There are certain marketing tactics that drive me nuts, and one of them is using any excuse to capture attention. So I regularly rail against stunts like Old Spice’s viral videos, which I liken to purposeful car wrecks on the side of the purchase funnel road. Its latest — Muscle Music, which features a guy getting his muscles shocked as if his body were playing a song — has accrued 7 million views on Vimeo and almost a million on Facebook.

This means it will most assuredly be featured as an example to copy in a glowing HBR blog post and at the next marketing conference you attend.

But I’m not going to slam this one; in fact, I think I’m evolving on the issue. While arguing for its purpose with conviction may be beyond my reach for quite some time, I think I could get close to saying why not?

After all, making your brand name top-of-mind isn’t a new idea — think Texaco Star Theater in the late 1950s, with signs and mentions every few seconds — and, better yet, it still works. There are direct correlations between presence and purchase. The fact that the brand’s logo is featured in the spots is evidence of brilliant, thought late to the game, social discovery. Just think how many zillions of people made themselves into dancing elves before Office Depot figured out that it should mention its name in the video (or was it Office Max)?

Beyond that, I’m thinking there could be lots of reasons why the Old Spice videos make sense:

The products are commodities. There’s nothing functionally better or different about Old Spice. It doesn’t make you cleaner, kill a greater percentage of bacteria, or reliably attract more members of the opposite sex. It exists because it exists, which means the primary challenge of its marketing is to perpetuate that condition at any cost.

There are no new uses for them. Old Spice has put products into personal care categories beyond underarm deodorant, but it simply replicates its commodity purposelessness in them. It’s called brand extension, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the game. Its shampoo doesn’t go on dry or get left on overnight.  Its body wash doesn’t turn into pixie dust when mixed with water.

There’s nothing new in the packaging area. Sure, Old Spice bottles are shaped differently, but so are all the other brands, and they’re really not all that different (i.e. they don’t squeeze better, or the caps don’t function differently). There are no single-use packets for gym bags, for instance, concentrates that we mix at home, or other even wackier packaging concepts.

The products are sold in the same old locations, stacked on grocery and drug store shelves like they were decades ago. If there are new ways of buying deodorant or body wash, Old Spice isn’t giving them to us. Its competitors aren’t either. Would we ever subscribe to auto-replenishment? Would we buy it closer to points of use (like at gyms, or get real deals at hotel stores)?

The company doesn’t do anything worth noting. Well, it stays in business, which is a huge benefit to its employees and their communities that shouldn’t be underestimated. But the brand, or its humungous parent company, does business like every other business. Its employees aren’t happier or treated in some exclusive way. It doesn’t tithe X% of profits to good causes without judgment or exploitation.

There are no inventive discounting or loyalty programs. I know, loyalty to deodorant? Well, that’s the premise behind brands overall — that people are loyal to ideas about products and services — so why not convert that idea into tangible components of customer relationships? Volume-user discounts? Some annualized reward for recurring patronage?

I’m not aware of any overt evangelism programs, so its employees and suppliers aren’t actively encouraged to promote Old Spice. Refer a friend? How about every group of 10 users (yes, a little community) gets a bulk discount? It could come up with reasons why its people are fundamentally different — via inspiration and/or operationally — but it hasn’t.

Associative benefits are pretty vague, if they exist at all. Old Spice used to be a brand relied on by old guys (maybe it still is), so all the funny viral stuff is supposed to make it relevant to younger customers. OK, then what? Funny = brand? We run into the same wall that we did at the start of this list: There’s no compelling, let alone reliable reason, to buy Old Spice…

…which is why, ultimately, the viral videos make perfect sense. The products aren’t unique, the company doesn’t do anything special, and therefore Old Spice has nothing else to tell us.

So why not?

Image via flickr

Original Post: http://baskinbrand.com/?p=968