Old Spice Guy: He’s tall, manly, smells good, and has mastered the art of going viral

old spice

EDITOR’S UPDATE: Go behind the scene on how the viral videos were created here.

He is but only one man. One “ridiculously handsome” man.

And yet, that’s all you need to create a persona. And a persona is all you need to strike it rich in marketing, because a well-designed and well-executed persona will go viral almost infallibly.

Old Spice Guy is the scentmaker Old Spice’s ultimate creation: a man with a rich voice, sculpted muscles and a chiselled jaw, who is either on a boat, horse, or freshly out of the shower in his bathroom, and who regularly swoons ladies, saves children, and protects bottle-nosed dolphins. Many things he touches turn to diamonds, and, most importantly of all, he always smells good.

He’s caused rebuttal videos, apps, and of course, millions upon millions of views in just a couple of days. How has he done it? A few simple but creative measures brought him into the viral spotlight.

1. Old Spice started with a clever, humorous, original television commercial. The commercial defines the persona: a look, a way of talking, an a personality. And it functions on a certain type of humour—and humour is more likely to go viral in marketing than anything else, because that’s what users are most willing to share with their friends. The video has well over 13 million views on the Old Spice channel alone.

“Anything is possible when you’re man smells Old Spice and not a lady. I’m on a horse.”

2. Old Spice then based its Twitter account on Old Spice Guy, turning the feed into his persona. This makes Old Spice Guy accessible and more apparently “real”, increasing the chance people will talk about him or engage with the company’s marketing.

3. Finally, Old Spice went all-in with what has made Old Spice Guy the new Chuck Norris: After using Twitter’s new Promotion tool to buy a promoted tweet topic, “Old Spice” trends. Now, with a live audience, Old Spice Guy begins to produce short YouTube clips responding to people who address him on Twitter—from completely random folk to celebs like Alyssa Milano, who helped surge the popularity of Old Spice Guy’s videos by calling it “genius” and “hilarious,” and then being retweeted hundreds of times.

He answered questions, offered advice, and even helped people get taken more seriously, always in his persona mode. And because it was happening real-time, as opposed to days later, it stirred excitement across Twitter and YouTube. It’s a sort of positive panic that’s created, something of a rush inside the users who are following the event, because they feel a part of it, watching it unravel as it occurs. But the videos aren’t timely in a manner that makes them irrelevant the next day; they will continue to be watched and laughed at for months to come.

Alyssa Milano did help, but Old Spice Guy only needed so much outside assistance: the creative marketing strategy was captivating thousands of users. Everyone wanted to be personally addressed in a customized video, which at one point were being churned out literally every few minutes. (Yes, every few minutes. The set behind the camera must redefined frantic.) Old Spice’s YouTube channel has over 61 million upload videos, with each of Old Spice Guy’s dozens of short, custom videos gathering several thousand views per day.

Now, first understand that this isn’t the company’s first advertising success: many of their prvious commercials have several miliion views and are very popular online. However, what makes this latest endeavour particularly successful is the unprecedented consumer engagement. With previous videos, users watched the commercials, laughed, maybe showed a few friends. With Old Spice Guy, users fanatically obsess over a fictional pop culture icon. Whether they admit it or not, they want to be Old Spice Guy—and they’ll buy Old Spice to get one step closer.

To demonstrate Old Spice Guy’s popularity, there have already been rebuttal videos, as well as an app to make your voicemail sound like him, inspired by one of the personalized videos (“This voicemail is now diamonds”).

Marketing campaigns can go viral with some luck, but Old Spice showed how a calculated campaign that’s designed to go viral can accomplish all that it sets out to do and more. And the scent maker was sure to wrap up it’s string of videos (before it was overdone) with an official good-bye, so its dedicated followers can lament and beg for more.

Old Spice has set the bar pretty damned high for their next advertising campaign, but they needn’t worry about that for a while—for now, they’re looking (and smelling) ridiculously good.