Image: Isaiah Mustafa as the Old Spice Man
AP
Don't hate him because he's beautiful. Let him show you how to get your message out there.
By
updated 7/18/2010 12:53:26 PM ET 2010-07-18T16:53:26

Last week we saw two days that shook the viral marketing world. Old Spice, a long-neglected — if not forgotten — Procter & Gamble brand unleashed a social media blitz that may have changed the rules of social network marketing.

At first glance, an entrepreneur may dismiss the Old Spice phenomenon as an oddity of riches, something only a marketing behemoth like P&G could exploit. But when we dissect its marketing principles and practices, it becomes not only entirely applicable to the small business owner, but an essential (and low-cost) opportunity as well. Let's take a look inside.

    1. Are You a Builder, Accelerator or Fixer?
    2. 3 Signs You Are Becoming Successful
    3. 5 Ways to Get Your Creativity Flowing When You Need It
    4. The 8 Biggest Challenges for New Entrepreneurs

For P&G, it began with a Super Bowl ad last February that introduced its brand character, the Old Spice Man. Played by shirtless baritone Isaiah Mustafa, a handsome, former NFL wide receiver with a polished comedic sense of timing and washboard abs, the Old Spice Man promised women he was "the man your man could smell like," even if no man could ever be as truly manly as The Old Spice Man.

The original Super Bowl commercial was created by legendary ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, which is best known (before this) for its Nike, Honda and ESPN SportsCenter commercials. It has been viewed on YouTube more than 13 million times.

Five months later, Wieden posted a simple message on Old Spice's Facebook and Twitter page: "Today could be just like the other 364 days you log into Twitter, or maybe the Old Spice Man shows up @Old Spice." And show up he did.

As people tweeted questions about manliness to the Old Spice Man, he began posting near-real-time video vignettes responding to the queries, all in character and with no small degree of humor as he stood bare-chested, abdominals front and center in a bathroom set with the creative crew and comedy copywriters of Wieden + Kennedy behind the camera furiously writing jokes and chasing down props.

In a two-day blitz, the team produced more than 180 video "shout-outs," including a marriage proposal (she accepted) and exchanges with celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Demi Moore, Christina Applegate, Alysa Milano, George Stephanopoulos, Olympics speed skater Apolo Ohno, gossip blogger Perez Hilton, tech gadget blog Gizmodo, Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks and Starbucks (which now has 10 million fans on Facebook).

Key to the effort was the response to Kevin Rose, the founder of social network Digg.com. Rose tweeted the Old Spice Man about his own illness that day. Here's the accompanying video response.

Rose was enamored. He tweeted, "Holy sh*t, best get well video EVER from Old Spice." That message went out to his million-plus Twitter followers. A viral phenomenon was born.

The decision to include Rose and the celebrities was no accident. The Wieden team purposefully selected not only persons with huge followings on social networks — followings that dwarfed Old Spice's own — but specifically those with particular credibility and influence over the technorati and social media addicts. The social media kingpins told their followers, their followers told their friends, and the math compounded exponentially, fervently and quickly. Old Spice's Twitter followers increased more than 1,000 percent. Nearly 600,000 people on Facebook gave its ads a thumbs-up "like it" vote. And, according to Advertising Age, the Old Spice commercials received more than 7 million online views this week alone — and that does not include the viral vignettes we're talking about here. The cost of media: nothing.

You can see all of the videos here.

So, you ask, what's this got to do with me? Your voice isn't as deep as Mustafa's, you're more prone to have flab than abs, and you don't have a big-time ad agency writing on-the-fly copy for you. Fear not. The underlying social marketing principles and tactics are completely relevant and totally within your grasp. You don't even need to be funny.

The Post-Old-Spice principles of social media marketing

1. Create a persona that is strong and on point
Start with selecting someone, or something, as the character that captures your brand positioning. It needs to inspire people to interact. It certainly can be you, but you'll want to consider carefully. Not only will it require a commitment of time, energy and dedication, but you're going to have to live by the results. I've seen a handsome British owner of a business use his picture in a promotional e-mail, and then send the same e-mail only changing the picture to a clerk from his mailroom. The mailroom clerk drew 20 percent more response. The owner stepped aside. Business is business.

