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What's the ROI of the Old Spice Guy?

This just in: despite the massive viral popularity of the Old Spice guy, sales of Old Spice are down.

Shocker. I don't care how fun/viral/clever/sexy/whatever you dub the campaign, at the end of the day, it's still Old Spice, the cologne of a million grandpas of yesteryear.

Here's the thing: how much of the incredible buzz about this campaign has come from industry insiders who have a vested interest in it being a success for P&G? I mean, sure a bunch of social media consultants, ad agencies and general Kool-Aid drinkers (myself among them, of course) WANT this campaign to be a success because we all stand to look more credible if this does turn out to be a slam-dunk for Old Spice and P&G. Why? Because we're trying to make money and/or a career creating this exact kind of campaign for other brands.

But now this whole Old Spice thing is getting muddy--sales are down, yet the popularity of the Old Spice Guy is up. Would canning the campaign be a "PR debacle" and hurt sales more? Or is this not even about sales anymore and, if so, what does that mean about advertising? That ads are now about garnering good PR for a brand and not about selling product anymore? What's the ROI of that?

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  • Mar 7 Posted 6 years ago Brunce (not verified)

    Hi, I am looking for some recent Old Spice Sales Data - It has been more than 6 months now that the campaign has been launched, we might be able to get new insights about the ROI of this campaign. Any feed-back would be appreciated, thanks ! 

  • Sep 2 Posted 6 years ago seo training br... (not verified)

    Well look like sales were OK after all, yes i read the gloom and doom reports but I dont think they told the whole story, in fact looks that sales are actually rocketing wrote about it here:


  • Jul 25 Posted 7 years ago Mr.Sifter (not verified)

    "dropped 7 percent according to SymphonyIRI. (That amount excludes those rung up at Walmart.) P&G execs were not available to comment." http://industry.bnet.com/advertising/10007535/the-old-spice-guy-a-media-darling-has-a-dirty-secret-sales-are-down/ For one, none of this data has come from P&G, and two: the original article stated clearly that this does not include walmart sales. It would be one thing if this was like, yah we didn't include sales from 7-11 or something, but walmart? That could easily skew the sales figures right there. Maybe walmart had some sale on and everyone bought from there for a few weeks. I'm amazed at how fast the blogosphere pics up these stories when the so called 'facts' have such huge holes in them. 

  • MarcOliverGern's picture
    Jul 25 Posted 7 years ago MarcOliverGern

    I've been observing this marketing phenomenon since it started. What comes to my mind is this: Do you know those strangers who sit at the other site of the street or in a coffee shop and wave at you from far away? ... at the drop of a hat? You wave back, and at the same time you give a shrug. You think; I don't know this person. Maybe I do. Who cares – I can't remember it anyways, but I can wave back. Just because it's polite. This is how the campaign felt.

    This campaign doesn't create awareness – instead – it creates anticipation, for something that is once known, but now lost. And, with anticipation – trategy is just around the corner. You just can't do CPR on a dead body. And Old Spice is dead. Just look at the name.

    They should have created a new product, with a new name AND give people the option to purchase that thing ONLINE.

  • Jul 23 Posted 7 years ago Stefanie (not verified)

    Are sales for the general product down for all brands?  Or just Old Spice?

    I think a big element the advertisers missed here is APPLICATION.  Dudes use soap.  If you don't provide something to apply said body wash with they are more likely to reach for a bar, not for a bottle.  Using a wolverine is hilarious in concept but unrealistic in execution.  ;)

  • Jul 23 Posted 7 years ago Alex (not verified)

    One Old Spice feature on Mad Men and it could be enough to rocket the product [ha!]. I just think the brand is quirky, and would do well in the rural community, not the big city.

  • DuncanPringle's picture
    Jul 23 Posted 7 years ago DuncanPringle

    Maggie hi

    I know we should never use oneself as a marketing principle however! based on my own experience I believe it is quite difficult to buy gifts for men and the default for any birthday or Christmas is a fragrance. Hence my cupboard is full with maybe five different brands. In addition to that I don't use the fragrances that often.

