More reactive than flourine. Funnier than boron.
You’re still wrong, possibly even more so?
Categories: in the news, marketing

I’ve had lots of twitter chats and discussions about my post on Old Spice (here). Many thanks to those who are discussing it. I never thought I’d be spending this much time thinking and writing about a shower gel or a guy in a towel. I could keep updating the original post with information gleaned from other sources, but I thought it best to do a new post instead of rehashing issues with the data. (One of the things I don’t like about my blog layout, as much as I still love it, is that it doesn’t allow for a running commentary that a reader can scroll through. Since I flit from topic to topic on this blog, it’s rarely an issue.) Like the original post, this one will likely be a bit clunky, but I want to get it posted before I forget what I want to write. I’ll come back and make fixes as soon as I can. Please feel free to make comments.

At this point I’m holding to my earlier opinion that it’s simply too soon to tell how the Old Spice social media campaign has affected their shower gel sales. As I’ve stated many times here and elsewhere, the real measure of social media success if it is to be accepted as a “real” marketing channel is how it affects revenue. There are lots of sides to take in this debate (well, there’s my side and then the wrong side), but I think figuring out if filming 186 YouTube videos makes a difference in sales is a pretty important exercise for P&G. Anyone who says otherwise, or who is saying it doesn’t while using bad data without checking it out first, may be pushing an agenda that has little to do with the merits of the actual effort. I’ll get to that in a second.

What prompted this post is an article from Advertising Age that came out today. What’s interesting is that their numbers seem to be coming from the same source (Symphony IRI) that BrandWeek (and then Yahoo) got their numbers; and yet they show that even with the caveats I mentioned in my earlier post, the Old Spice Guy is helping shower gel sales and market share. I don’t have access to the full report, but I can’t figure out how BrandWeek/Yahoo could come up with a story that says the Old Spice Guy is a bit of a failure using the same data that AdAge says shows Old Spice “consistently gaining market share.” Something isn’t right.

So why is all of this important? Why am I spending this much time on the data and its interpretation and not the campaign itself? Let me answer that second question first. The ad campaign is getting plenty of coverage elsewhere. Go use your google muscles and you’ll find lots to ponder on everything from the making of the campaign to Isaiah Mustafa himself. All good stuff, but I’m not really about that, now am I?

What is more striking to me is how quickly the “Old Spice Fails” meme spread around social media chatterers and how fast it became “conventional” wisdom. I saw snarky comments popping up almost within minutes of the Yahoo post. I read the post, noted the issues with the data, and assumed that someone somewhere would defend the social media campaign on something more than creative arguments. But all I saw was “A for effort” posts.

I couldn’t figure it out until I realized that many trashing the Old Spice campaign have a vested interest in keeping social media nebulous. They like the idea that it’s somehow a new and different form of marketing where a specialized skillset separates them from traditional marketing types.  Along comes a very calculated effort based on creating solid, funny content and it simply has to be squashed (or at least devalued). It’s the exact opposite of the “no one knows what makes a meme go viral” ethos and the “content is dead/long live curation” stuff. What’s more, the campaign came out of a traditional agency, not some specialty shop set up to navigate the intricacies of the social media universe. (Here‘s a good AdWeek article on the digital/traditional divide as it relates to Old Spice.)

I am certain there will be lots written about the Old Spice social media campaign. (Probably some of it by me!) But one thing that may be overlooked is how quickly many social media experts either wanted the campaign to fail, or how spreading that idea demonstrated how many of them don’t really know what they’re talking about when it comes to measuring success.

Many thanks to Eddy Badrina (his blog here or follow him on Twitter @eddybadrina) and Ross Kimbarovsky (his blog here or follow him on Twitter @rosskmbarovsky). I found the AdAge article through Eddy and the AdWeek article through Ross. They’re good guys and I recommend you follow both of them. (Heed my words!)

UPDATE: Fixed the link to the AdAge article.

5 Comments to “You’re still wrong, possibly even more so?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ignorantium, James Wester and James Wester, Matt Smith. Matt Smith said: RT @jameswester: More on Old Spice at Ignorantium. "You're still wrong, possibly even more so?" http://bit.ly/9FnkNs […]

  2. James:

    I’d have said that the faction spouting the “Old Spice buzz rules!” dogma are hoping social media stays nebulous and therefore their own private domain (and cash cow) while the luddites who secretly fear social media crowed at its supposed failure.

    I’m happy to fall somewhere in between. I just want to see campaigns that work and understand why they do.

    Fascinating to see the dramatic impact BOGO coupons had on the brand and its competitors, too. Brings you back to earth, doesn’t it?


  3. B.L. Ochman says:

    I’m one of the people who wants social media not only to succeed, but to stop being considered unusual or “out there” or something you can’t measure.

    There are 100 or more ways to measure social media; it is simply a set of tools that can (or sometimes) cannot, fit into an overall marketing strategy.

    In the case of the Old Spice videos, which brilliantly used the tools, the missing link is integration. It would have been very simple to add a call to action to the videos; to add shelf-talkers, etc and bring the videos into an INTEGRATED campaign.

    Buzz is fantastic, and getting it requires great skills. But it’s not the only thing the brand needs.

    And, i must add, Old Spice smells simply awful. no marketing or advertising can fix that.

    only time will tell if the videos move the sales needle.

  4. James says:

    Thanks for the comment and thanks for the great post on your blog about the data (http://www.stephendenny.com/2010/07/old-spice-reloaded-the-sell-through/). What I’m finding particularly interesting about all the discussion going on around Old Spice is how really sharp marketing people are beginning to emerge from behind the heretofore self-proclaimed ‘experts.’ To this point so much of social media dialogue has been between people who have very little real marketing experience. For once I’m having deep, even contentious, discussions with people who actually know what they’re talking about and I’m finding it all very valuable.

  5. James says:

    BL –

    Thanks so much for the comment. I felt like we were talking past each other on Twitter. I am much closer to your position than my tweets likely indicated. I agree at this point that we don’t know if the videos will move the needle. I also think (hope? assume?) that P&G will follow up with more tactics. But if nothing else, I think this effort moves social away from being ‘out there.’


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