Look Down, Back Up… It’s Viral Marketing

Flash back a couple of years and this advertisement was all the rage with 52.7 million views on YouTube to this day. Some people put it’s success down to the fact that it offers something for everyone. For women there was an attractive man spending a full 32 seconds shirtless, for men there were funny one liners that were relatable and glorified masculinity. The real reason for success however, was the creative minds behind the ad at Old Spice HQ.

First, a bit of background on Old Spice. Basically they are an American company that have a range of male grooming products such as deodorant, body wash and “man fresheners”…. Yes that is now apparently a thing.  Their whole image is based on macho masculinity and offering products that have manly packaging and names such as the Odour Blocker, Dirt Destroyer and Sweat Defence.

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Source: http://www.oldspice.com

Look down, Back up, now back to the ad. Old Spice managed to create humorous content that remained consistent with their brand image and values, while being entertaining to both men and women. The main actor in the ad portrayed the ideal state of many men, planting the idea that the use of Old Spice makes you a better man and bridges the gap between a person’s actual state and the ideal. Maintaining this message that Old Spice = Masculinity demonstrated a great integrated marketing approach as the values were kept consistent across past social media and other advertisements. Maintaining consistency across a brand is one of the key factors to the success of a viral campaign (Mangold and Faulds).

Creating an advertisement with the hope of it going viral can be a bit like diving from an 8 metre board. If it is done well the outcome is fantastic, but if the execution is poor it can end in an epic fail. What made this ad so brilliant is that Old Spice provided the perfect platform for consumers to have a discussion about the ad and the products. Social media was buzzing with talk about Old Spice and of course a million memes. The conversation this ad sparked not only created exponential growth for the company and generated a wider reach, but also made the brand more credible as consumers were sharing their experiences of using their products. Old Spice had the perfect amount of control over the campaign to shape discussion without killing the campaign by trying to control it too much (Kaplan & Haenlein).

haters_gonna_hate_old_spice copy.jpg
Source: memebase.com

Overall, the campaign was a triumph and had a really positive effect on the brand as sales spiked by 106% according to parent company P&G. The combination of great content and a marketing plan that followed the five pieces of advice when spreading a virus by  Kaplan & Haenlein, lead to one of the greatest viral advertising campaigns of all time. Check out an example of how Old Spice followed up the ad campaign by directly interacting with their users, each generating hundreds of thousands of views. All of these videos where made with the original actor and set and maintained the masculinity and message the viral ad projected.


Thanks for reading!
Let me know what other viral campaigns you can think of that succeeded.





6 thoughts on “Look Down, Back Up… It’s Viral Marketing

  1. Hi Emma!

    I love the example you use here to illustrate the success of viral marketing! It’s mostly because, as a female, I don’t mind the 32 seconds of a shirtless guy occupying my thoughts, the obvious humour throughout literally kept my attention till the very end and helps create that positive brand image towards Old Spice!

    It’s really good how you have gone into details about Old Spice’s history and brand image which can be seen in their viral marketing campaign. It is pretty clear how the product and brand is supposed to be viewed after watching the advertisement.

    In answer to your prompt for other successful viral campaigns, I think the Always #likeagirl campaign was hugely successful. Another one that I absolutely love is by Under Armous ‘I will what i want’ => https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY0cdXr_1MA

    I think the key with both these popular advertising campaigns is the fact that it leaves people feeling empowered and it carries weight in their message to the audience. They are not campaigns just to raise brand awareness or sales, but they serve a purpose/share a message and that is why they have been shared, they’re influential, inspirational and challenge to status quo. For a brand to control and develop that level of influence and thus hype/word of mouth from society creates such good brand awareness!

    However, you make a good point about the risks of being an epic fail! There is so much risk to over plan, over control the social media hype, intervene too much instead of letting natural word of mouth to occur. Marketers need to be very careful. Can you think of a time where viral marketing has gone wrong? I think the Victorian cabs #yourtaxi campaign was a failure as it literally gained hype for sharing negative stories!

    Kelly 🙂


  2. Hi Kelly,
    Thanks for your comment! The Always #likeagirl campaign is a great example of a successful campaign, not only did it go viral but it also changed people’s behaviour. I actually noticed that after the campaign went viral not so many people used the phrase “like a girl” so often which is definitely indicative of the impact the campaign had. As you said, this advertisement wasn’t out to boost sales directly by showcasing a new product it actually had a really important message which aligned with the company’s values.

    The #yourtaxi campaign was one of the most cringe-worthy things I have seen in my life. Although Victorian Cabs did have an idea to promote conversation, the lack of control marketers have in viral campaigns really ended up biting them in the backside. Perhaps Victorian Cabs could’ve taken a similar approach to Public Transport Victoria in their “Dumb Ways To Die” campaign. One of my all time favourite fails which always cracks me up is Susan Boyle’s attempt at promoting her latest album through the hashtag (brace yourself) #susanalbumparty, unfortunately for Susan the campaign totally backfired and became a joke among everyone!



