Old Spice smells like social media success

Old Spice videos go viral on YouTube, schooling companies on using social networks

To all the companies out there who are trying to use social media: You've just been schooled.

Procter & Gamble, the company behind the Old Spice line of men's deodorants, aftershaves and other toiletries, took a brand that of late has made people think of their uncle or that old guy down the street and not only made it cool again, but made it one of the most talked-about names on the Internet this week.

P&G this past week launched an Old Spice social media blitz that will have its YouTube videos being replayed for months -- and will leave other companies studying how it did it.

"The Old Spice strategy makes brilliant use of social media," said Augie Ray, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "The response has been terrific. Social networks are buzzing. Video resharing has been very high, and the Old Spice YouTube channel now has 75 million total upload views. And this effort shows evidence of going even more viral."

Old Spice received a lot of attention earlier this year when it first aired some quirky commercials featuring ex-football player Isaiah Mustafa, who promoted Old Spice products while making fun of heart throbs from Harlequin romance novels. This week, Procter & Gamble featured Mustafa in a series of quick-hit videos that responded individually to messages and questions that some fans submitted via Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter.

The videos -- which featured Mustafa bare-chested and with a towel wrapped around his waist, holding an Old Spice bottle and addressing individual users, such as "W. Spencer on Twitter" and "Rose from Yahoo" -- had people flocking to YouTube to play and replay them. Even comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and actress Alyssa Milano got in on the action, posting their own questions and receiving personalized video responses.

The videos were released over a period of a few days during the week.

On Friday morning, the Old Spice videos, which were the brainchild of Portland, Ore.-based ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, accounted for seven of the top 10 videos on YouTube.

"Certainly, they showed everyone how to create viral videos," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. "This was surprisingly good work from a brand that most folks had largely written off as obsolete. They created an entertaining video that also made the company appear new and trendy."

Using social networks like Twitter and YouTube was a big part of making that happen, added Enderle.

Ray also noted that Procter & Gamble was successful with the Old Spice campaign because the company used social media to enable consumers to participate. Using Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter, customers -- and noncustomers who were amused by the effort -- sent in questions as silly as "How do I get women to stop chasing me after I use Old Spice body wash?" And many of them were able to see Mustafa give funny answers to their specific questions.

It's all about customer participation.

"Another lesson from this successful program is the value of giving up some control, which happened at several different levels," said Ray. Whereas "a typical ad takes months to plan and execute," in the case of the Old Spice YouTube campaign, he said, "consumers were asked for their input, then a team of social media experts, marketers, writers, videographers and actor Isaiah Mustafa were sequestered to produce over 150 different video responses over the course of two days."

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Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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