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Q&A with Wieden + Kennedy (part of the Old Spice super-team)

We recently got to ask Wieden + Kennedy‘s Dean McBeth (Sr. Digital Strategist, Sr. Community Manager for Old Spice) some questions about the team that strategized, developed, executed and maintained the popular Old Spice campaign, featuring the “Old Spice guy” (see photo). We’re grateful that he could take some time out of his busy schedule (thanks, Dean!) to share with us some insight into creating the overall campaign and the success it achieved.

This was one of the first major brand campaigns that really leveraged the power of social and showed people the potential these channels have. We even featured it’s current social media traffic on our blog recently! Since the campaign was launched, other brands, politicians, campaigns have tried to imitate its efforts with varied success. It all just points back to the importance of the ambiguous buzzword: social. While the space continues to evolve and resist definition, one thing is certain: that there are many different ways of turning the popularity of social networking/channels into success for your brand, etc. So let’s take a look at how Wieden + Kennedy and the super-team refreshed the Old Spice brand and dominated “social!”

How did social help your Old Spice campaign become so successful?

Dean: Social media allowed us to bring the character of the Old Spice guy to life. Without digital channels we wouldn’t have been able to field questions, communicate near real-time or improvise according to the trends in conversation that we were seeing.

In what ways, specifically, did you use social channels to get the Old Spice messages out?

Dean: Twitter was used as the main story-telling and amplification engine. YouTube housed the content and gave us one location for easy distribution. Communities like Facebook, reddit, Digg, etc. allowed us to communicate with people on their turf, in their vernacular and gave us an infinite amount of creative potential.

What strategies and tactics are you still using for marketing the ongoing campaign? 

Dean: We still employ the same kinds of methods now. We listen, determine the trends and behaviors in social conversation and respond back (albeit with less video production). We still think about influencers in the categories and communities we hope to spark interest in. We try to be as near real-time as possible.

What do you think the biggest challenge was throughout this campaign that spanned multiple media channels?

Dean: Keeping track of everything. Although the same storyline was playing out across the various channels, there were multiple threads to keep track of. It really required collaboration across our entire team.

How did the success of your campaign translate into product sales?

Dean: July of 2010 compared to July in the prior year, saw a 107% increase.

I’ve also noticed significant packaging changes to Old Spice retail products that seem to tie-in to what we saw on social media. How closely did you work with the product packaging team for the redesign?

Dean: Old Spice, W+K and Landor worked collaboratively to build a new brand product hierarchy and the package redesign to accompany this new strategy, right down to the specific copy on the packaging.

What are your top 3 tips for companies and brands for leveraging social?


1) Go deeper. The high-level metrics and sentiment will tell you one thing, but you have to actually spend time in the forums, in the comments, in the community threads to get a comprehensive understanding of just what people are saying.

2) Close enough is good enough. Is a 76% positive sentiment really going to change your mind from launching the next round of your campaign, vs. say an 83% ratio? By the time everyone agrees on all the metrics, it will be too late.

3) Try a lot of things. No consumer is alike in their mix of online communication channels. The same set of friends could use wildly different channels outside of Facebook. You need to find out where they spend their time and reach them there.

Where do you think the ad industry is headed, in terms of social media as an outlet?

Dean: It’s only just started. Ubiquitous technologies mean there’s a lot less barriers to doing digital work. It’s the ones that are looking at all the channels and how they can work together and for each other, that will start pulling ahead as leaders in the next few years.

Twitter and Facebook are obviously already strong channels for brands to effectively reach consumers… From your advertising perspective, do you think Twitter and Facebook will continue moving in that direction and become as powerful as some are projecting?

Dean: Absolutely effective and getting more so as different ad types and application interfaces open up.

What are your thoughts on Google+ as another channel?

Dean: I’m just really curious to see if Google+ will finally allow brands and consumers to connect 1 on 1 as they opt-in to the brand page. It’s why Twitter has been so great and on the top of reasons why Facebook is currently limited as brand/consumer relationship platform.

I have to ask, what was the early inspiration for this campaign? Where did the concept come from, did you have anyone in particular in mind when you developed “The Old Spice Guy’s” persona? 

Dean: When you consider 60% of male grooming purchases are made by women and the character was created specifically to speak to them, the persona is spot on.

A few social media stats about Old Spice…

  • The Old Spice YouTube channel currently has 28,680,954 channel views
  • It has 242,315,294 total upload views
  • The first video shown (posted February 10, 2010) received 7,099,781 views
  • According to Viralheat, there have been 20,254 mentions of the brand on Twitter in the past month
  • Viralheat also shows that 77 videos have been shared via social channels in the past 30 days


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