    My interest in Old spice however has been piqued the clip or clips have definitely worked on me. Although I might be out of their target audience at 46 I will certainly sample the brand or suggest it as a potential next gift for anyone who asks! 

    Let's give them time to see how sales are affected eg. 6 months with the run up to Christmas before we make any judgements.

    Worth raising the arguement though.


  • Jul 23 Posted 7 years ago Duncan Pringle (not verified)

    Maggie hi

    I know we should never use oneself as a marketing principle however! based on my own experience I believe it is quite difficult to buy gifts for men and the default for any birthday or Christmas is a fragrance. Hence my cupboard is full with maybe five different brands. In addition to that I don't use the fragrances that often.

    My interest in Old spice however has been piqued the clip or clips have definitely worked on me. Although I might be out of their target audience at 46 I will certainly sample the brand or suggest it as a potential next gift for anyone who asks! 

    Let's give them time to see how sales are affected eg. 6 months with the run up to Christmas before we make any judgements.

    Worth raising the arguement though.


  • FrankStrong's picture
    Jul 23 Posted 7 years ago FrankStrong

    Maggie -- love the post -- I like how you are asking a question worth debating. However, I do agree with the sentiment I've read on these comments:  it is a bit soon to tell.  The campaign just happened, and I'd wager a guess a campaign like this was in an effort to turn things around:  sales trend down, new campaign to drive revenue. Assuming of course you have product people will love and only need to discover.  

    If I were to offer any constructive criticism to an otherwise brilliant campaign -- it would have been to drip things our a little more so as to prolong the buzz, rather than fire off all the videos and build a bunch of buzz that lasts a week. Then again, who knows.  They could take this vertical:  hit up football fans in September, politicians in November, Santa at Christmas and so on.  

  • Jul 22 Posted 7 years ago Coles Network (not verified)

    very thought provoking question and very insightful feedback!

    the Old Spice case is quoted hundreds of times in circles of HK marketers, as a successful example. But isn't sales performance is the ultimate objective for any successful social media (or marketing) campaign?

    When we talk about ROI, we are looking at the whole thing from the angle of the business owners. not from users', not from PRs'. That is just a good example to illustrate social media is not always the all-powerful strategy for every type of businesses. People who want immediate "ROI" associated with sales may want to rethink about shifting more and more resources to social media.

    My point is, the unique power that distinguishes social media marketing from other marketing channels/tools is the effectiveness to connect users with the brand. No one ever dare to guarantee a popular video or hot discussion will generate more sales. With the presence new-style media  and marketing platforms, different kinds of business models should also be in place.

    Product sales is not necessarily the main objective for any marketing campaign. Take media publications as an example, circulation is not the only indicator deciding whether a magazine is successful or not. Some magazines has only a fraction of readership figures comparing with others, but if their contents, including activities and events are targeting her group well enough. revenue can be drawn not only from printrun sales, but also from higher ads rate, or content/event sponsorships, or joint ventures, etc.

    These may be cases to show that social media is good as a tool to create a specific value, but not necessarily generating direct sales revenue. So whether the Old Spice campaign is a successful one actually depend upon the goals set by the business itself before everything even started.

    I do agree with your point that no brands should be defined and confined as an "old timer" and I hope Old Spice already have sth in mind to leverage on the popularity of the Old Spice Guy.


  • Jul 22 Posted 7 years ago LibraryAdvocate (not verified)

    Librarians at Brigham Young University have made a spoof of the Old Spice commericals.  The commercials have spread like wildfire across the globe, within libraryland.  See http://advocate4libraries.blogspot.com/2010/07/new-spice-study-like-scholar-scholar.html

    Wonder if sales of Old Spice will increase as "joke gifts"


  • Jul 22 Posted 7 years ago Brent Kobayashi (not verified)

    Hi Maggie,

    Thank you for the post.

    I've been wearing Old Spice for a few months.  Not because of the commercials, but because it was on sale at Zellers.   Even though I had seen at least one of the commercials, buying I did not make the connection between the product and the commercial or brand - it was just something I needed on sale.

    My wife isn't a fan.  However, I'm OK with that - it's Old Spice after all.  Before the recent campaign, I definitely wouldn't have said that.

