Old Spice Guy – Innovation Must Lead to Results

I love the Old Spice Guy as much as the next man (which means, of course, that I enjoy his commercials greatly in a shared spirit of manliness and a joint appreciation of expensive magnifying glasses). The original commercial is inventive and funny, and the social-media-based campaign that they ran last week is enormously innovative. If you haven’t seen any of this yet, here is the original spot:

And here is the description from Read Write Web of the recent campaign:

A team of creatives, tech geeks, marketers and writers gathered in an undisclosed location in Portland, Oregon yesterday and produced 87 short comedic YouTube videos about Old Spice. In real time. They leveraged Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and blogs. They dared to touch the wild beasts of 4chan and they lived to tell the tale. Even 4chan loved it. Everybody loved it; those videos and 74 more made so far today have now been viewed more than 4 million times and counting. The team worked for 11 hours yesterday to make 87 short videos, that’s just over 7 minutes per video, not accounting for any breaks taken. Then they woke up this morning and they are still making more videos right now.

Here is the response to 4Chan:

All very creative, and the use of social media to drive the campaign last week is incredibly innovative. Procter & Gamble, the company that owns the Old Spice Brand, the Old Spice Guy himself Isaiah Mustafa, and advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy have all been justifiably praised for this campaign. The media attention has been enormous, the buzz has been even bigger, and videos have been shared pretty much everywhere by everyone.

So what could possibly be wrong with all of that?

Well, one thing.

None of it seems to be helping P&G sell any more Old Spice. Here is a summary from BNet:

For instance, it was none other than P&G that picked up the Film Grand Prix this year for Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” TV spot from Wieden + Kennedy. There is little doubt about the viral hit’s popularity. Launched in February, the official version has racked up nearly 12.2 million YouTube views.

But sales of the featured product—Red Zone After Hours Body Wash—aren’t necessarily tracking with that consumer appeal: In the 52 weeks ended June 13, sales of the brand have dropped 7 percent according to SymphonyIRI.

This is the danger of innovation for its own sake – you can be highly innovative and still not have an impact on your bottom line. There are steps to take to try to address this problem:

  1. Make sure that your innovation management program is integrated with your overall strategy. If innovation is not linked to strategy, you will not meet your goals. Innovation is not an end in itself, it is a means to improve the way your organisation functions.
  2. Develop innovation metrics that measure bottom-line impacts, not just innovation output. Innovation metrics are incredibly important. You need to not only measure innovation outputs (patents, creative awards, etc.), but you also need to measure the impact of innovation. If you are developing an innovative advertising campaign, it needs to not only generate interest and profile, it needs to increase your sales. All innovation must in some way make your organisation more effective.

I hope that P&G is rewarded by all of this in the end. It has been an incredibly inventive effort, and the spots are consistently hilarious. But the overall lesson here is that innovation must lead to results, otherwise it is a waste of effort and resources.

Update: This report suggests that the short-term response to the social media campaign has been an increase in sales of 107% over the previous month. This is actually pretty good news – it shows that the response to the genuinely innovative social media campaign has been substantially stronger than the response to the old-style clever commercial. Be sure to read the comments to see some good discussion of this point.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

11 thoughts on “Old Spice Guy – Innovation Must Lead to Results

  1. Great point about integrating innovation with overall strategy. However, in the case of the Old Spice Man campaign, I doubt that the goal was to sell more of any one product in the short term.

    I think that what they aimed to do is exactly what you’re been saying: building a network! Via this campaign, the name “Old Spice” was introduced or made more salient to a ton of people who’ve never heard of it or, if they had, thought of it as “my dad’s deodorant.”

    The fact that some of their sales numbers dropped may actually be a sign of their success if those people who stopped buying Old Spice are the old farts, like me, who grew up with it and are still buying it. The campaign obviously was going to rub many of their current customers wrong, but that’s the price they chose to pay (I am guessing) in exchange for making “Old Spice” a positive brand with the Social Media audience.

    If I am guessing right, then this was definitely a courageous thing to do to make it very clear that Old Spice “gets it.” Now comes the part about measuring progress, and for that I hope they heed your advice of developing innovation metrics that measure bottom-line impacts, not just output.

