Old Spice has earned their place in advertising lore. Years from now, when marketing students are making their way through the textbook, there will be an entire chapter on Old Spice Man, and the enormous level of buzz he managed to achieve for the brand in 2010. The world rejoiced--myself included--when he returned in late January of this year.
But then... when the first new ad starring Old Spice Man appeared, I was mildly surprised to see that it was generally the same formula and style as before. Check it out:
Now, maybe the brand decided that there were so many fans of Old Spice Man that changing the style of the commercials would be too risky--after all, the audience knew what to expect, right? And I get that. I didn't want them to completely reinvent the pitch, but I guess I expected a little more... innovation... or stretching.
Which is not to say the ad is dull and unfunny--quite the opposite. It's probably their best one yet, in my opinion. But there's no new twist or wrinkle. And everyone knows that audiences get bored quickly. So I was secretly disappointed that the brand was choosing to keep the status quo without tweaking it a bit.
The New Old Spice Twist
Imagine my surprise, then, when they actually did tweak the formula by releasing a "how'd they do that" video finally giving fans a look at how these now-famous commercials are actually made:
You know what I love most about it? I still have no idea how they do it. I mean... I do, because they've just shown me. But I can't fathom how they're able to pull it off, because it looks like such a herculean effort behind the scenes. It's a rare "behind the scenes" video that doesn't take any of the mystique away from the original. But because they pan in so close on the Old Spice Man, you can't really see all the feverish work being done by the crew to create all those prop and set changes. You understand the concept without fully grasping the particulars.
It's perfect. And it renews my faith in the brand and their creative agency. I was probably too quick to judge the entire campaign just from the first ad. It's clear now that they have plans to do more than just imitate the first round of ads.
What Can We Learn From Old Spice?
All brands can learn a lesson here--if not a few. First, don't let your videos get repetitive. Even if what you're doing has worked several times, it can be a dangerous strategy to keep the status quo, because audiences get bored very easily. Successful online videos change up the formula, even if only slightly, and keep the viewers on their toes.
Second... never be afraid of showing off how hard you've worked. The viral viewing public has a surprising amount of respect for production efforts of gigantic proportions. The more evident your effort, the more endearing you are to them.
Finally... give the audience a new perspective. Show them something they've seen before--something they're familiar with--but show it to them in a slightly new way... from a new angle... or with a new, informing piece of information. The familiarity lures them in, and the new twist holds their attention.