  3. Hey Emma!

    I love the example of Old Spice. I think they utilised a variety of platforms too which always enhances the effectiveness of the ad. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t a fan of their follow up campaign with Terry Crews. I felt like they were trying to do exactly the same thing but more aggressively. I found it uncomfortable actually! I completely agree with you that consistency of the message is key and this is exactly what their first commercial did. The only thing the Terry Crews follow up had in common was a topless man, I don’t think it was consistent with that “classy masculine” vibe they campaigned so effectively in the first commercial.

    I think another important thing that can help campaigns is the ability for consumers to actually engage with the advertisement or campaign. The video that you posted in relation to the consumers hockey game was a good example, but I think campaigns that are user generated can be more effective. For example, this week I looked at MINI’s Getaway campaign in 2010. They generated an app that was basically a game of keepings off. Users had to pick up a virtual MINI car and “hold onto it” for as long as they could. At the end of the week, the person who still had the car in their possession won a free car. Here’s the link to it

    I think what I found most impressive about this was that MINI put the idea to consumers and let them roll with it. People were talking about it, sharing the app and basically running the campaign for MINI. Like you mentioned, it’s risky putting the campaign in the hands of consumers, but if they embrace it, your campaign is not longer just an advertisement, but something that’s embraced as part of society. People will see past the commercial aspects of your campaign if it’s engaging, fun and user generated.


    1. Hi Mitchell,
      Thanks for your comment! I definitely agree with what you said about the Terry Crews follow up to the original campaign, it lacked the showcasing of an ideal image of a sophisticated and masculine man and went for a purely comical approach. Mini’s Getaway campaign is a great example of a successful campaign that really encouraged consumer engagement. I particularly liked the fact that it integrated so seamlessly into iPhones and utilised tracking capabilities. I think MINI could’ve furthered the campaign through encouraging the use of hashtags and sharing when a person wins, all in turn increasing exposure to the campaign. Can you think of any failed attempts of setting up a viral campaign?



  4. Hi Emma!

    I think Old Spice is a great example of a successful viral marketing campaign. I think that the greatest element of of the campaign was its ease of share ability amongst your friends and family and strategic use of online social media platforms to achieve this. The creative aspect behind the advertisement with the seamless transitions between scenes was visually appealing, witty and most importantly catered for both sexes, as you mentioned. Old Spice has definitely displayed its brand image and values through this campaign and created many positive associations for its brand.

    Viral marketing campaigns tend to be very sporadic and short term in their impact on consumers. I believe that Old Spice failed to leverage off their original campaign as I have not been seen anything else of that nature from Old Spice at all and this campaign has had no impact on my purchasing behaviour whatsoever. Although, it had a significant impact on the short term sales and awareness of Old Spice I am curious to know whether you have any knowledge of what impact this campaign has had on Old Spice in the longer term (as this campaign is a few years old now)?

    I’m sure you are aware of the “Damn Daniel” campaign that went viral earlier this year? The impact on Vans has turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to the Vans brand, and completely unprovoked by them. That one liner “Damn, Daniel, back at it again with the white Vans” has resulted in the term vans being drilled into the mind of its audience millions of times. The clip has spread throughout Twitter, Facebook, eBay, even on The Ellen Show. Although it was an amateur video, the creativity and share ability aspect, much like Old Spice has resulted in plenty of unprovoked word of mouth marketing (WOM), despite the fact that the clip was not created by Vans. The organic buzz about vans means that people are talking about the brand—online and offline. It’s difficult to measure the full extent of the sensation on Vans sales this soon but it’s definitely reignited awareness of a brand that I thought was somewhat dying?

    At first glance, viral clips and pictures seem to be meaningless content that is just being shared around the Internet. Upon further inspection, the subject of this content matters. The brands, products and companies mentioned benefit enormously from the exposure and from being talked about extensively both online and offline. For any brand involved in a viral sensation must understand the power of this exposure and must not underestimate the attention and make every effort to capitalize on serendipitous and unintended buzz.



    1. Hi Ben,
      Thanks for your comment! The “Damn Daniel” viral campaign is a great example of a viral campaign and is particularly unique as Vans didn’t actually initiate it. It was completely reactive and Vans did a great job adopting the campaign and responding to it. As you said, the organic buzz is crucial to the success of viral marketing because marketers can make the best campaign in the world but if no one catches on, it is completely useless. I also had a look into the long term impact of the Old Spice advertisement and found that it really helped Old Spice to become relevant within a younger demographic. Before the advertisement, market research by Old Spice actually showed that most of their users were middle aged to older men. Britton Taylor, one of the people behind the ad said that the campaign appealed a much younger male demographic and for the first time also appealed to females. This has had a lasting effect after several years since the campaign aired. This is pretty impressive considering the fast paced natural of public interest. Although it had great success I think if Old Spice used a similar approach to Vans and reacted to consumer content, the campaign could’ve been even more effective.


      Liked by 1 person

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