    The other brands on the shelf may smell better - but for me, they have almost zero brand recognition with me.  Old Spice has 100% brand recognition with me - I will forever associate their product with their brand.

    Would I buy Old Spice again? - I'm not sure - While price or smell may still be the final factors, Old Spice will definitely be one of the contenders.  Being "one of the contenders" I think is the measure - perhaps the only measure - of a successful marketing campaign.

    Regardless of actual final sales numbers - Old Spice has everyone's attention.  Not just social media commentators - but actual bonafide end-users.  This campaign was wonderfully successful at bringing people to Old Spice and differentiating Old Spice from all the other "smell like a man" products.

    There are quite a number of ways a product can fail - Heck, sales could go down not because of a lack of demand, but because of supply chain problems.

    I think it would be a grave mistake and a hugely unrealistic to promoise a 1 to 1 relationship between marketing and sales.

    The marketing people have done their part to support the Old Spice bottom line.  If the product still isn't one that people want, the campaign itself isn't negated.  It would just be a recognition that there is far more to building a business than great marketing - not a new observation, but I think really important when setting expectations for what a marketing campaign is expected to deliver.

    Best regards,



  • Jul 22 Posted 7 years ago Flair Media, Inc. (not verified)

    Read through most of the comments and the majority appear to be from men.  Let's keep in mind that this campaign was originally conceived with women as the primary demographic.  A comic hommage to romance novels, soap opera heroes, and warped perceptions of what the perfect man is supposed to deliver.  So I'm not surprised to hear that men aren't rushing off to purchase (or are they? data isn't really in yet, is it) as it's women who will likely respond to this ad and hand over their purchasing power.  Also, discouraging a brand like Old Spice and its ginormous parent company P&G from experimenting with new tools is folly. I'm guessing it was enormously difficult for P&G to loosen up their ties and step back from their very traditional brand marketing methodologies.  Seems an old dog has learned some new tricks which ultimately bodes well for Old Spice and all the other brands under the P&G umbrella.

  • Jul 22 Posted 7 years ago Pamela Sandler (not verified)

    Great discussion- many good points. I'd add that it should all go back to the brief and original goals/KPIs, about which we can only speculate. BUT, because the body wash is a new product, we can assume that there are two goals hidden in there somewhere: awareness and sales. If the primary goal is awareness, it sounds like success. Impressions? Check. They have made an old-fashioned brand relevant among a much younger demographic. And we're all talking about it. However, if the primary goal was sales, let's hope they set appropriate timeframes to let the awareness work and plan to now activate some trial mechanisms.

  • Jul 22 Posted 7 years ago STEVE KALAYDJIAN (not verified)

    While as many have already said, a marketing campaign does not necessarily lead to an immediate and/or sustained increase in sales and even may not be intended to do so, I'd like to point out the article referred to when indicating that "sales of Old Spice [Red Zone After Hours Body Wash product] are down" outright states that sales at Walmart are not included in the statistic that sales are down 7% during the year ended June 13.  Considering the size of Walmart, I have to believe that a significant amount of data is missing behind the statistic.

    Equally as important, what was the trending during that year? Was there an even greater decline leading up the the launch of the campaign, and then a recovery during the campaign period?

    So the question in the headline "What's the ROI of the Spice Guy?" goes unanswered so far. Thanks @johndriver for pointing to an article with additional sales performance data.

  • Jul 22 Posted 7 years ago Swift Media (not verified)

    If the campaign has worked (and as mentioned already, only sales figures will confirm that in time) then it's an achievement in itself for the Old Spice brand. 

    I don't agree with the perceptions that it is an old, pre World War 2 brand. So is Pepsi, Coca Cola and a host of other incredibly strong and financially viable brands. You don't see their marketing and branding exercises taking a back seat. On the contrary; the idea has been to make use of and leverage the power of the internet,  online marketing, social media etc. 

    The brand is showing a maturity and willingness to move with the times and embrace the multiple marketing channels available. This is in no way a bad thing.

    Consider the following: Would we be engaged in open discussions here if this were not the case?

