Lessons to be learned from the brand your brand could smell like.

Nothing says “viral video campaign” like a sexy, adventurous man who always smells faintly of — what is that? Ah yes, it’s the scent of bold, unabashed masculinity.

In 2010, Old Spice released an ad campaign that would rock the modern advertising world. This Wieden+Kennedy-created campaign, commonly referred to as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” featured the aforementioned man speaking directly to women who just might want their male partners to smell a little bit more like this enviable dude:

Why did this campaign target female viewers, rather than the men for whom the products were designed? Because women held the purchasing power: Old Spice had determined that women were often the ones buying hygiene products for their partners (a very similar scenario was played out in the popular TV show Mad Men). The campaign was an instant hit, and the Old Spice Man became a cultural phenomenon.

The Old Spice Man Has Arrived

Following the campaign’s success, Old Spice capitalized on this momentum by launching an engagement campaign between the Man Your Man Could Smell Like and his fans. The “Responses” campaign consisted of the Old Spice Man answering crowdsourced questions from his fans on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In total, 186 personalized video messages addressed to fans were scripted and filmed in just over two and a half days. The result? 5.9 million views on YouTube within 24 hours of the first “response” video being posted — more views than Obama’s victory speech garnered in that same timeframe!

The campaign has since racked up 65 million views and counting, and has given the brand a major boost on social media: Old Spice’s Twitter following increased by 2,700%, Facebook fans rose 800%, and Old Spice became the number one most-viewed branded channel on YouTube.

So, what exactly did Old Spice get so right in this campaign?

1. A Subtle Approach

Old Spice used brand pulsing to seamlessly weave product placement and logos into narrative videos that ostensibly had nothing to do with the brand. Most of the props used were random and intentionally tangential, so viewers allowed themselves to be engrossed in the silliness of the concept, instead of being turned off by a hard sell approach.

2. They Kept it Interesting…Very Interesting

From flying fish to bathtub piñatas, you never knew what to expect from the “man your man could smell like.” As each video was so uniquely over the top, viewers kept coming back for more, and consequently became invested in the story that Old Spice was telling.

3. Genuine Engagement with Viewers

Each response video specifically addressed actual tweets or social media comments — some from everyday viewers, and others from celebrities (check out this one responding to Alyssa Milano). Not only did this approach make every ad personal, it also made the ads imminently shareable: after all, if Isaiah Mustafa starred in a video speaking directly to you, wouldn’t you share it with everyone you know?

Key Takeaways For Your Brand

Old Spice’s “Responses” video campaign went viral because it combined unique entertainment value with the potential for actual viewer engagement. The “Responses” campaign also gave rise to the Old Spice Guy — a character that transcended the brand itself to become a pop cultural phenomenon.

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Author Hilary Krutt

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Hilary joined L&T after several years in the publishing industry at Simon & Schuster. As a member of the editorial board for the Off the Shelf book blog, her writing has been featured on the Huffington Post, among other major publications. At L&T, Hilary manages content quality and production, collaborating directly with writers, content managers, and clients to ensure every piece we write hits the mark every time. In her free time, Hilary is an avid reader and live music enthusiast. She hails from Boston but currently calls Brooklyn home.

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