Friday, July 16, 2010

Old Spice: Are men self-conscious?

Chances are that if you watch TV, have a Facebook account or browse YouTube, you've seen the new slew of Old Spice commercials. Not to be cliché, but Isaiah Mustafa has literally turned into an overnight phenomenon.

The man. The legend.

Or so it would appear. Old Spice has made some dramatic changes in its spokes people; as of late forgoing celebrities such as ex-NFL player Terry Crews and LL Cool J. The legend refers to his character more than Isaiah himself; a low-level movie star and ex-Euro NFL player (did anyone else even know there was a European division of the NFL?). Isaiah appears first in a washroom, then a boat, then a horse; a senseless scenario of the "perfect man".

Seems oddly similar to the new face of Dos Equis beer; "The Most Interesting Man in the World"

In a day and age where women are typically associated with being the targets of self-improvement ads for makeup, clothing and weight loss, are men now feeling the pressure? Apparently so, but are being targeted in a completely different way. Men aren't typically as self-aware as women are, which is why the type of delivery for personal improvement ads for men are drastically different in their approach.

I want to first demonstrate how self-improvement ads have targeted women. Whether it be skin care or hair care, before and after images are always a staple. Clogged pores, frizzy hair and that extra ten pounds. Where? Alone in their powder room, sitting at their desk or locked away in their room. All of a sudden brand xyz releases product abc and miraculously their day is saved, and typically has an ending shot of the previously distressed female laughing in the mall with girlfriends or out at the club. They have a very damsel in distress tone, and I presume that since it's been the status quo since the invention of the 3am infomercial that it's working. Their endorsers are also typically very popular female celebrities and idols.

Men are admittedly much harder to target; as showing a guy with frizzy hair all sad in black and white doesn't seem quite as effective. Men are however quite concerned about what others think of them in social situations and secretly seeks self-improvement. Men want to be the most interesting, the best smelling, and definitely don't want to be caught at a sporting event or DJing with yellow stains:

So is the secret to selling personal care products to men to attack their ego? Not exactly. As a marketer, you cannot attack their ego directly, but rather suggest what would happen in a social situation if you don't use a certain body wash, soap or drink a certain brand of beer. Typically if an ad demonstrates the "after" situation and its negative outcome without the product, men figure out the before themselves.

Measuring success with this strategy is however elusive. Commercials for Dos Equis' "The Most Interesting Man in the World" on YouTube struggle to surpass a million views, while the original video for Old Spice is nearing fourteen million in a shorter time span nonetheless. Does that mean that the former has been ineffective? No. Old Spice's ad targets what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as the shopping "mavens"; female significant others. The video spread virally between women rather than men. Men however may have been enticed by Dos Equis' offering, but would be embarrassed to discuss it or share it, suggesting that perhaps they're not extremely interesting or sociable themselves.

The most important take-away here as marketers is that with CPG/consumables which have low switching costs and are low-involvement purchases, to perform very strong market research to identify and target a single facet of men that they're secretly self-conscious of socially. We also have to be responsible that we're honest not to take advantage of it. It's not scrupulous because it can actually be very helpful for men seeking help, yet are embarrassed to discuss it (a trait not necessarily shared by females). Then again, men have been known to be susceptible to such minute things as bacon:

access="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385">