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Reality: Old Spice sales are actually up 107% in the last month (adweek.blogs.com)
161 points by sferik on July 27, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

The percentage change may be questionable based on the objections raised by pkaler & jacquesm but I still think there's an obvious effect and it may not be just due to "easily convinced consumers".

In the past, my impression of Old Spice was that it was old fashioned, for seniors, etc. I'm just one consumer, but if this was a common perception, it looks like Old Spice identified their weakness and targeted it. If you ask me today what my impression of Old Spice is, it's quite different. They're a company willing to make unique commercials and take some risks. They have new scents are targeted at a younger crowd (I remember seeing After Hours in stores) and I no longer view the company as "old" Old Spice. Even though my perception has changed, I don't view it as being convinced or tricked as a consumer, but a reinterpretation of a company based on their actions. I've been wrong before.

Like you, I'm unsure whether this is confirmation bias or not - but as I hit 40, my impression is that this is the 3rd time I've seen 'Old Spice' transition from being 'generic present for Dad' to being hip for young men.

I don't know whether it's something to do with the economy (since it's very affordable compared to designer brands) or whether the firm identified a generational cycle affecting their sales and made a conscious decision to build a long-term strategy around it, which Proctor & Gamble have just perpetuated. I remember buying Old Spice for my Dad, then buying some of their wares for myself back in the 90s because it amusingly 'retro' or ironic, and a few years from now I'll be the grateful Dad getting a bottle for Christmas. During the same period they've switched their logo from an old-fashioned 3-masted sailing ship to a sporty modern yacht...and back again.

Yes, bottle - the after-shave comes in the same container that it did when I was a boy and thought OS epitomized grown-up man stuff. Back then it was advertised (on TV at Christmas, and in the cinema all year around) with a 30 second clip of a guy surfing, set to Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana' [1]. That seems like cheesy nostalgia now, but back in the 1970s it was the media equivalent of a hand grenade - overtly masculine, movie-quality eye candy, and unquestioning self-confidence. Sound familiar? And notice, if you will, that it's both new and 'classic'. Rather like their marketing strategy :-)

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rbZr7YoqK0

A cologne purchase is different from a computer purchase or something in that if your peer group thinks it's cool, that actually does make it better than the alternatives.

(edited to remove ambiguity)

How is that different from a computer purchase? See: Apple.

Perhaps should have said "a computer purchase among non-computer geeks".

Still wouldn't have made it true. Without any relevant data, I could speculate that non-techies are less likely to buy a computer based on technical merits, and more likely to decide based on what their friends have (especially technical friends that they could bum help off of)

But that doesn't make it inherently better than the alternatives. The sole purpose of Old Spice (and scents in general) is to improve how others see you, and therefor whether your peers perceive Old Spice as being a superior choice decides whether it is.

Focus on "if your peer group thinks it's cool, that actually does make it better than the alternatives" instead of "different from a computer purchase" and it should make sense.

Also, I think that "a computer purchase among geeks" would have been better. Why? We, as geeks, are much, much more likely to ignore the opinions of others and chose a computer on its own merits, instead of as a fashion accessory. Whereas a non-computer geek would be more likely to choose to use a Mac because they're the cool option and many of their friends like/have/want them.

Yes, non-techies do seem quite likely to ask their friends for advice on computers, and take cues from what their friends have and what they've said about them. Word of mouth is powerful.

> The sole purpose of Old Spice (and scents in general) is to improve how others see you, and therefor whether your peers perceive Old Spice as being a superior choice decides whether it is.

I don't think that this is true. The product being tracked here is a body wash; its purpose is to keep you clean (which does, I suppose, improve how others see you). I may choose one body wash over another based on how I expect it to be perceived, but I think it's an exaggeration to say that that's its sole purpose. (I used Old Spice deodorant for a long time, because it was cheap and it worked; it had nothing to do with other people's images of me.)

If you like a commercial, odds are decent that it came from Wieden + Kennedy, perhaps most famous for creating "Just Do It". Remember: heading into the '90s, Reebok dominated Nike. The coining of "Just Do It" and the attendant campaigns were perhaps a major factor in propelling Nike to the forefront of their market. W+K also made Honda's famous "cog" commercial.

They're also doing some work that may be interesting to the HN crowd over at http://www.wk.com/incubator. If I were a far more brilliant and creative person, I'd love to just hang out with their directors: they do a consistently good job in an area that's very hard to get right again and again over time.

If you haven't seen it, you'd probably enjoy the documentary Art & Copy (http://www.artandcopyfilm.com).

W+K are featured prominently, as are most of the other stalwarts of the marketing industry.

W+K also made the Nike ad that's featured in the movie What Women Want, which I thought would have been a great ad to use in real life.

I'm pretty sure What Women Want was an ad. People just paid to see it.

Not that this detracts from W + K's success record.

It is a little unclear from your post: are you just speculating that since it is a good commercial it came from W+K, or are you saying that it DID come from W+K in a roundabout way?

