@OldSpice: A Lesson in Fluidity & Play

I just got back from drinks with a good friend who lived the agency life until going corporate (more on that later) and through the course of conversation hit on @oldspice, natch.

She said, “Can we just talk for a minute about the brilliance of Old Spice?”“It is head shake-ingly brilliant,” I said, as I shook my head between both hands. It truly is.
I told her that among the many marketing insights that will influence countless case studies to come, two specific thoughts have been resonating in my brain.

The first, which I’ve been seeking an answer is: WHEN did Old Spice decide to make this an effort in the overall brand experience- from the beginning? Or was it once they saw the interweb reaction to the ads and related coverage?

Second, the tone in which they replied.

Let’s start with the first: The When.

No one I asked had an answer but most suspected this wasn’t planned from the beginning (how can you?). It was likely an idea that evolved out of the opportunity the interweb chatter provided. This, combined with consulting for a company, reminded me how fluid the process of PR and communications is.

You can plan for A, which never happens, but you have to be ready with plans B, C, D, E and F in response to how your plans pan out. It requires the ability to be flexible and have ideas and resources to adjust and capitalize while still keeping on the path. This is one of the under appreciated aspects of most PR and communications professionals.

The Old Spice folks saw an opportunity and seized it. PR, communications and marketing-at-large is largely psychology-based and these folks nailed it. They seeked out mouthpieces, built content targeted at them and then distributed socially in a tone that was appreciated and brag-worthy. Brilliance, at it’s finest. W+K was fluid. They moved with the impending tide, and they were allowed to do so by the client, God bless ‘em.

Things change all the time in the creative industry and executives need to be prepared to ride it just as the executors should. There are no absolutes. It’s a bit like developing a painting. You might have an image but once you start to build it things you thought were right weren’t when you put them down and so you adjust and you weave and you glide. The smart ones see opportunities coming and know how to ride it. So really it’s like surfing.

But, to know how to ride it you also need the second point, which is, in part, related to the tone that Old Spice replied with.

I often say brands take themselves too seriously. It’s important to humanize and connect customers and partners with the people in the company. At the end of the day, that is what we are, people working for companies and trying to make our way. By Isaiah/OldSpice responding directly to specific people demonstrated a lot in our transparent, socially-web fed society:

1) We know what’s up. We know there were writers and he’s an actor and it was being pulled together quickly and we marveled at the dedication to the initiative which was fearless as far as big brands go.
2) We saw a brand engaged and connecting in a way we’d appreciate – a personal one.
3) We watched a massive creative effort come to life over-night. Who wouldn’t respect that?
4) We saw the actor as a human busting his ass to represent a brand busting its ass to live up to its brand message goals (brand for men…who is axe again?) while keeping in character and having FUN with it.

Point 3 and 4 are the crux. They were creative and they had fun and that’s what struck me the most. They weren’t just engaging, they were playing.

The art of creativity is largely lost with PR and a lot of communication fields but it’s rampant in advertising and marketing. They play, they have fun. They dream and imagine and create new worlds. Why shouldn’t we? Why can’t we play together?

This doesn’t mean all brands should start making cheeky videos in response to customers or tweets but it does mean you should seriously examine the interest that your public shows in hearing from you, directly.

Be it on a blog, or in video or tweet or personal email or shout-out in the newsletter. Your audience wants to be heard and they want to be communicated to in a fun and personal way. Old Spice nailed it, among so many other things.

Be fluid. Be creative. Be human.

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