  2. You may well be right Matt. I’ve been thinking today about a follow-up post that addresses the network issue in particular. In the end, I’d really like to see this work, since it is adventurous.

  3. I’ve seen several posts based on the presumption that the Old Spice campaign should have raised sales (by now) or be judged a failure.

    I don’t see why that should be the case. Yes, you want increased sales to result. But I don’t see why the presumption should be that these sales must occur immediately.

    A small but permanent improvement in the overall brand is at least as valuable as a short-term bump in sales. And this campaign, even if it doesn’t have an immediate result, has likely had that result.

    That said, I think it has probably also boosted sales short term. But again, this is the least valuable measure of a commercial’s worth.

  4. Thanks for the comment Stephen (and thanks also for the mention in OLDaily last week).

    My experience in advertising makes me extremely skeptical about the ability of ads to create a brand. To me, a brand is the aggregate of people’s interactions with your product or service or whatever. So to reposition something like Old Spice, you have to change not only the advertising, but the experience. You’re probably right in saying that it is too early to judge this.

    However, fast moving consumer goods is the product category that is responsible for a lot of the short-term thinking in marketing, precisely because it is a category where things like advertising do in fact create quick impacts. If I were running this campaign, and I had an ad with 12+million views on youtube over 5 months, and sales had declined 7% over that same period, I would be extremely worried.

    I’m hopeful that they’ll get more of a bump from last week, since that is where the genuine innovation is in their approach. And you and Matt are both correct there – it’s far too early to judge that.

  5. I’ve been observing the “buzz” around old spice campaign for about a week now, listening in on the blogs, comments and tweets about the good, bad and ugly.

    What i failed to understand was, Who were they targeting? The mixed signals were evident.

    On one hand you have a slogan of “man’s man” and yet they were speaking to ladies,

    Two, i heard someone mention that sales dropped due to the fact no one wanted to be that guy in the check out counter with a old spice product (especially african american males) and you know considered a “what a loser”

    Third, is the psychological triggers of “old and spice” which are not modern day words for the hip and savvy young GenX and GenY crowd who know this is an “old persons” product. Hec my dad wore it, it was cheap and it stunk bad,

    Which brings up the other psychological trigger that many in the stream said this product stinks.

    Thus, in my personal opinion no matter how well this campaign was orchestrated using social media and modern tactics, Tim says it best that it may have not fit into a strategy but perhaps we haven’t seen this long term strategy yet.

    Finally, is what i call the “eww” factor that young girls don’t want their man stinking like an “old spice” guy man’s man gimmick.

    Without a doubt this was a great funny campaign, but it’s going to be interesting to see if it will “stick” what’s the follow up to this, and how will it improve on the product.

    Im also curious to know if there was extensive research done prior to this campaign, did they have focus groups, did they ask the younger generation etc etc.

    Perhaps, this was perfect opportunity to change the name of the brand and create a new identity, perhaps they could have been more creative and showed us a transition from old to young, perhaps this was the perfect opportunity to call it a new name and be in alignment with modern times.

    Who knows? but i know one thing for certain, i will never put old spice product on my body :)

  6. Thanks for that Spiro. I think that the targeting is a key issue in this. I also agree that this almost certainly would have been more effective as a new product launch, rather than as a re-brand. I’ll be interested to see what happens over the rest of this year sales-wise…

  7. I may be wrong, but I also think this is a perfect example of the new “conscious consumer” that hype and manipulation are not as strong as before, as consumers we’re smarter now, and we understand the “value in use” concept of “getting the job done”

    After the economic crisis alot of people put into perspective the value of what true value means, “less is more” and this is going to cause many companies to realize that you can’t manipulate us into believing a product or service will make me any “manlier” then i am now….

    to me so what, sales go up, some top c-levels at P&G get richer, because of what? A man’s man smell, i’m not buying it anymore,

    and many others too…

  8. I agree that this particular case may not be so critical, but there is a general point too. The mainstay of pushing all that stuff that we don’t need to us – television advertising – had no impact here. The TV ad was incredibly successful at garnering attention, but not so good at generating sales. On the other hand, it looks like the much more interactive social media campaign might have worked. This is trivial with a shower soap, but on the other hand, it does shift a bit of power back to us in this relationship. It means that firms have to actually engage instead of just broadcasting to us. I hope that ends up making a difference…

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