The social media marketing efforts of the Old Spice Man are still reverberating throughout the Internet. You might say he's a media darling, right? But there are some whispers out there that suggest the commercials have not been all that effective, despite their massive reach. Time Magazine, of all sources, is reporting that while the campaign is universally lauded, the actual sales of the product have slipped.
There are really two things I want to talk about with this, and the first is this whole "sales are down" thing. Who does Time Magazine cite as the source for their claim that Old Spice body wash sales are down? Well, they cite WARC, and advertising news site, and BNET, a management website.
So let's see who those two websites cite as their source for the numbers. WARC cites… absolutely no one. Just drops into a paragraph a line that reads:
"While there is little doubt about the viral hit's popularity - the official version has racked up 12.2 million impressions on YouTube - sales of Red Zone After Hours Body Wash have fallen by 7%."
That's pretty vague. Sales have dropped by 7% since when? Compared to what? BNET, on the other hand, at least tries to cite a source, and merely says that it's Brandweek who is reporting the drop of 7% in sales for Old Spice Red Zone After Hours Body Wash—and they also mention this is comparing sales of the product through June 13 against the previous year. There is no link. Just a name drop. So yet again I'm left to find the actual original stat myself.
But if you head over to Brandweek.com, you won't find it. I started searching their site using phrases like "old spice" and "body wash" and couldn't find a thing. Figuring maybe their search function just stinks, I ran some queries on Google and still couldn't find any online mention by Brandweek of Old Spice's sales lagging. I did find one article on Brandweek about how Old Spice ruled the web, dated July 15th, with not one mention of sales lagging.
So did BNET or WARC just make it up? I doubt it. But I've come to a place in my life where I no longer take statistics on blogs or news articles seriously unless they are linked to the source. Because it's not that hard. If Brandweek said it, then it's online somewhere… find it and link to it, or don't quote it.
See, I have this suspicion that it's just too juicy a story to resist to be able to say "Yeah, those ads are awesome but the sales are actually dropping.” So once one guy says it, a bunch of other guys start repeating it. Once that happens enough, people will no longer care if the stats are even true.
For the sake of setting the record straight, let's assume the stat is true. I'm willing to do that. It's measuring sales from June 14, 2009 through June 13, 2010. Now, the Old Spice Man campaign didn't even start until after the Super Bowl this year. That was February, 2010. So the campaign has only existed for less than half the year that is being measured. There are 8 months or so of sales that the current campaign has nothing to do with. Who's to say that the sales weren't maybe down so far already that they would have dropped 20% for the period had not the Old Spice Man come to the rescue had stopped the decline? How do we know the sales dip is attributable to the campaign? Answer: We don't. Not even close. But it sure makes a great headline, doesn't it?
Also, the last I checked, we were still an economy in trouble, with a huge number of brands seeing sales drop compared to previous recent years. I don't know about you, but if I'm cutting things off my grocery list due to finances, I'm cutting body wash way the heck before I'm cutting milk or bread.
And when did Old Spice Man's run of personalized messages and videos begin? Last week… around Wednesday as I recall, which was the 14th of July… a full month after the time period where Old Spice body wash sales supposedly dropped 7%. And while the campaign has been popular online for some time, it wasn't until just last week that it went nuclear and landed on everybody's radar.
So while it may be trendy to reference those personalized videos from last week and then drop the hammer about the sales dip, please know that the two are not related. I imagine if you looked at just the last six months—and certainly if you looked at just the last 14 days—you'd probably see a sales bump for After Hours Body Wash, not a dip. It is simply not fair to suggest the Old Spice Man campaign has been a failure and base it off only this June-to-June sales figure. It's trendy to say that… but it's unfair, and also completely illogical.
My second point (yes, that was all still the first point) is this: Viral success does not equal money. The end. I'm a little surprised that these sites like Time can write about this and make it sound like a new concept. But there is a long, sad history of ad campaigns that were universally praised only to not actually impact sales positively. It happens. If you create an amazing video with the idea that the video's awesomeness alone will increase your sales… you are misguided and destined to fail.
Hilarious videos alone are not a sales strategy. They can help boost your brand's visibility. They can endear you to consumers. They can send you lots of online traffic. But they can't process a financial transaction. There has to be something about your brand or your product that compels the sale… jokes alone usually can't do that.
A brand's online marketing efforts should lead to increased sales… that's the goal, obviously. Sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. It is way too soon to tell if last week's online PR offensive will impact sales positively… because it only happened last week. But even if Old Spice Man's campaign does ultimately prove to have not helped sales, it takes nothing away from all they did right online. Regardless of sales, they've still created a new standard for social media marketing against which many future campaigns will be measured.