simply using social networks as another platform for the same, tired marketing customers are already exposed to everywhere else.

I am not suggesting that businesses rush out and find their own towel-clad Adonis and embark on a "me-too" copy-cat campaign. That specific angle has been done, obviously. It is the unique vision to engage customers in an interactive way that companies should emulate.

Does the return on investment provide enough value? Admittedly, the metrics of engaging customers on social networks may be harder to track in relation to sales or revenue than print or broadcast advertising. But, again--you don't need to hire an actor with six-pack abs to parade shirtless, or a team of writers and a video filming and production crew like Procter & Gamble.

There is unquestionably value in engaging customers and establishing an interactive sense of community. It may be intangible, or at least more difficult to quantify, but the companies that are the most successful with social networking and Web 2.0 are the companies that have created a an online forum to involve customers and foster brand loyalty through the relationship that is created.

The Old Spice Man did not offer any product discounts, or overtly instruct viewers to rush out and buy Old Spice body wash, but the suggestion was there. What is more important from a marketing standpoint is that the Old Spice brand caught the viewer's attention. Next time those viewers are in a store, they might find themselves considering a purchase of Old Spice body wash and not really even be conscious of why.

The primary marketing lesson is this: be creative. Don't try to take traditional print and broadcast ads and simply regurgitate them on the Web. Consider the unique benefits that social networking provides, and capitalize on them to engage customers and foster brand loyalty in a whole new way.

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page , or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com . He also tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW .

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