    I wish there were some brands in South Africa  that would do the same.

  • Jul 22 Posted 7 years ago Laurence Collings (not verified)

    Like everyone, seemingly, I love these ads - but you could make an awesome ad for a CD Walkman and still no-one would buy.


    As people here have mentioned, you've got to look at the product. Do I even believe the guy in the ad would choose to wear the stuff? No. Would any of my mates? No. Did the guys at W&K pick up that first bottle and go "Eww! That's horrible!"? Yes. So if it's sales they're looking for, maybe a little product innovation to get with the times would have delivered better returns?


    The other problem is that the ads don't make Old Spice any more buyable. No more acceptable. Because although the ads are great, the joke is always at Old Spice's expense. The ads mock the product. It worked for skoda, but there was a more tangible product benefit beneath the humour. It worked for Cillit Bang, but that's not an image product - and again, there's a very compelling product benefit being communicated. But the Old Spice ads? They're comedy sketches, with not enough of a message to take away.


    Which is a shame, coz they rock.

  • Jul 22 Posted 7 years ago johndriver (not verified)

    The latest P&G numbers show sales up 107% http://www.prweekus.com/the-cycle/section/1254/

  • Jul 21 Posted 7 years ago RobertBacal

    Just revisiting this, and just an interesting observation. When good news is announced about how such and such a company increased sales or traffic or whatever as a result of its social media campaigns or activities, nobody EVER comments that it's too soon to tell or even disputes the data interpretation (except...well, there's me...).

    But when negative news surfaces about the failure of campaigns, all of a sudden everyone recovers their abilities to think, and rightly so, by the way.

    We NEED to apply the same standards of critical thought to both, and we aren't getting that in the media or in blogs and websites, and the losses due to misinformation and bias have to be staggering for businesses who invest hundreds of hours of important time in social media, not realizing the sucess rates are absolutely infinitesimal. We NEED to hear about the failures, which, by and large are silent and hidden.

    It's just passingly weird and just a little scary.

  • Jul 21 Posted 7 years ago Taylor V (not verified)

    This has come up a bunch during conversations over beers with my guy friends. They love the Old Spice guy, but it doesn't make them consciously want to buy the product. (Age range 24-35). When we're sitting in bars and the commercial comes on though, you better believe that every guy in the bar is poking their buddies going "I love that dude!" I think Old Spice definitely has a long way to go to being desireable in younger consumers' minds...


    ...even though my guy friends say they don't buy Old Spice, I've witnessed more of my friends who've never bought Old Spice buying it than ever before. They might not be selling more - but are they at least getting younger consumers to buy it? Perhaps it's a phenomenon where the older consumers are buying less of it because they aren't connecting with the brand as well as they were in the past, while newer consumers are starting to buy more of it. Anyone have those numbers?

  • Jul 21 Posted 7 years ago Joey (not verified)

    1) Advertsing cannot always be isolated as a cause for sales increase/decrease. The change is sales can be caused by many different factors.

    2) Creating stronger brand awareness does not have immediate effects, rather it gets ingrained into the subconcious and can affect decisions in the future.

    3) This campaign will also create tremendous employee pride and satisfaction, where now everyone knows that you work for "the" brand. Similiar to the billboard concept, where someone is driving along and points "look, that's the company I work for.

    And every single viral campaign has the same amount of social media campaigners who are putting their all behind the campaign. This one worked though because it is good.


  • Jul 21 Posted 7 years ago Ramon (not verified)

    I totally agree with Darthgary. Old Spice forgot the most important marketing P: Product.

    People may like a campaign, but if the product's crap, they won't buy it. I'm sure I wouldn't!

  • Jul 21 Posted 7 years ago Anthony Perez (not verified)

    You can't look at a campaign in the short term and measure its effect on a brand that's taking on the major task of changing consumer perception. Before the whole Malboro Man thing, Malboro was something like 5th in cig sales and mostly considered a female brand. A year after Malboro Man launched, they're ranking in cig sales improved 0 places. They were still 5th. They stuck with it. Two years later, they were the #1 cig brand.