In the case of The Old Spice Man, the character is meant to appeal to women (hey, most men don't wear a scent to please other men) with manly insult humor that would appeal to men. You can select a humorous persona, but make sure you can sustain it. You can probably hire a local stand-up comic to play the role for you. People will think it's you, only funnier.

There are other character options that may be far more appropriate and just as engaging as humor, such as providing service, knowledge, empathy, honesty, sincerity, advocacy and the ever-utilized fanatical price-slashing or stain-removing screaming crazy. Only you can pick what's right, but the goal is to create the viral phenomenon that will make people compete for your attention.

We're also assuming here that these are ultimately video-driven personas. Even so, it is vital that you can capture the personality in a written and spoken voice. You're going to need to entice people to join in before you can let them see your act.

2. Seed social networks with invitations to interact
Ask people to play along, and somebody will. If it's worth it, they'll tell their friends. Let's look at a few hypothetical examples.

Suppose you have an auto parts dealership. You can invite people to submit their greatest auto modification desires. You can find the greatest influencers through auto clubs, your knowledge of your customer base or even the best auto shops in town and have them be the answer men. Or prove your own knowledge by answering directly in your chosen persona.

If you own a gym franchise, you can have people enter a "Biggest Loser"-type weight reduction contest and let others cheer them on. Have a dance studio or music studio? Stage your own online "America's Got Talent." Own a bridal shop, invite brides to be to play "Say Yes to the Dress" and let others vote. Run a wine shop, take questions on how to match food with wine and let chefs from the best restaurants provide the answers and recipes.

3. Engage the engaged, the famous and the influencers
There is fame on a big scale, and there is fame on a local level. Seek out anyone intriguing, like the mayor or the local newscaster. The main objective here is to engage people that others will find intriguing or impressive.

Don't forget bloggers. They have followings, some considerably larger than you might expect. You are trying to have others do the heavy lifting of spreading the word and gaining more people to participate. You'll have the additional benefit of gaining more links to your website, which over time will increase your ranking with search engines, especially in local search —which for most entrepreneurs is the most important. Bloggers also tend to have their own Twitter and Facebook followings, which will help greatly in compounding your audience.

4. Personalize the response and people will compete for inclusion
Whether it is a contest, advice, or just a conversation, every time you make the exchange personal with that one customer you create demand from others to also want your character to give a "shout out" to them.

That is at the core of the Old Spice phenomenon. People started competing to be witty or provocative, making their best bets on what would intrigue the Old Spice Man to want to respond to them. Many thousands did not get a response, but it seemed like all of them did. And the ones that didn't kept trying harder to impress the Man. Also, every blogger or celebrity who did get a response wrote about it. It was a badge of honor.

5. Make it episodic and easy to share
This is all about interactive storytelling. The more stories, the more consistent the delivery of new episodes, the more frequently people will check it out, and the greater the odds to become either a media habit or an outright addiction.

This also provides the greatest opportunities for people to share a link to an episode with their friends. You want to take every opportunity to feed the virus.

You will also be able to measure which subjects and types of responses get the best results. As with anything in business, provide more of what people want and less of what they don't.

6. Keep the videos simple and short
Find the location that works. It doesn't have to be elaborate. The Old Spice Man never left the bathroom, never looked anywhere but right at the camera, never changed his posture. There is power in familiarity. There is an old saying: An idea is finished not when you've put everything you can think of into it, but rather when you've taken out everything you possibly can.

Limit the personality traits of your persona. Don't attempt sophisticated cinematography. There is a real estate agent in Canada named Ian Watt who bought a camera mount, hooked it to the dashboard of his car, turned it on and just started talking about his market while he was driving from place to place. He came across as wildly aggressive, on the go, in the know, always working for you, with a personality as driven as Gary Vaynerchuk.

Vaynerchuk, too, is a great example of minimalist consistency. His winelibrary.com videos are all shot straight on in the dingy, poorly lit conference room of his wine store in New Jersey. Doesn't  matter. He became a self-proclaimed $60 million wine shop and a frequent guest on Leno and Conan O'Brien. Don't let the setting or the production distract you from putting across the persona.

