Old Spice's Teachable Moment for Content Marketing

  |  August 9, 2010   |  Comments

7 recommendations for creating actionable content.

To understand how effective content marketing drives social media, search optimization, and sales, let’s compare two YouTube campaigns, Old Spice and Cisco. These examples make the case for generating actionable content that’s relevant to your target audience, appears on the platforms where they’re engaged, and allows for sharing and interaction.

Old Spice’s 186 video effort on YouTube, where brand spokesperson Isaiah Mustafa dressed in a towel, spoke directly to influencers and the public created a lot of buzz. It underscored the power of developing actionable content that engages your audience where they interact. As an evolution from Old Spice’s well-crafted Super Bowl ad, the custom content resulted in over 35 million social media views and interactions, pages and pages of search results, media mentions, and most notably a sales increase of over 100 percent (quite a feat for a branding campaign).

By contrast, Cisco’s admittedly copycat YouTube campaign fell flat. Delivered by a visually unmemorable accountant, Cisco’s attempt heavily borrowed from Old Spice without adding anything to enhance the viewing experience or identify it with Cisco’s brand. It was announced to the limited audience of its corporate blog with multiple, unmemorable Twitter handles. By taking their cue from towel-clad Alyssa Milano who parodied the Old Spice man to gain attention for a not-for-profit, Cisco could have made a splash by having a businessman dressed in a suit install a router or other Cisco relevant product in the shower in a humorous way.

Garnering a relatively low number of views, Cisco’s unoriginal campaign may have been cheap to produce but totally missed the point of actionable content marketing. The content needs to resonate with your target market, influencers, and the public, integrate your brand, and be available where your market interacts.

7 Recommendations to Drive Actionable Marketing Content

From a business perspective, creating marketing content looks a lot like print publishing. According to Joe Pulizzi, who presented at the recent Custom Content Day, while content marketing accounts for 33 percent of marketing budgets according to Junta42’s research (see the full report here), a company's biggest challenge is to produce engaging content.

To help you develop an effective strategy, here are seven content marketing recommendations.

1. Tell a story. Make sure it has a beginning, middle, and end to make content memorable. It’s important to design for a specific medium; to allow content to be silent if desired. For example, the highly viral Dove Evolution campaign can be watched without the sound.

2. Create content in context of community. You can’t assume that your prospects, customers, influencers, and the public will look for your information. You must engage them where they are and when they need you. For example, Old Spice used a variety of social media platforms, most notably YouTube and Twitter. You can do this within your company. To support its sales effort, Xerox created Competipedia, an internal wiki to collect and share information about services, sales process, clients, and competitors across the enterprise.

3. Deliver content across array of devices. Do this with an understanding of different information consumption habits. Think in terms of four major categories of screens: computers, which are lean-in experiences; iPad and other e-readers, which are lean-back encounters; cell phones (especially iPhones and Droids), which are used for content snacking; and televisions, which are traditionally for passive viewing but are beginning to integrate interactive information.

4. Integrate brand into your content. Go beyond only using a visual or audio logo. Think broadly in terms of the information conveyed, visual clues, and audio mentions and sounds. While the Old Spice videos weren’t scripted, they were consistent with the brand messaging as it had appeared in earlier ads, used the same spokesperson, and always included a brand mention with a visual of the product.

5. Adapt content presentation to engage your target audience. Old Spice accomplished this by interacting with real people on a number of social media platforms showing knowledge of their market. By contrast, Xerox implemented a series of thought leadership meetings where it brought its prospects and sales teams together to hear an important expert and interact with each other.

6. Structure human resources to support your content creation initiatives.

  • Empower one person to be responsible for content on multiple platforms across your organization.
  • Reward employees for content contribution and creation efforts. Xerox found that this was highly effective to incent employees who otherwise might not have wanted to share their knowledge and/or spent the time doing so.

7. Assess content quality and its contribution to marketing goals. According to Junta42’s research, the most used measure is website traffic. To prove content marketing’s effectiveness, here are five metrics.

  • Audience measured in terms of reach, social graph, and media pickups. Are you reaching your target audience and their influencers?
  • Content effectiveness determined by improved brand metrics (for more details, check out my list) and success of your calls to action to drive inquiry or sales-related activity.
  • Interactions tracked in terms of views, shares across social networks, and comments. Examine the sentiment of this input.
  • Expenses calculated in terms of content development, creative, technology, workflow efficiencies, head count, and other resources.
  • Sales related to specific content that may occur at various steps in the purchase process.

While content marketing may not sound as sexy as social media or be as visible as search marketing, it needs to be integrated into your overall marketing plan since it supports both of these efforts. It’s critical to offer information that’s relevant to your audience, regardless of whether they’re your customers, your employees, or the general public. You also need to be available on the platforms they use, when they’re ready to access it.


Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.

Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.

Her blog, HeidiCohen.com, was nominated as a finalist for Top Social Media Blog of 2012 by Social Media Examiner.

Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.

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