Why influence + ego = marketing gold for Old Spice

Written on 15 July, 2010 by Jonathan Crossfield
Categories Marketing Tags marketing

Jimi Hendrix may have asked ‘Are you experienced?’ but the @oldspice campaign proves that ‘Are you influential?’ is a better question. Digital marketers are already referring to July 13 (US time) as the day Old Spice won the internet. Marketing agency Wieden + Kennedy were already riding high after their Film Grand Prix win at the Cannes Lion awards for the hugely popular Old Spice television commercial starring Isaiah Mustafa.

But that turns out to only be stage one.

The award winning Old Spice commercial

Procter and Gamble (the parent company behind Old Spice) signed off on a brave and adventurous social media campaign of such brilliance, a new benchmark has been set.

For the second day running, a team of social media marketers, video producers, copywriters and Mustafa have been turning around a new short YouTube video approximately every seven minutes in response to questions and comments to the @oldspice Twitter feed, on Facebook, Reddit, Yahoo and anywhere the team is plugged into. At the time of writing this post, they’re still going!

Old Spice Man responds to George Stephanopoulos (ABC News anchor)

“Monocle smile!” had me in fits of laughter.

Incredibly funny, the rapid productions look far from thrown together, surprising many with how quickly the team were turning around 30 second videos from idea to script to shoot to upload to share in mere minutes.

But the real news is not how these videos are being made, but why. The personalisation of an advertising campaign in this way taps into exactly what people like about social media. We share things within our network that somehow have a bearing on us or represent us in some way. Our social media activity is about ourselves far more than it is about finding news headlines or swapping jokes. It is ego-driven. By sharing a particular news story, for example, you are using it to represent your interests, beliefs, thoughts and concerns. We all self-censor and carefully select which pieces of content we share and which we keep to ourselves in an effort to control how people view us and to feed that ego.

So by personally addressing and responding to questions from social media users, Old Spice is tapping straight into that ego-driven sharing behaviour. Of course if Kevin Rose gets a funny get well soon video from Old Spice Man he’s going to laugh and then share it with millions of people via his Digg network and other channels. Even 4chan – the infamous and anonymous online forum that chews up internet memes mercilessly if they aren’t up to par – has been wooed and won over by this particularly brilliant and surreal video.

Old Spice Man responds to Anonymous on 4chan

Old Spice Man sends Kevin Rose a get well soon message

So if ego motivates us to share things that help represent us, creating a genuinely funny video that is highly personalised and engaging is almost guaranteed to go viral. I only put the word ‘almost’ in there because social media never comes with a guarantee – and should never give one. If an agency ever says that they can make a campaign go viral, run away. Whether a campaign goes viral or not is entirely 100% under the control of the audience and people are fickle, often unpredictable beings. However, dreaming up the Old Spice campaign must have felt as close as it gets for a marketing agency to say ‘This will definitely go viral’.

What this campaign also proves is that influence is the major ingredient that is often left out of ‘lesser’ campaigns. Old Spice Man cannot possibly respond to every question. Some marketers are uncomfortable with targeting influential social media users instead of the average customer. Is Kevin Rose the target market for Old Spice? Is George Stephanopoulos, ABC news anchor? Is Rose McGowan? Is Perez Hilton? I dunno, maybe or maybe not. Yet, the question of whether these influencers are the target market or not is completely irrelevant. When @GStephanopoulos can command 1,649,189 followers on Twitter, Kevin Rose has the entire Digg Nation behind him and Perez Hilton has one of the most read blogs on the web, their influence becomes far more important than whether they would personally buy Old Spice. Influencers help spread the content in such a way that it will reach the target market – and far more besides – because they have the thousands or even millions of followers who will also get the joke via familiarity with the influencer’s reputation. It really is that simple.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need millions of followers to be an influencer. Influence is more than just a person’s scorecard of followers or friends. Some people have vast numbers of followers but rarely have their content spread beyond that one level. It’s easy to build followers; it is much harder to become influential among them. So influence is based on who your friends are, how they traditionally react to your content, how many friends they have, how they react, and so on.

Old Spice has targeted their efforts at those capable of spreading their campaign dollars as wide as possible. Instead of talking directly to the end customer, it is entirely possible that the customer is two or more steps removed from the campaign target – the initial influencer. This is completely at odds with how many marketers think – when direct marketing and clear niches are used to deliver specific and predictable results.

So next time you’re planning a campaign and someone dismisses the bloggers, Twitter celebrities or Facebook addicts as ‘narcissistic wind bags’ with no bearing on your product, point out to them that is exactly why you want to target them. Hey, it might even work…

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