Learning from Old Spice’s Viral Marketing Campaign

I believe that it is fair to call Old Spice’s Smell Like A Man, Man (2010) a pioneer in viral marketing campaign. The campaign not only generated buzz in the market, but also achieved great sales growth driven directly by its marketing efforts, clearly showing the positive impact a viral marketing campaign can bring to a brand.


2010: Smell Like A Man, Man by Old Spice

  • Brand: Old Spice
  • Category: Male Grooming
  • Target Market: United States
  • Language: English
  • Launch Date: February 2010
  • Type: Television Advertising Campaign



Old Spice is an American brand of male grooming products acquired by Proctor & Gamble in 1990.

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like is arguably one of the most famous viral marketing campaigns of all time. Created by independently owned American advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, the campaign received overwhelming positive response from users and earned W+K an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial at the Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Awards.


The Challenge

Old Spice body wash for men was launched in 2003 and had been one of the largest players in the mens grooming market in the United States. With over 70 years brand heritage and facing fierce competition from younger brands, Old Spice was struggling to stay relevant to young men. Thus, the brand appointed W+K as their new advertising agency in an attempt to gain lost grounds.

An interesting observation was uncovered in the process of market research – women were responsible for 50% of body wash purchase. This meant that a lot of female consumers were actually the decision makers in purchasing men’s grooming products.

The goal of the campaign was therefore to persuade women to stop buying their men women’s products, and to present in a way that also appeal to younger users.


The Campaign

Old Spice was well-known for having the manliest scents on the plant. The Man Your Man Could Smell Like was designed to appeal to both men and women by promoting such unique brand identity under the tagline ‘Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady’. The marketing campaign included 2 TV commercials, including a 30-second and another 15-second version.

The commercials featured actor and former football player Isaiah Mustafa, also known as ‘Old Spice Man’, who promoted the product in a fast-paced monologue without breaking eye contact with the audience. The whole commercial was filmed in a single shot, in which Mustafa transitioned from a bathroom setting to a sailboat and finally to a beach, where he rode on a white horse holding Old Spice product.It took the team 84 takes over 4 days in order to get that perfect single uninterrupted shot.

Initially designed to market Red Zone After Hours Body Wash, the campaign expanded to include other Old Spice after becoming a viral video sensation.


The Impact

Not only did campaign receive high critical acclaim, but also generate huge buzz and word-of-mouth both online and offline. The viral campaign even attracted celebrities fans such as Oprah and Ellen DeGenres, further increasing the visibility of product and the brand itself.

Followed by the campaign’s success, sales also skyrocketed after the campaign was launched. According to Nielsen, sales of Old Spice Body Wash rose significantly in the post-campaign period. Since the campaign broke in February, sales jumped 55% over the May to July period. In the month of July alone, sales increased 107%. In the 4-week period ended July 11, Red Zone recorded $1.6 million sales – an impressive 49% increase compared to the 4-week period ended February 21.


The Response Campaign

As the initial The Man Your Man Could Smell Like campaign was a great hit, Old Spice rode on the momentum and launched the second spot in the series ‘Questions’ in June 2010, and an interactive digital campaign capitalizing the popularity of ‘Old Spice Guy’. The Response Campaign was designed specifically to engage younger consumers through digital channels. Users were invited to ask ‘Old Spice Guy’ questions on Facebook and Twitter – within 48 hours, 2000 questions were submitted and over 200 video responses were posted on YouTube. The answer included 186 video responses from the ‘Old Spice Guy’ Isaiah Mustafa. In total, the campaign gained nearly 105 million views on YouTube, 1.2 billion earned media impressions, 2700% increase in Twitter followers, 800% increase in Facebook fan interaction, and 300% increase in website traffic.

Sales were already climbing after the initial Smell Like A Man, Man was launched. The Response Campaign, however, helped push sales figures even further. In July, sales increased 125% year-on-year. By the end of 2010, thanks to the initial and response campaigns, Old Spice became the market leader of men’s body wash in the United States.

Old Spice launched the Response Campaign to connect with younger consumers on YouTube.



The Old Spice campaign gained such overwhelming success that it set the benchmark for so many viral marketing campaigns in the coming years. Most importantly, what can we learn from the Old Spice case?


  1. Conduct thorough market research and competitor analysis to uncover important brand characteristics
    • The W+K team was able to identify consumers’ perception of Old Spice having a very masculine scent, which makes the brand different from its competitors. This became the foundation and set the tone of the whole campaign.
  2. Create a campaign that stands out from the noise
    • Viewers are bombarded by numerous commercials every day. The Old Spice commercial was able to differentiate from other TV advertisements mainly due to its unique approach – the style (a funny and charismatic monologue) and the message (making your man smell like ‘Old Spice Guy’). The element of surprise (seriously, he’s on a horse) was also what fuelled the campaign’s success. Read the complete Old Spice commercial script here.
  3. Engage and interact with consumers
    • Old Spice rode on the popularity of the original TV commercial and invited fans to interact with ‘Old Spice Guy’ via social media platforms in the response campaign. The questions submitted by fans were met with video responses from the actor Isaiah Mustafa himself within 2 days, creating a two-way conversation that was connected to the users.
  4. Deliver the campaign in a crisp and easy-to-digest manner
    • People are impatient, especially in the digital world. Old Spice’s commercial was crisp – delivering the brand’s message in a 30 seconds – which maintained views’ interest. Since the video was short, it also helped users share it across different platforms which contributed to its overnight success.
  5.  Promote the content in multiple platforms
    • The campaign started off by showing the video at Super Bowl and as a TV commercial, followed by YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Old Spice was able to utilize various platform to generate word-of-mouth. Showing at Super Bowl and on television was to create awareness and generate interest. Rehashing the same clip on YouTube helped the brand reach more users and made it sharable. But what really made the campaign viral was how Old Spice made use of social media sites to connect to and interact with users. The multi-channel approach was key to the success of this campaign.