The Genius of Old Spice's Viral Marketing Campaign

Tech writers explain the overnight success of Old Spice's social media marketing campaign

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The makers of Old Spice have pulled off a cheap and quick marketing coup that could change the way consumer products are promoted. In the past few days, the deodorant company invited social-media users to submit questions to the Old Spice Man, their topless, über-suave spokesman. After wading through the submissions, the marketing team churned out a slew of videos calling out individual users by name. In no time, the clips went viral, attracting millions of eyeballs. Here's what they did and how they succeeded:

Old Spice, marketing agency Wieden + Kennedy and actor Isaiah Mustafa are collaborating on the project. The group seeded various social networks with an invitation to ask questions of Mustafa's character, a dashing shirtless man with over-the-top humor and bravado. Then all the responses were tracked and users who contributed interesting questions and/or were high-profile people on social networks are being responded to directly and by name in short, funny YouTube videos. The group has made videos in response to Digg founder Kevin Rose, TV star Alyssa Milano (now big on Twitter) and many more people, famous and not.

It is well done and it appeals to peoples' egos - but there is something more, too. It feels very personalized, even if it wasn't directed at you. Those people that got responses, and many people who didn't, have Tweeted, Facebooked and otherwise shared links to the videos back out across their social networks.

The campaign works so well because it is super-direct, nearly-instantaneous viral marketing that costs next to nothing. Just consider the concept -- one character standing in front of a shower all day, a few simple props, and a camera crew set up and ready to record, rip, and respond to messages with a personalized video.

On the other end, consumers and people just looking for a laugh interact directly with the Old Spice Man, which instills a certain amount of trust and closeness with the company. Words like "trust" and "closeness" might sound like they belong in a Cosmo article about what makes a strong romantic relationship, but let's face it -- today, consumers don't just want a good product, they want to know that the person selling to them cares.

  • They Managed to Keep YouTube and 4Chan Commenters Polite! notes Lucian Parfeni at Softpedia:

The product of these very prolific two days will live on forever as a testament of what man and marketing dollars can achieve. Plenty of companies have tried to create viral campaigns before, but this one will probably end up in the textbooks.

Handled perfectly from start to finish, the campaign managed to tame even the web's most vicious crowds, YouTube commenters and 4chan. YouTubers were mostly on their best behavior and many of the comments are not only understandable, they're actually positive. And if there's one thing that 4chan hates is people talking about 4chan, which makes its positive reaction even more surprising.

  • Perfect Execution by Mustafa, writes Stan Schroeder at Mashable: "The Old Spice guy recorded his video responses in rapid succession, an amazing feat in itself which cannot be truly appreciated if you've never been in front of a camera. His answers were a perfect mix of coolness and the stuff internet memes are made of. The actual brand - Old Spice - was never shoved into viewers' throats. Most importantly, all of it was incredibly fun to watch."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.