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Old Spice Red Zone sales drop 7%, despite hot ads

It may be a highly viral ad campaign, but if you're looking at the bottom line, the Old Spice ads aren't necessarily successful. Advertising news service WARC reports sales of Old Spice's Red Zone After Hours body wash have fallen 7 percent. Reasons for the drop in sales remain a mystery, though lifestyle site Jezebel.com points to mixed messages in the campaign. There are only so many ways you can interpret an an ad selling body wash to men that begins with the line, "Hello, ladies."

Now the company faces a paradox. Losing the ad campaign might give them a shot at better sales, but if they ditch the ads, which feature now-superstar Isaiah Mustafa, it would be a PR nightmare. Which begs the question: With heightened visibility and industry-wide respect for a revived creative approach to an ancient product, should Old Spice look at the big picture and wait for the campaign to pay off in other ways?

Marketing blogger Stephen Denny has an interesting take on whether image turnaround or sales are more important for a company to consider when figuring out their PR. Denny compares Apple's 1997 "Think Different" campaign with the more recent string of ads from Go Daddy. Apple's campaign gave the company a memorable image makeover, while Go Daddy's risque ads, which were banned from the Superbowl this year, have been described by some industry watchers as "the lowest of the low." Denny poses this question: Which campaign creative would you rather walk into the boardroom with?

"If you're like most, you'd breathlessly say Apple. Hearing from [marketing executive] Sergio Zyman that this storied campaign was followed by three straight quarters of declining market share dampened many people's ardor for this....And when I spoke to [Go Daddy] CEO and Founder Bob Parsons, he told me that every year, they hit new sales records."

But who would Old Spice get to replace Mustafa if they decide to change up their strategy in favor of earnings? The Man on the Horse just just rode into a contract with NBC; that's a tough act to follow.

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Agree with Jeremy Meyers. Moreover, NONE of my male friends ever bought Old Spice or other stuff themselves and most of them would never have bought. Only thier wifes/girls bought it for them.

Well, y'know, man-on-horse action is really only gonna appeal to a limited group of potential clients...

... although I can definitely see where a good deodorant would be part of the picture.

This issue exposes a fundamental flaw in evaluating marketing campaigns. Without a proper counterfactual, it's difficult to construct what would be happing in the absence of the viral campaign (maybe sales would be down 7% or even 17%). Marketers needs to start taking a scientific approach to experimentation by using control groups and treatment groups in field settings to measure the true treatment effect of the Man on the Horse.

Admittedly, it gets tricky but might be worth it (although it's such a fun waste of time speculating on the causes and effects of marketing campaigns that are impossible to know or using fancy econometrics to estimate non existent counterfactuals).

One of the major problems Old Spice faces is the decades-long perception that their brand is for old men and "my grandpa or great-uncle". That's not something that is going to be overcome by a perky and new social media campaign. It certainly helps, but it's not going to be an instant turn-around.

One of the downsides of this campaign is that it made Old Spice the conversation of the day: And a major part of that conversation was "Ewww. My dad wears Old Spice".

What they've done is planted the seeds for a change in their brand perception. Now that they've got the platform (and people WILL watch and listen), they can start to slowly turn the boat around by addressing the scent/memory issue, and focusing on their new scents.

Old Spice is a very old brand. It can't change instantly, but damn, have they made a good start.

Tracing back the links, I only see mention of body wash sales.

How are sales on Old Spice's product line as a whole?

Come on...it's highly unlikely that the 7% drop in sales has anything to do with the YouTube videos. I highly doubt that execs at Old Spice expected consumers to run right out and purchase their product because of a fun, interactive social media campaign. If they expected that kind of behavior, they're missing the point of using social media to impact brand sentiment.

The reality is that the impact won't be seen until men run out of body wash. I don't know about you, but at a nickel-sized dollop at a time, it takes me a month or so to go through a bottle. When the consumer is in the market for the new bottle, the question will be whether they will remember the campaign, recall the specific brand, have a positive sentiment, and make their choice based on that sentiment.

With respect to the fact that the ad initially targets women, you might check the numbers as to who actually does the grocery shopping in the house. IMHO, Old Spice was smart to include women in the dialog, since they will likely be the ones choosing the replacement product.

My guess is that we won't see the actual consumer impact for 30-45 days, just about the time that bottle of Axe body wash runs dry.

That was incredibly insightful and so true... I just ran out of body wash and did recall the ads when shopping for a new bottle.
Then I bought the generic again.
Bottom line: The slickest, most interactive and viral ad campaign can't compete with the price point. Its hard to sell $4.00 over generic product to a college kid, even if you have an awesome dude on a horse.

Interesting stats, though i'm not sure that the goal of the commercials was to sell to men, as much as to sell to women who buy those kinds of things for their husbands.

7% drop means that the ad equates to losing more than 7% in sales. They didn't produce the ads in order to keep sales flat, they did so to increase sales.

Also to the comment about an ad selling men body wash, that start with "Hello Ladies", I think the ad is targeting the women who shop for these products on behalf of their men -- specifically the ads says he is The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.

I like the ad campaign personally, and while I grew up with old spice, it wasn't until this campaign that I thought about their products in at least 5 to 10 years. So to me the question is what is more important, building brand awareness or increasing sales?

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