  • Jul 21 Posted 7 years ago Gaurav (not verified)

    a) Too early, my body wash bottle is still half empty.

    b) Advertising doesn’t sell products, it simply makes or breaks (change) brand perception. So probably in this case the task at hand was to attempt change of brand perception from yesteryear or World War II brand (like you rightly mentioned).

    Having said that, brands and products create immense value in people’s lives, with digital (this includes Social Media, which is probably the best amplifier ever) assimilation they have been given the opportunity to add to this value through meaningful and deliberate action. So a simple two point criteria for me; 'Utility', 'Entertainment' or 'Both', this campaign only delivers high on Entertainment Value and Zero on Utility.

    So, I think W&K + P&G guys are not really expecting real business results from this campaign (will be a huge bonus if it does), but surely it over delivered on all other softer metrics.

    Read little bit more about this topic @ http://technologychannel.posterous.com/as-digital-disappears

  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago Iain Bain (not verified)

    Assessment of this style of campaign, based on sales levels, is surely a little premature. Although huge numbers in the social media realm may be what we see (working within the field) but the real impact will only be seen when the retail cycle has a chance to work. Sales don't happen until after retailers have increased floor and shelf allowance, and the retail groups are more likely to do this once the campaign numbers success gains more mainstream awareness.

  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago Joe Buhler (not verified) I'm actually not really sad as the lack of immediate sales pick up proves what I have said all along, successful social web engagement requires a long term commitment. There are very few instant hits for most practitioners as people are - as one previous commenter mentions - not that easily swayed by clever marketing, even when it comes along under the guise of the at present hot social media label. The immediate, financial ROI bean counters will have to be more patient here. Probably they won't be and the revolving door reality for most CMO's will likely continue as this social "thing" is no instant panacea for what ails so much marketing and advertising today.
  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago Stacey Prieur (not verified)

     Interesting POINT! 

     This reminds me of the Budweiser Frogs and how much everyone LOVED them but yet didn't purchase Budweiser! Such a shame. I too LOVE the Old Spice man! I enjoy the viral marketing, I enjoy the commercials and the YouTube videos, and I love that they're giving a "new spice" to Old Spice by switching up the branding strategy.

     However, with that said I grew up in the 80's and my Dad and grandfather were both Old Spice men, so I don't think I could buy Old Spice for my guy and not feel weird about the fact that he smells like my father. If you're going to brand the product as a new, sexy, avant-garde brand to women I don't think it's going to sell. Not only that the Old Spice man is on a yacht, wants to take you to the Opera, and rides a white horse, while the price point of sales suggests you're lucky if he owns a dingy, he'll take you to cheap night at the movies, and the only horse you're going to ride is a beat up old mustang that backfires. 

     Sad to say but if they wanted to "SELL" the product, they should make Jason Lee's character in My Name Is Earl the brand spokes person, and go after their real market. 

     Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago Brian (not verified)

    Thanks to the voices asking for patience with results...you can do an effective read out so quickly, being that this thing really just exploded within the last two weeks or so. 

    Having said that, to Robert's point, consumers are getting smarter and savvier and cannot be so easily manipulated by media any longer.  While I would expand his points to include all of media/advertising instead of just social media - there are generally more failures than success stories.  The catch of social media is this, like it or not, lots of people spend their time there. There are more messages/content items from "friends" now than from brands - guess who wins? 

    Finally, DarthGarry said it best....Old Spice smells like crap.  No amount of cleverness will help a product whos time has passed. 

  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago Melissa (not verified)

    Interesting. Last night on NPR Marshall Kirkpatrick was discussing this (and Isaiah Mustafa was also on the program) and he said "while Old Spice hasn't disclosed sales numbers, it says it has seen a clear increase in sales as a result of the campaign."

    And the numbers referenced in BrandWeek are annual numbers-- they're not reflective of a week long trend/the impact of a quick, viral campaign. The true impact of Mustafa's videos and Wieden + Kennedy's campaign will be seen in the coming weeks-- not in the weeks prior to the influx of YouTube videos.

  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago Steve Woods (not verified)

    How about this one -- sure, the ads are great.  They make people laugh, and they look forward to the next episode. 