It's really interesting to hear some of their past success, but randomly attributing any good campaign to them seems a little strange to me. :)

"randomly attributing any good campaign to them seems a little strange to me"

That would be strange, and is probably an aid in the interpretive task of reading the post ;)

"In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity requires interpreting a speaker's statements to be rational and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation."


This campaign DID come from W+K. So did the "Write the Future" World Cup campaign.

Ironically, the "write the future" World Cup campaign featured a bunch of players who, for the most part, played poorly in the World Cup, didn't make it past the first knockout stage, or in one prominent case (Ronaldinho) weren't even called up to their country's squad.

Great commercial, though. Their "Take it to the Next Level" from two years ago was great too.

According to Wikipedia's page on W+K, these commercials did in fact come from theme.

Don't believe numbers from Nielson, NPD group, Marc, Ad Mob, etc. The only real numbers are GAAP that come out of the accounting department. This is true for Old Spice, iPhone vs Android, game consoles, etc.

That, and any campaign has the built in risk of simply driving a lot of sales forward, but not to increase the total sales volume by much, and that effect can only be established a long time after the campaign has run.

> Sales numbers are generally legit. We really dont do anything that would mess with those.

via my brother at Nielsen, who whould happily tell me if the numbers were bull.

I didn't follow up on the "sales are down" stories too much, but it did seem pretty hard to believe that they had data 48 hrs after the campaign ended.

The data from the story saying their sales were down was for the 52 weeks ending in April or May.

And even those numbers were suspect, as there was another retail data source that said the opposite -- that sales were slightly up..

I never believed for a second that the latest campaign ended up as a LOSS.

Proving once again that consumers are easily influenced.

I enjoyed the Old Spice ads so much that I considered going out and buying some just as a way of saying thanks. Call it a charitable donation to support the arts.

(I still haven't actually bought any, though, as I still can't get over my mental image of Old Spice as "really cheap cologne.)

Have you considered that maybe it's not that Old Spice is really cheap cologne, but all the other stuff is stupidly overpriced cologne? The fact that most of the mainline colognes bear the name of extravagant product lines or music superstars should be a clue.

As an example to support my argument, I'm in the process of making a classic cologne that requires some alcohol, (preferably very hard alcohol), some things from your spice cabinet, a few leaves, and more alcohol. I decided to grow my own leaves, and thus am currently in the 'grow the tree phase', but really that's not even necessary.

I'm sure that expensive cologne is stupidly overpriced, though I do think it smells better than cheap cologne, and members of the opposite sex seem to agree, and at the one-small-bottle-per-decade rate I seem to go through it I really don't think it's worth economizing.

Still, if you want to do double-blind experiments on Old Spice vs Christian Dior vs your leaves-in-alcohol by spraying young men with each and seeing who attracts more women, I'll be interested to see the results.

The question is not really economy, but whether inflated prices cause us to erroneously believe it is a superior product.

That would be a very interesting trial. I haven't even the faintest clue how you would determine whether the scent was causing the man to smell sexy vs good/pleasant though. Or maybe those are one in the same, I don't know.

I want my cologne to be associated with expensive stuff, not economy.

I want my cologne to be associated with expensive stuff. I don't want my cologne to be expensive stuff.

If you use enough cologne that you actually care how much it costs, you're using too much cologne, and I can probably smell you from here. A decent bottle might cost you sixty bucks, but it'll last years. Pennies per use.

I generally don't use cologne. =) But your point still stands, and is an interesting way of looking at it.

I guess it's a case of not knowing if their really is a difference between the expensive stuff and the cheaper stuff.

I would rather my cologne made me smell good/pleasant, than wealthy. Wealth may well be a selection criteria, but I've no interest in trying to play that card.

I just use their body spray as deodorant because my body doesn't freak out over aluminum ingredients which is found in almost all solid products (causes me to sweat excessively)... I also find the brand more timeless, a lot less obnoxious than AXE which just screams Ed Hardy.

ps. The markup on cologne/perfume is ridiculous, it's liquid gold and why so many celebrities release their own variation. Your impression of cheap is simply defined by luxury pricing and marketing.

These ads certainly had better aesthetics than most, but something dies inside me when an advertisement is considered art. I also don't understand why you would view buying Old Spice as a charitable donation.

On a good day, advertisements are as legitimate an artform as anything subsidized. How is a major corporation funding an ad really that different from commissioning a sculpture or a painting?

Take, for example the Philips "Carousel" Ad[1], which was for all intents and purposes a high-budget short film that happened to be paid for by Philips as a way to promote their support of the depicted cinematic aspect ratio.

They aren't all cinematic genius, but it's tremendously disingenuous to write ads off entirely due to some perceived taint associated with selling a product.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carousel_(advert)

I respectfully disagree, but I also acknowledge that this it is a very subjective judgment. Maybe I shouldn't pull a Roger Ebert and try to argue that something isn't art only to get flamed to death. But for me, personally, even if there's a lot of craft in an ad, to me it's still and ad.

