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, 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?

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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.

  • kuram

    I think they first nailed it with the commercial where they actually did target their core demographic... as they did talk about your man... meaning mostly in long-term live-in relationships where both are watching TV at the same time or husband and wives.....

    then they started focusing on SM to target the younger generation who like to discuss and are the driving factor behind a campaign going viral ...

    So in my humble opinion, they really hit a jackpot with the TV and YouTube campaign

    • mojo

      It's interesting that you are able to clearly identify the key messaging concept for the TV ad ("your man", which is a great line... see video SEO hounds post about his wife buying her man some Old Spice) but didn't do the same for the online effort. What exactly do you think is the discussion taking place within the younger generation?

  • Andrewwright2

    I'd rather just wait and see some proper econometrics and base all opinions on that personally. Totally agree with your refusal to accept the vague and unexplained 7% stat.

  • Jimm Fox

    Jeremy - good article. Unfortunatley it's human nature to find fault in something that is wildly popular. This campaign was hugely successful in raising brand awareness - a very important business objective. Did it drive new sales? Who knows? But then who knows how much revenue is directly attributable to the billions of dollars spent each week on awareness ads run by soft drink companies, beer companies, etc?

    • mojo

      Just wondered, what did you use to measure this "hugely successful brand awareness" mentioned above?

  • Joel Winrar

    Sales have gone up 107%
    Good ads cause good sales.

  • Ronnie Bincer

    My wife told me that she almost bought some for me last week... she "used to think Old Spice was for old men" (she doesn't see me as an old man ;-) ) but now she doesn't. She says that she will most likely surprise me with a bottle of Old Spice sometime soon.

    Note: I, as the one typing, am married to a human woman (who shops), my on line persona (a dog) is not married -- just to clear up any possible confusion!

    • Mark Robertson

      Sure buddy, sure... I'm sure she is a hot pure bred

  • Ronnie Bincer

    Good Article... thanks for shooting a shot across the bow of the nay-sayers! Arghhh Matee - Woof Woof Woof (that means good job!)

  • Asdf


  • mojo

    Couple things... Old Spice will never regain market share, its simply starting too far down the negative brand image line. "Old" carries little or no value in today's younger market. Sales of line extension products -- body wash, etc. -- might pick up sales, but only if instore promotion (price discounts) is a tie-in. Old Spice has been relegated by consumers to second or third purchase choice based on price for decades and that's where any worthwhile marketing efforts need to start. These videos are just temporary entertainment with no long term brand building value. And this fact is what makes it such a pathetic ad campaign. The entertainment factor has completely diminished the brand messaging strength.

    When are advertisers going to get that successful marketing in social network environments is about relevance?

    • Ronnie Bincer

      You sound educated, but you make it sound like the effort will not help the brand... Me thinks you be wrong! Relevance!!! Buzz this big in the SM world makes its own relevance... does not the increased discussion re. the brand equal more relevance to those that would never had discussed it in the past?

      No matter...Time and real metrics (actual relative sales figures) will tell, eh?

      • mojo

        "Buzz this big in the SM world makes its own relevance..."

        Sure, but the social media environment isn't the retail sales floor. This little detail is where we're confronted by the online/offline disconnection marketing pros are trying to overcome -- how to bridge the gap.

        Online-to-online works at the click of a button. Coupons come close (i.e. find the one you're looking for online, print it out and go save some money shopping). But advertising, viral or otherwise, is still hindered by the time gap between delivered message and desired response.

        That's the "relevance" I'm referring to.

        When something goes viral, if it moves away from your desired course, which usually happens, it's very difficult (or impossible) to bring it back in line. Which means "its own relevance" might not be what you're looking for. In this case, where I believe the campaign has become more about entertainment than brand/product, I'm not a believer that it will really help the brand image -- especially given its prior state. Although as the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity.

        There are a couple great reasons why P&G, a company that excels at marketing their products, is subtly rebranding their Old Spice line... High Endurance, Red Zone and Classic... and repositioning the name Old Spice as a hallmark of established product quality. Which works for me.

        As you've said though, time will tell if this campaign helps to that end. Much like it did with Burger King's much touted "Go back there and get me a Whopper" campaign.

  • petpand

    again, the main point of all this is one - viral success does not necessarily equal money, or at least at first. it is early to judge about the success of the campaign as it is still developing, but even if the profit margins are not dramatically rising, one thing is sure - the little dusty brand is being reinvented, and this rebranding will perhaps create a positive change in sales at a later time. we can only judge the success or failure of the campaign after it has been completed and evaluated.
    The most important thing is that it has created a buzz, and people who had no idea what old spice is, or thought only their granddad used it are now thinking twice.

  • Texas Marketer

    While it is indeed too soon to gauge the results of the campaign in simple sales term, the discussion is almost meaningless. Old Spice is clearly attempting to reposition their target market to a much younger demographic and trying to conquer their image as an 'old man's cologne' while their former target base begins to dry up. In terms of leveraging social media to increase brand awareness among a younger crowd, Old Spice has been wildly successful. We will see in the years to come whether they can grab and hold onto enough market share in that demographic to make the expense worthwhile.

    • Ronnie Bincer

      Though you give yourself an out by saying "the discussion is almost meaningless"... I respectfully beg to differ... I think the campaign about which we are commenting is a big shift in concept and nay-sayers will challenge its effectiveness. Without this article and the ensuing discussions the quote "but sales are down even after the campaign" would have won unchallenged in the battle of ideas!At least now there has been a shot across the bow of that (possibly inept) quote/story, and it may be seen as being unrelated to the actual campaign as it should.Let's hear it for Silver Fish! Woof, Woof, smack!

  • Russ_Somers

    Before you evaluate the success of any campaign, you have to ask what goals were set. Seems to me that the goals here were generating buzz and word of mouth, shifting the brand image towards a younger demographic, and generally raising awareness. Goals met, campaign successful.

    If the videos were created with the goal of converting customers online, they'd be a failure - and a very different video approach would have been in order.

  • Llexam1

    But, I always believe what I read on the Internet! Seriously, great article. It was nice to see someone apply a bit of logic and look at the claims from a different perspective.

  • triciateschke

    I've always thought of Old Spice as talcum powder for old men so at least they're beginning to shift my sentiment toward the brand. That said, I'm sure Isaiah Mustafa didn't smell so good after 12 hours on that set catching fish.

  • Media Designer

    The best point is this - Viral success does not equal money. Think of other memes, like the Star Wars kid and that guy miming to a song on his webcam. I doubt they had film studios beating down their doors. Viral success is fleeting.
    Love or hate Old Spice, you still laughed. But did you buy?

    If your'e as stubborn as I am, you won't care about the ad. It won't be that persuasive. Customers shop with their senses, and if something looks bad or stinks or doesn't feel right, they won't buy.

  • FirefighterBlog

    I am not drawn to the product by this character. He's boorish as he talks down to the audience much like the current president. We are tired of actors and wannabe actors telling us what to do. Personally I will not use Old Spice products until they show this guy the door.