The Old Spice Guy, a Media Darling, Has a Dirty Secret: Some Sales Are Down

Last Updated Jul 16, 2010 5:48 PM EDT

  • UPDATE: It looks like total Old Spice sales may be up after all, even if sales of Red Zone body wash alone are down, according to Brandweek, which would render this entire post a wash ...
Procter & Gamble (PG) faces an unpleasant dilemma on its Old Spice brand: Its campaign --- featuring an impossibly handsome man in a towel who tells women, "So ladies, should your man smell like an Old Spice man? You tell me" -- is hugely popular but sales of the product are going down. The campaign reached a climax this week as the Old Spice Guy filmed more than 200 improvised videos replying to questions and requests from Twitter users. Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, the Ellen Show and Perez Hilton were among those who got YouTube-ed replies.

But the shower-fresh brand has a dirty secret, as Brandweek notes:
For instance, it was none other than P&G that picked up the Film Grand Prix this year for Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" TV spot from Wieden + Kennedy. There is little doubt about the viral hit's popularity. Launched in February, the official version has racked up nearly 12.2 million YouTube views.
But sales of the featured product--Red Zone After Hours Body Wash--aren't necessarily tracking with that consumer appeal: In the 52 weeks ended June 13, sales of the brand have dropped 7 percent according to SymphonyIRI. (That amount excludes those rung up at Walmart.) P&G execs were not available to comment.
For a less high-profile effort, P&G could easily ax the campaign and choose a different strategy. Lowering its price might be an option. But cancelling Old Spice Guy while he's a certified media darling -- do a search for "Old Spice" in Google News and you'll see what I mean -- would be a PR debacle.

The shame of it is that ad biz folk have been urging P&G to get more creative for years. And the company has responded. Not so long ago, virtually every P&G commercial featured a housewife in a kitchen worrying over why she couldn't get her husband's shirts/plates/floor clean. Now, P&G is regarded as one of the more innovative marketers on the planet despite its elephantine corporate size. That's an unusual combination.

The campaign was launched at the Super Bowl in February, so Old Spice Guy still has time to turn the situation around.

Just so you can appreciate the transformation -- and get an idea of what's at stake, culturally, for the Old Spice brand -- compare and contrast its current advertising to the Old Spice of yore, (a smell I still associate mostly with my grandfather).

Super Bowl 2010 ... 1970s ... 1957 ... When dinosaurs roamed the earth ...

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