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Did the Old Spice campaign really drive sales?

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Photo: screen shot from Google Image search in March 2013 shows Isaiah Mustafa still dominates search results long after the campaign ended.

by Frank Strong

Did Old Spice actually see sales from its viral campaign? In a session at the PRSA International Conference, this question came up during the question and answer period. The answer seems to be: yes.

The source of the confusion is easily identified. Once the campaign had peaked, the next logical question was…did it work? Early reports from mainstream media sources, such as this one published on July 21st by Marketplace indicated it did not.  To refute this story, P&G, the parent company, and the agency that develop campaign, Wieden + Kennedy, released data to the contrary as cited in this Brandweek article (Update:  Brandweek has shuttered since this post was written).

“Over the past three months, sales jumped 55 percent and in the past month, they rose 107 percent, also per Nielsen,” wrote Brandweek. “Recent sales figures from SymphonyIRI also show a lift for Old Spice Body Wash products.”

The article goes on to note, “The disclosure of Nielsen data, which is usually not made public, came after a report in Brandweek that cited SymphonyIRI data for the product featured in the campaign, Red Zone After Hours Body Wash. (At the time of the article, P&G and Wieden declined to give out any information about sales of the product, even in a general way.)”

Aside from published reports, I wanted to see the numbers and took the time to check out P&G’s earnings to see what might be gleaned. Though the company has not yet issued this quarter’s earnings, gleaned may be the operative word because I’d find it unlikely the company would break out revenue in this detail. It is my hope, however, that any analysts or financial reporters on the Q3 earnings call will ask the company explicitly.  From a marketing standpoint, the industry would clearly benefit from knowing the financial influence of the campaign.

Separately, and to my astonishment, there were a handful of people in that PRSA session that had not heard of the Old Spice campaign. This five minute YouTube video provides a concise case study of the campaign from beginning to measurement – hat tip to Shonali Burke for showing this during her presentation.

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Frank Strong, MA, MBA
Frank Strong, MA, MBA

Awe, shucks, thanks Professor. It's really just an interesting question. I was fairly certain that I had read it did drive sales and so wanted to go back and take a look. One other item I learned in the process, was that Old Spice didn't set out to target men -- it set out to target women. That point was lost on me and hindsight I feel it speaks far more to the strategic thinking that went into this campaign than does the the creative videos.

Freddy J. Nager, Atomic Tango
Freddy J. Nager, Atomic Tango

Clearly, the PRSA needs more people like you who stay on top of news in other fields (like advertising), and not just public relations.


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