Monday, September 3, 2012

Old Spice’s Video Strategy – Not for the Faint of Heart

Old Spice did it again last week. If you haven’t seen the “Muscle Music” video, it features former NFL player Terry Crews using his muscles to control musical instruments, including a flame throwing saxophone. 

The bizarre video represents a departure from the campaign's predecessors in one key way. Back in 2010, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercial focused on how body wash can help you get the girl. Two years later, "Muscle Music" makes no attempt to address the product benefit, choosing instead to fully embrace the campaign's distinctly absurd style. For instance, viewers can compel Terry Crews to yell “sausage” with the right keystroke. Jimmy Dean would have an easier time translating that into sales projections.

The trajectory of the Old Spice campaign offers a cautionary tale for marketers: to stay relevant, a successful branded entertainment franchise must, at times, forgo traditional brand messaging and instead concentrate on entertainment.

That’s not for the faint of heart. A branded entertainment strategy requires a long term commitment and a willingness to stare down considerable risk.


For starters, to maintain entertainment credibility, Old Spice must spend handsomely to produce a video like “Muscle Music”, that is completely void of traditional brand messaging. For a marketer in need of an immediate return on investment, “Muscle Music” simply isn’t an option.

The investment in entertainment doesn’t end there. The Vimeo video player that distributed “Muscle Music” across the web is a technical breakthrough, fluidly blending video, gaming and sharing functions. It exemplifies the potential of online video as a medium when compared to TV. But, this digital innovation is subsidized by the marketing budget of Old Spice and has little to do with their core business.

All of the capital dedicated to “Muscle Music” paints a picture of the risk that Old Spice is willing to take on. So what’s the return?

The fact is, “Muscle Music” is exactly what Old Spice should be doing. They are investing in the entertainment credibility of the franchise to build a loyal and passionate audience. This standing army of brand advocates ensures a massive “earned” distribution channel for when the pendulum swings back toward more traditional marketing purposes later on. Distribution via earned media is not only free – it’s comprised of user initiated, peer to peer views, the gold standard of impressions. 

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