Having a heritage brand is a good thing. Being seen as outdated … not so much.
Old Spice was on the wrong side of that line in 2010 when the company embarked on a massive rebranding campaign. That investment in brand image proved to be a smart move.
“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercials were incredibly popular, and the company’s social media presence skyrocketed. Old Spice is now one of the most recognizable brands in the world thanks to this bold rebranding effort.
Here’s how they did it.
Old Spice’s History
Old Spice is an iconic and beloved American grooming brand with a long, rich history that dates back to the 1930s. It began as a small-scale operation founded in St. Louis, Missouri by William Lightfoot Schultz. Over the next few decades, it grew into the preeminent male grooming brand with classic scents and a timeless image that brought to mind old-fashioned barbering.
In 1990, Procter & Gamble bought Old Spice for $300 million as part of an acquisition deal that expanded its product line and made its deodorant and other items widely available in popular retail stores around the world.
Why Did Old Spice Rebrand?
Unfortunately, even well-renowned brands can run the risk of growing stale in the minds of consumers. Being popular at one point is no guarantee that you’ll stay that way forever. Old Spice’s reputation had deteriorated as a low-quality, bargain brand with an outdated image that appealed only to older generations.
It was seen as an unattractive choice for younger shoppers looking to make a statement with quality body wash and other grooming products and fragrance choices. Young men were gravitating toward products like Axe, seeing Old Spice as their grandfather’s deodorant. Old Spice had failed to keep up with the attitudes of modern consumers and was literally paying the price.
What was Old Spice’s strategy with its rebrand?
Old Spice’s challenge would be shaking off its “old man” image and engaging with a new generation of customers. The rebrand included an updated logo and website design and most notably, an advertising campaign that included actor Isaiah Mustafa as their spokesperson.
The ads relied heavily on absurd humor with jokes that were clearly meant to speak to the demographic of 20-40-year-old men . The commercials grabbed many viewers’ attention and spoke directly to younger generations. Old Spice employed an aggressive use of television commercials, digital media campaigns, and cleverly designed packaging. They also made sure to include plenty of memorable taglines such as “Believe in Your Smellf.”
Taking on the jester persona isn’t something every brand should do. If the humor falls flat, your brand’s reputation will take a hit. But if your brand (or the agency you hire to develop the campaign) has the chops to pull off humor, it’s a strategy that could drive a lot of attention, as it did for Old Spice. Many people, especially the target demo of younger men, latched onto memorable lines like, “We’re not saying this body wash will make your man smell like a romantic millionaire jet fighter pilot, but we are insinuating it.”
How was the Old Spice rebrand initially received by the public?
The rebrand of Old Spice was initially met with cautious optimism. Consumers were intrigued by the marketing campaign that was heavily reliant on a sense of witty humor. This rebranding initially tried to create an image of being a modern and sophisticated product line, which paid off with a positive public sentiment.
This rebrand led to unprecedented growth for the product line, with increased sales, engagement online, and recognition from the industry. It was largely considered a success from the very beginning, helped by its high visibility advertisement paying off in dividends.
Was the Old Spice rebrand successful?
Old Spice’s rebrand was incredibly successful. After it launched, the company saw a significant increase in sales and engagement with its target audience. The messaging shift, the well-executed humor, and the celebrity endorsements all resonated with the public and reestablished the brand as a major player in men’s grooming products. The result was increased profits and enhanced brand recognition all over the world.
The ad campaign itself was wildly popular. It garnered nearly 6 million YouTube views in its first day and went on to win awards, even getting an Emmy nomination.
How did affect the bottom line? Old Spice saw double-digit annual sales growth for several years in a row. The brand’s U.S. market share increased from 3% to 6%, with total sales revenue rising from $280 million in 2009 to over 1 billion by 2017. Thanks to its modern and witty approach to advertising, Old Spice is once again one of the most recognizable brands on the planet.
Didn’t this campaign alienate Old Spice’s long-time fans?
When making a concerted effort to target a new demographic, there’s going to be a risk of making your current customer base feel underappreciated or left behind. While Old Spice needed to expand its appeal to younger generations, it couldn’t discard its loyal customers.
Wisely, branding firm Landor decided to lean into Old Spice’s status as a heritage brand when redesigning the logo and packaging. Originally, the logo incorporated nautical ship imagery as a nod to the way spices were transported across the world. The brand discarded that in 2004, opting to use a sailboat in the logo.
For the 2010 rebrand, however, the ships returned. This signified that, despite the shift in tone, Old Spice was a brand with a long, rich history. That helped older customers maintain their trust in the brand. They may not have been among the millions of YouTube viewers cracking up at a man magically transporting himself from the shower to a boat to a horse, but they did see the sophisticated packaging letting them know Old Spice hadn’t kicked them to the curb.
Being the preferred product of a certain age demographic is great … for a while. That comfort and stability can last only so long. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but no generation of people can last forever. Do you want your brand to die out alongside your comfortable customer base?
Old Spice knew that a brand established in the 1930s couldn’t survive appealing only to older men. It needed to change its image and appeal to a whole new customer base. And sure, the hilarious commercials did a lot of the heavy lifting, but this rebrand was built on a much stronger foundation. Behind the ad campaign was a deep understanding of Old Spice’s desired target market, careful planning, and precise execution.
If your brand’s scent is getting stale, don’t panic. Just believe in your smellf, and follow Old Spice’s lead.