3 min Read
August 10, 2010

What nonprofits can learn from the Old Spice guy.

Have you seen those great new commercials for Old Spice? If you haven’t, check out the ‘I’m on an internet’ channel on YouTube before you read this- and get ready for a good laugh.I love these commercials because they’re funny, smart, memorable, and undeniably Old Spice. There are lots of ads that make you laugh but are so loosely tied to what they’re selling that you’ll remember the ad but not the product behind it a day or so later. Entertaining, perhaps. Good for sales? Probably not.Old Spice did a several really smart things with this campaign that any business-including a nonprofit-can learn from.

  1. They didn’t ignore their reputation. Old Spice embraced their reputation as an old-school manly cologne/product, and all of the possible clichés that come with it. Then they turned them on their head–making it current, funny and hip. Your organization’s reputation is key to your brand’s success, and it’s hard to control or shape. Why not admit what’s working and what’s not and use it- rather than fight it?
  2. They used humor effectively. Who doesn’t love to laugh? This campaign lets you laugh at andwith it at the same time. It doesn’t victimize anyone or play to the negative (for instance, the obvious “want to get rid of that unpleasant B.O. before your big date? Try Old Spice body wash.”). Nonprofits rarely find a way to inject humor in serious work, and end up talking more about the problems that have to be fixed than celebrating the outcomes by telling those stories with style. You can still be taken seriously and be funny.
  3. They blurred the lines between old and new media. Sure, the ad campaign is broadcast in the typical ways (mostly on your TV). But then the folks at ad agency Weiden + Kennedy (who created this campaign) also set up a hilarious Twitter stream, and used it to encourage people to tweet in questions that the Old Spice guy answered in real time videos on You Tube. It was so effective that celebrities like Apollo Anton Ono, Guy Kawasaki ,  and others got involved, and several major media outlets like Fast Company and the New York Times wrote it up. One guy even had the Old Spice guy propose to his girlfriend on his behalf. Instead of trying to do everything (eg use every type of social media) they focused on just one big push involving Twitter and YouTube, which had tremendous reach. Not bad, for a day’s work.
  4. They’re building results while reaching new audiences. According to a recent article in Ad Age, Old Spice is slowly regaining its market share. Nope, the campaign didn’t sell a gazillion bottles of body wash overnight (although I did buy several for guys I know as a gag gift, I confess). Instead, it’s dusted off Old Spice’s reputation and made it cool in the eyes of Millenials, Gen Xers, and other people who would have never considered, or even heard of, the brand before. Nonprofits are always looking for a way to build relationships with younger and new donors. This is a great example of having your generational cake and eating it too.
  5. And they didn’t have to totally rebrand to do it. Sure, they made some changes. But the didn’t change their name or even their (rather cheesy) age-old logo. Instead, they used the freshness of their campaign concept to shift perceptions.

What else have you learned from the Old Spice guy? I’d love to know.