Is the “Random” Old Spice Marketing Technique Just a Fad?

Old Spice Marketing

Source: The Mill

Four years ago we witnessed the resurrection and rise to dominance of Old Spice – largely due to their incredibly popular ”The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign featuring former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa.

The amount of success their marketing campaigns have garnered is remarkable and now they are the envy/benchmark of practically every brand out there.

But what is the Old Spice marketing secret?

The Unicorns Have Captured the Dough

After reading the title of this section, what did you think?

Perhaps you muttered a WTF. Perhaps you had to read it three times to be sure your eyes were functioning properly.

Old Spice Marketing

Source: The Inspiration Room

Regardless of your reaction to the random phrase, the important thing is you had a reaction and your attention was captured. That my friends, is one of the integral secrets to Old Spice’s success.

They have taken the phenomenon of our human obsession with the random and absurd and turned it into a brilliant, four year and running marketing campaign.

Now, we don’t want to minimize their efforts and success, as there are obviously many other factors at play.

The strategy behind the launch, social media integration, distribution channels, fostering consumer engagement, etc. were all key in turning the campaign from good to great. But random is at the heart of it all.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Other companies of course have taken note of Old Spice’s success and many are trying to emulate it. You have undoubtedly seen the copycats in ads over the last few years:

  1. Dairy Queen – Look familiar? A confident man talking directly to the audience who does something random. “I’m not just playing a guitar, I’m playing a guitar that sounds like dolphins.” Really? This is a perfect example of where random for random’s sake just does not work.
  2. Pledge and Edge – both commercials shamelessly duplicated the cinematic/narration style of Old Spice’s original campaign and savvy consumers lashed out at the obvious carbon copies.
  3. Bud Light’s 2014 Superbowl commercial - though Bud Light does put a new creative spin on the commercial, you can clearly see “random” is at heart of the “up for whatever” theme, intended to provoke reactions from viewers. Why did Don Cheadle have a llama? Why are all the guests twins? Why did he play Arnold in a match of ping pong? Etc.
  4. Sprint’s Frobinsons - the dad is a hamster? The daughter speaks french and is surrounded by cartoon blue birds? The Frobinsons are another great example of random at work.

The slew of copycats doesn’t stop there. One brand is not only duplicating the formula in their advertising, but they are actually completely productizing it:

Meet Wonka Randoms. The idea? Beef up the variety of candy gummies so that virtually no two bags are the same. One does not have to watch long before recognizing the similarities and thematic parallels that Wonka’s new product shares with Old Spice’s marketing.

Random – A Fad or Here to Stay?

Random clearly works. But is “random” a tool that has always been in play in marketing and has just been brought to the forefront by Old Spice? Will it lose its appeal once other brands overuse the strategy and consumers start to catch on to how easily their attention is captured by the random elements?

Let us know what you think by criss crossing the lollipop thread across the mighty molasses mountain in the comments section below.

  • Scott Cowley

    I started thinking about this when I ran across the latest commercial for Madden ’15 The surprise factor is probably what drives the views, but you also have this factor called “I’m not sure whether I liked that or not,” that probably cranks up the level of mental involvement. I think using those two things in combination can’t necessarily be written off as a fad, if they’re just as successful at promoting brand recognition and ad recall as typical plain humor commercials are.