    But what about the product, when faced with a bottle in the supermarket?  The brand name implies that it uses Old Spice cologne (even if it really doesn't,) which nobody since my grandfather really cares for.  Average aged men don't buy the stuff, and mom's aren't going to shell out that kind of money for an easily fooled 13-year-old boy.  Old Spice bodywash is expensive and not as effective as a simple nice-smelling bar of soap.  

    You just can't overcome a product nobody is interested in through good advertising.  They should've considered consumer sentiment on their brand name first.  If there exists negative sentiment toward the brand, P & G could've created a separate brand for the body wash and launched their ad based on that brand.

  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago Judy Bellem (not verified)

    Mike Lauri and John P have strong points to consider (above). I also think it's too early to assess the effectiveness of this campaign. The ones that have the inside track and ability to do so are P&G and W&K. One thing for sure, it has increased awareness for the brand and with that hopefully follow sales. It will be interesting to check back later this year or after the holiday buying period.

  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago RobertBacal

    If in fact sales are down, it's something we should be rejoicing about, because it shows that consumers cannot be so easily manipulated by media, and that I find encouraging.

    For social media advocates, of course, this is sad, but it does exemplify the disconnect between social media and business results, and it demonstrates what I've been saying all along -- that the power of social media for business is mostly hype and hope and that successes are few and far between while the failures go unnoticed.

    ...but it's early on this yet, and we need to be reasonably sceptical of some of the numbers bandied about.

  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago Christy Lui (not verified)

    This is such disappointing news.  You really want a campaign that's so clever, attention-getting and FUN to get real business results.

  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago DarthGarry (not verified)

    The ads are genius, but the sad truth is that Old Spice smells like crap.  You know the saying "You can polish a....." or maybe it should say "You can have a viral awesome video campaign, but it's still a..."

    You get the idea.


  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago Mike P (not verified)

    I asked myself the same question last week and had a conversation on Twitter around this specific topic. I had asked if anyone had felt that Old Spice missed a significant opportuinty to offer up coupons to anyone who visited and watched some of their video's. This helps to award those people who currently use the product, assiting in customer retnetion, but also may have assisted in gathering up new customers who may be "on the fence", interested in purchasing the product, but unsure, and a coupon would have assisted in getting them over the hump. And if you marketed your message specifically to women - which is where the entire campaign is focused anyway - then you have a consistent message. And you also haev the ability to track the campaign. While it may have been too "salesy" to do, I do still think that it would have helped their cause and they could have had a trackable measurement.

    Bottom line is that you have to sell product, just because everyone is talking about your campaign does not mean that they are buying your product, or that you are increasing your conversion. We are talking about adults here, and not kids that see cartoon's selling your product and now they have to have it, even they don't know what "it" is. Adults are smarter than that.

    Mike P


  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago David Breshears (not verified)

    What I find amusing is that very few of the folks writing about this campaign have any idea what he's actually hawking. Hint: it's not cologne or deodorant. The question of ROI for this campaign will be answered by sales of Old Spice Body Wash, and it's too early to make that assessment. 

  • Jul 20 Posted 7 years ago Mike Laurie (not verified)

    Isn't it a little early to tell yet? And besides, this is still a relatively small campaign considering the number of impressions.

  • Jul 19 Posted 7 years ago john b (not verified)

    Be careful drawing conclusions here:

    1) I've not seen the IRI data, because I don't pay US$1m a year for a subscription... but this Forbes piece says that the exact opposite happened, and that IRI shows Old Spice sales for the 52 weeks to Jun 13 *up* 16%.

    2) Even if Brandweek is right and Forbes wrong, the IRI data covers a 52 week period. The interesting comparisons for a breaking campaign (the ads started in February, and the social campaign's been building since) are week-on-week (wk20 2010 vs wk20 2009) and month-on-month (Jun 2010 vs Jun 2009), not averages for the whole year.

    P&G and W&K will know *exactly*, *day on day* how sales have reacted. They (well, they plus SymphonyIRI, Unilever, Colgate and their respective marketing agencies...) are the only ones currently in a position to say whether the campaign has worked.

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