Help me solve marketing’s biggest mystery

marketing's biggest mystery

By Mark Schaefer

It was one of the most imaginative, creative and popular marketing campaigns in history.

Television, print, digital, social media all coalescing into a perfect blend of viral heat.

“This changes marketing forever” the headlines trumpeted.

And the results? Product sales DOUBLED in two months and some stores reported shortages. More important, it re-invented a sagging brand and made it relevant to a new generation of consumers.

Of course I’m talking about the Old Spice The Man Your Man Could Smell Like campaign of 2010.

Marketing’s biggest mystery begins

The campaign was brilliant. The visual puns, attitude, and lovable, manly arrogance of actor Isaiah Mustafa had the nation talking about it, writing about it, even coming up with their own tributes. The TV ads were so good they received more than 6 million views on YouTube!

marketing's biggest mysteryAnd then the miracle — the Old Spice Man came alive, interacting with fans on Twitter and, most memorably, YouTube where he recorded more than 200 hilarious, personal video responses to fans (generating 24 million views). It wasn’t the first campaign to seamlessly integrate traditional and social media but it was the first to make it a central part of the campaign.

It was a marketing triumph.

But nothing changed

The marketing world waited for the revolution. Now every national campaign would use this formula, right?


While many campaigns today are integrated in some manner — maybe a print ad to promote a Facebook contest or a Facebook ad to promote a TV-based campaign, nothing has approached the impact of the Old Spice campaign four years ago.

For example, during the 2014 Super Bowl ads I didn’t detect a single social media tie-in or call to action. Yes, the ads got plenty of views on YouTube but this is simply another channel to view a television ad. I don’t consider that a “social” integration on the level of the Old Spice campaign. So even in advertising’s greatest showcase there aren’t many (any?) truly integrated campaigns.

And this is the mystery to me. Why not?

Obviously the creativity, technology and business case are there. In 2010 using social media to promote a product was a novelty but most big brands should have it figured out by now.

Instead of ushering in an era of magnificent creativity and seamless multi-media events, everybody went back to the comfort zone of their traditional silos.

I honestly cannot explain why it is not happening more. The only rational explanation is that the organizational hurdles are too high and keeping the status quo in place. Is that possible?

So help me out here. Why didn’t the Old Spice campaign “change everything” like we thought it would?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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