Update: Old Spice – Can extremely successful viral campaigns be completely useless?

Posted: July 23, 2010 by Alexander Nick in FMCG, Viral, Youtube
Tags: , , , ,

I am not an avid fan of P&G (which probably both results from my previous emplyoment at P&G competitor Henkel and the fact that they did offer me an internship position when I applied long time ago) but I have to admit that P&G still ist the king of marketing practices and, more importantly, seems to have the formula right in social and viral marketing.

In the very first blog post I wrote about the excellent Old Spice Commercial. Then, a few days ago I came across the following, almost ‘shocking’ headline on yahoo:

“Despite Enormous Popularity, Old Spice Guy Not Helping Sales”

Interesting. How come that a commercial with 18+ million views on YouTube, (the original YouTube video only has about 15 million, but there are 50 duplicates) 275k shares, more than 686 000 aggregated likes on  facebook, massive media coverage and several related commercials (one of them with 4,5 million views) does not have a positive effect on sales? Can extremely successful viral campaigns be completely useless?

The author of the Yahoo news article refers to the website Jezebel to find explanations:

“Are the women targeted by the ads not actually the ones making body-wash-related decisions for the men in their life? Is the Old Spice brand too “old” to resuscitate, even by a shirtless hunk who personally answers his fans?”

Furthermore he adds his own five cents:

“In any case, it doesn’t take too much analysis to realize that if people are at home submitting Twitter questions to the Old Spice Guy, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re rushing out to buy Old Spice. Consumers certainly can’t smell how wonderful Mustafa smells through their computer — but they sure do like hearing him say their names.”

Most of his readers and commenters (1,4K comments, that’s probably a massive amount of readers, well in the 6 digits) most likely did not check his source.

“In the 52 weeks ended June 13, sales of the brand have dropped 7 percent according to SymphonyIRI. (That amount excludes those rung up at Walmart.)”

First of all note the time span of the sales metrics. 52 weeks, or in other words a full year. The spot, however, started to become popular with its launch on the superbowl which took place on february 2cd this year. Hence, it is simply wrong to use yearly aggregated IRI data. To make a statement one should track the sales before the superbowl and then take the monthly or bimonthly IRI reports in comparison since february vs pre-launch to find out whether there has been sales leverage.

Second, at the moment, the video still occupies the worldwide first place in the unruly viral video charts. The campaign and its effects on purchasing decisions are still not over yet. I personally would like to see the sales statistics in 7 months from now to make a qualified judgment. (What a bummer that James cannot give us some confidential P&G data…)

Third, take the buying cycle into account. Package sizes in the US are HUGE in international comparison. It will take time until all guys use up their current supply of shower gel and therefore it will take time until that is reflected in sales statistics.

Fourth, as you might know, in the US, WalMart does not sell its scanner data to the retail panel of IRI (The IRI retail panel data registers the Bar Code, Price, if there has been a promotion etc. and sells the data back to FMCG companies so that they can see what actually has been sold in the stores). This is why the sales statistics are not accessible. Nevertheless Walmart’s sales proportion of fast moving consumer goods is massive and a sale-lift there could easily offset negative developments in other retailers. The amount of units shipped from P&G’s warehouses to Walmart would give us an indication.

Finally, and this could be a reason why there could be no sales up-lift from my perspective: A lot of men still use bar soaps in the states rather than shower gel. It would be interesting to know if women who buy shower products for their beloved male partners predominantly buy bar soaps. This could render the whole campaign completely useless. I am wondering if P&G took this into account before launching the campaign.

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to come back to this topic in 7 months from now when the 52 weeks sales IRI data would actually give us some insights about the performance of the campaign (4wkly IRI data in comparison to the previous year would be more helpful though). Until then, Yahoo please check your sources and do not make pre-mature judgments.


P&G and Nielsen have decided to disclose sales data, which is normally made public.

According to Nielsen data provided by Old Spice, overall sales for Old Spice body-wash products are up 27 percent in the last six months; up 55 percent in the last three months; and in the last month, with two new TV spots and the online response videos, up a whopping 107 percent. “Our business is on fire,” Moorhead says. “We’ve seen strong results over all of our portfolio. That is the reward for the great work.”

Furthermore Old Spice deodorant sales rose 30 percent since February, according to SymphonyIRI. (source: Adweek


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