7. Promote it with tie-ins offline
Put up signage in your store promoting what you're doing online. If you advertise, make sure to promote your online contests or character. It will go much further than the classic — and clichéd — line, "Visit our website."

Get yourself a cell phone with a video camera, shoot simple videos and upload them to your website and YouTube channel. Engage people of influence, especially those who are either well-known or thoroughly engaged in social media like Facebook and Twitter, to play along with you. Make your character strong, appealing and consistent. And enjoy the fruits of viral marketing.

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

Video: Meet the ‘Old Spice’ guy

  1. Closed captioning of: Meet the ‘Old Spice’ guy

    >>> it's been one heck of a year for isaiah mustafa. he has 30 emmy -nominated seconds to be exact. take a look.

    >> hello ladies. look at your man, now back to me, sadly he isn't me. but if he stopped using lady's scented body wash and used old spice, he could smell like me. you're on a boat with a man your man could smell like me. it's an oyster with two tickets that thing you love. the tickets are now diamonds. anything is possible when your man smells like old spice and not a lady. i'm on a horse.

    >> everybody wants to know how you get that done.

    >> well, this old spice guy he's with oprah and he's filming with tyler perry and he has a deal with nbc.

    >> nbc family for developing your own show. we just want to breathe your air. how are you, honey?

    >> i'm doing well.

    >> congrats on the emmy nod. what do you think about that?

    >> i didn't know they did that are commercials.

    >> i thought they were called cleos when they won.

    >> how many takes to get that commercial?

    >> it was around 80-some odd takes to get that one.

    >> of doing the same thing, or they digitally put it altogether?

    >> we did the same thing. it's one continuous shot.

    >> it's one continuous time .

    >> every commercial tom koontz does is one continuous shot for old spice.

    >> unbelievable.

    >> you said it over and over again.

    >> tell us about the genesis of this commercial. so when you got the call and they said, hey, there's an old spice commercial, tell us how that went down.

    >> okay. i got a call and they said you have an audition. i went to it like a normal audition. i had no idea what was going on. i went there and saw the copy and read it a couple times and i thought it was good and i went home. then they called me back, and that's when i called a buddy of mine and did it for him on his phone. i heard it back on his voice mail , because you can hear it back. i heard my own voice and i liked it. so i went with that one. i went in there and did it and they liked it. i could see tom out of the corner of his eye nodding. i was like, i got him.

    >> it's the perfect tone. it could be like the most obnoxious guy in the world. you're so loveable in it.

    >> thank you, thank you.

    >> did you think it was going to have such an impact, this commercial, a single commercial?

    >> i had no idea it would do this. i mean, an emmy ?

    >> then the new tyler perry movie.

    >> i don't know when i started to shoot, but i'm waiting to find out.

    >> so were you a trained actor, or what was your profession before this commercial came out?

    >> he was a football player.

    >> yes, i was a football player. then i tried to open a restaurant, which failed. then i went into acting.

    >> which most of the time -- which most of the time fails for most people. it's a hard business to break through.

    >> it's ridiculous.

    >> you say comedy is what you really love.

    >> that is comedy.

    >> it really was.

    >> i'm glad you think so.

    >> we wish you great luck with this commercial and the rest of your career.

    >> and he is single, hoda woman.

    >> i'm not married, but i have a girlfriend.

    >> you see, that's not what you sa said.

    >> the matchmaker, is it?

    >> every day, isaiah.

    >> thanks for having me.

    >> wait a minute. weren't you going to take five seconds to look at the new one? we have 30 seconds.

    >> let's look at the new one.

    >> if your man used old spice instead of ladies scented body washes he could smell like he he took you to more of these while wearing this, all this, but probably this, over this.

    >> i like that one, too.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

Data: Latest rates in the US

Home equity rates View rates in your area
Home equity type Today +/- Chart
$30K HELOC FICO 5.04%
$30K home equity loan FICO 5.23%
$75K home equity loan FICO 4.66%
Credit card rates View more rates
Card type Today +/- Last Week
Low Interest Cards 13.28%
13.27%
Cash Back Cards 17.74%
17.72%
Rewards Cards 17.01%
16.98%
Source: Bankrate.com