Goodbye, Ladies: Old Spice Fails to Continue Social Media Engagement

Joey Fung  

March 10, 2011

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It’s been over a year since the Old Spice commercials featuring Isaiah Mustafa first aired. The commercials were watched over and over as they spread virally through online social networks, and attracted an enormous following when Old Spice invited followers to ask the Old Spice Man their questions. Questions voted up by fans were answered by the man himself via YouTube.

In Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book, The Thank You Economy, he critiques Old Spice’s campaign, looking at what worked really well and what didn’t. Even though Old Spice sales spiked tremendously, its YouTube channel reached millions of views and thousands of subscribers, and all media outlets from Twitter to national television were talking, the company made one major mistake.

The big problem with the Old Spice social media campaign was that it was a campaign. Engaging with social media is not a one-time campaign. It continues to evolve. Old Spice now has data on hundreds of thousands of followers which they can leverage, but more important is that they nurture the conversation with these followers, and transition into more meaningful relationships. Cutting off the personal connections the way they did is like a bad break-up (except they’re happy to leave the deodorant at your house). Vaynerchuk writes:

"Old Spice thought when the campaign was done that they were done. Huge mistake. A social media campaign in the Thank You Economy is never done! The Thank You Economy rewards marathon runners, not sprinters. All P&G needed to do was sprinkle a little bit more pixie dust by humanizing their business and ensuring long-term relationships with their customers, but they gave up. In doing so, they turned what had all the markings of a superb social media campaign into a one-shot tactic."

While many were disappointed to lose the engagement they once had with Old Spice, many more simply forgot about the brand. With so much effort expended building one of the best social media campaigns ever, it’s unimaginable that they could squander so much potential. Traditional advertising campaigns relied on one-way communication, so campaigns were relatively simple. The engagement that social media affords cannot be taken so lightly. Customers become “followers,” “fans,” and “like” you. It’s consumer advocacy handed on a silver platter! Cutting off that engagement makes the customer feel ignored and resented. Time and time again, brands need to understand that social media is not a subset of advertising. Advertising is a gateway to customer relationships; social media is about building and maintaining those relationships.