New Old Spice-Inspired Brand Personas Heat Up Viral Video

“Hello, ladies. Look at your man. Now back to me.”

Those few simple words were made famous in 2010 with the launch of what some have called, “The fastest-growing and most popular interactive campaign in history.” Wieden+Kennedy’s Old Spice ads infused the then-stodgy brand with new life by giving it a persona: a suave and attractive man who knew how to talk to “the ladies.”

Integral to the campaign’s success were the use of humor and a reliance on online video. The Old Spice campaign was hardly the first of its kind to employ these tactics, and yet its release managed to spark a trend. Brand marketers who had been wondering how best to generate interest online began to look at their efforts with new eyes. The combination of a brand persona – a spokesperson who personifies the brand and appeals to its target audience – with wit and viral media appeared to have the potential to get consumers talking.

Copycat campaigns were soon cropping up across the web, and as is fairly common with campaigns of this ilk, many of the brands behind them were ultimately disappointed. Consumers may have been talking about their efforts, but the feedback wasn’t positive. Where did they go wrong?

Ready to provide the answer are a handful of brands that followed the Old Spice model but still managed to achieve their goals. As it turns out, YouTube and a couple of laughs aren’t quite enough to secure success. Advertisers need a little something more.

Delivering Value

When Sauza Tequila Import Company developed its recent “Make it with a Fireman” branded YouTube video, it incorporated all of the standard fare: a hunky model, a shirtless monologue, and a good dose of humor. It also included a recipe. The presence of this one element transformed what might have been an uninspired video into a video with a purpose. “Make it with a Fireman” highlights the advertised product in a practical way by emphasizing function over fun, and that resonates with consumers…to the tune of more than 2.4 million YouTube video views and counting.


Displaying the Key Product Message

Dannon’s Oikos Greek Yogurt 2012 Super Bowl spot may not have received the welcome the brand was expecting; though it followed the Old Spice model to a tee by featuring actor John Stamos, the inclusion of some comedic violence drew criticism that staunched the ad’s success. Subsequent efforts that now live on a branded YouTube channel have generated a much more positive impression of the brand. The violence is gone, yes, but more than that, the brand’s key product message has finally made the cut.


In the latest iterations of the Oikos John Stamos ads, Dannon makes sure to mention the fact that Oikos beat its leading competitor two to one in a national taste test. This key product message lends legitimacy to the brand’s claim that Oikos is “Possibly the best yogurt in the world.” It significantly alters one’s impression of the videos, and more importantly, of the product itself.

Incorporating Cultural Relevance

Consumers enjoy the Old Spice videos for multiple reasons, but one of them is sure to be their relevance to the culture they know so well. In the social media portion of the campaign, in which the Old Spice man answered questions through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube (the videos generated over 35 million views in just a week), the questions selected referenced numerous cultural touch points consumers were bound to know and understand.

Coffee brand Gevalia also recognizes the value of this technique, as evidenced by its new campaign created by ad agency Taxi. The campaign’s initial online video featuring Swedish brand persona “Johan” is a play on a very common cultural reference (you’ll see exactly what I mean), while its later ads propose the idea of having a “cup of Johan” instead of the usual “cup of Joe.”

Both Gevalia videos deliver a common message about the brand’s “uncompromising standards,” despite the fact that the cultural touch points they use aren’t the same. Should there be any doubt about consumers retaining the brand’s cultural relevance, Gevalia uploaded to its Facebook page a Mother’s Day-themed photograph few are likely to forget.


They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It certainly stands to yield a profitable venture when the imitation takes the form of viral video ads.

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