The whole thing with "support companies you like, provide positive feedback to business models and ideas you support." If you, as a consumer, support a method of advertising and want more companies to do it in the future, there are two main ways of encouraging it: writing a letter, or buying the product. Writing a letter and not buying the product encourages them, but doesn't factor into cost analyses; buying the product factors into cost analyses, and both writing a letter and buying the product (and mentioning that you bought it because of the advertisement in the letter) provides ammunition for anyone at the company who supports the advertising method.

It's like the people who spent upwards of $500 on the Humble Indie Bundle: providing positive feedback to encourage things like it to happen in the future.

Treating it as a donation doesn't make sense, of course, and I have to agree that advertisements shouldn't be considered art, except in the most dramatic examples. Perhaps the meaning of art is a bit narrow, though; advertisements can certainly be artistic.

If you think Old Spice makes excellent deodorant, body washes or whatever then by all means support them with your wallet. But why buy a product just because you liked the commercial? I just see that as being suggestible.

People didn't spend $500 on the Humble Indie Bundle so they would put out more ads did they? They wanted to support indie games, no?

I don't think anyone purchased their product just because of the commercial. Rather, these are individuals who possibly did in the past purchase Old Spice products, or Gillette products, or other well known brand name products they trusted. Now, when they go to buy these products again, they make a choice for Old Spice. A product they already like, but never made a real choice to buy.

The commercials and publicity put Old Spice in their mind when they went to buy that type of product.

Old Spice isn't trying to prove it has a good product. We know that. Rather, it's reminding us to make that choice Old Spice.

Cheap cologne with hormone disruptors. Have fun not being able to have kids if you wear it.

Can you explain this at all?

Old Spice contains chemicals called phthalates that bind to your estrogen receptors. Exposure to these chemicals is essentially like taking a low-level version of the hormone replacement therapy that transgendered people (sometimes) use. Among other things your sperm count dramatically drops and the sperm you have left are much less viable. Exposure to chemicals like those found in Old Spice are primarily why 1 in 5 couples are now considered infertile. (Even though the government keeps changing the definition of infertility to mask the massive reduction in reproductive viability, so in reality it's actually much worse than even the already shocking 1 in 5 statistic.)

If you want to know more check out this video:


I remain skeptical of the claims of "random internet guy" that "commonly used household product" is (without doubt) causing "horrible disease" and that "ban-happy government agency which is in charge of these sorts of things" hasn't got around to doing anything about it yet.

Well if you had already read the academic literature for yourself then you wouldn't have to rely on a "random internet guy" for your health information. But if you're not willing to actually read the primary sources, the best you're going to get is second hand information.

edit: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1280349/?tool=pm...


I have enough trouble keeping up with the academic literature in my own field, I'm not going to monitor the toxicology literature as well just in case. I doubt you do, either.

Anyway, while I'm perfectly willing to accept that phthalates are dangerous in sufficiently large quantities (this holds for pretty much any organic chemical) I remain unconvinced by the unproven assertion that it holds a significant risk of sterility when applied externally to the skin in small quantities in the small concentrations present in cheap cologne. Alcohol is also present in colognes, and that's well known to have all sorts of bad effects at large dosages.

I'm also skeptical of the even broader claim that exposure to phthalates is why one in five couples is infertile. Infertility has a zillion different causes, from Robertsonian translocations to endometreosis, and is a common human problem dating back to antiquity (see, for instance, the Bible, where every second woman is apparently infertile, at least until God shows up).

if you had already read the academic literature for yourself

The burden of proof is on you, and you have yet to cite a reference :-)

Or did you just want us to do our own research, and somehow find that paper, which you might be talking about and come to an agreement with you?

Isn't the existence of the entire advertising / marketing industry predicated on being able to influence consumers?

if consumers are so easily influenced, why do so many startups have a hard time influencing them?

Customers have never heard of them.

Making a hit ad can't be easy. Not if you want to outdo everyone else screaming for eyeballs.

Google just did an SVG on a bunch of matrices to find the websites you'd most likely end up on if you randomly walked over the entire internet. It's deceptively simple, but only in retrospect.

I wonder what the campaign cost to run in comparison to these increased sales.

Hmm. The guy is tremendous, the commercials are funny. And they're memorable.

And I still dont like aldehyde based scents, and prefer my herbalist to make my own scents. They cost a bit more than normal, but last years. Guess that's the kind of people I associate with being a witch and all.

What normal do they cost more than? I'm a big fan of Creed's Millisime Imperial and L'Artisan's Voluer de Roses, but if your herbalist could outdo those two in their own categories and last longer, I'd pay a bit more.

Considering that I am not an herbalist, and only dabble in some aspects of oils and creams, I can somewhat answer that.

Last I know she was in the Kansas City area going to Lillies War, part of the SCA. She travels the world for different botanicals, and buys else what she cannot retrieve. She extracts these botanicals herself. The last I heard, she had 6 different amber oils, all dependent on the amber used.

The most impressive thing about this all is her: she can separate each individual scent from already-done compounds. And she has this cool ability that if she meets you, she 'knows' the perfect scent for you.

I will see if I can get permission for me to give you her contact information. Usually after Lillies War, she's swamped.

And she has this cool ability that if she meets you, she 'knows' the perfect scent for you.

Yeah, I met a used car dealer like that once.

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