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CREATIVE STRATEGY: Old Spice and the dark art of keeping old brands alive

Some brands have been around so long we can't imagine our world without them - from Anadin to Xerox and all the household names in between, writes Simon Kershaw.

Old Spice: latest ads keep the brand alive

Old Spice: latest ads keep the brand alive

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What keeps them alive while others wither and die? My pointy-headed friends in planning will be quick to point out that if you’re first into a category with a genuinely innovative product then you’ve given yourself a great head start.

Competitors will be sure to follow, but often that’s all they’ll do – follow.  

Now, I am not aware of anything particularly innovative about aftershave. And Old Spice is a just another odd-shaped bottle of alcohol and smelly chemicals.

In the 1950s, the advertising featured cartoon mermaids and descriptions of the scent as a tangy ocean breeze. Fast forward to the 1970s – and my teens – and Old Spice was firmly established as a "Dad’s brand".

My 1978 pre-Christmas TV viewing featured one of the decade’s classic commercials.

Old Spice kept its associations with the sea. But this time the male audience is treated to a skimpily clad woman on a beach apparently waiting for her surfer dude.

All attempts to describe the product have gone; instead, the straight-talking, gravel-toned male voiceover tells us to feel the power of Old Spice. And the strapline is "The mark of a man".  

How do you make Old Spice relevant to a contemporary audience?  Now that, for my 20-something son, it’s a "Grandad’s brand".

Well, it seems that P&G has resisted the temptation to change the logo or the masculine scent. But the agency has very neatly twisted the positioning for this creaky old brand.

Don’t talk to men about aftershave, talk to their ladies about bodywash.  And when you do, don’t take yourself so bloody seriously.

Our spokesman is the bare-chested Isaiah Mustafa – "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like". His 6ft 3in frame still has the lean muscularity of a NFL wide receiver.

Retiring from the Seattle Seahawks, Isaiah went into acting and has certainly honed his comedic skills. This is one sexy fella. And his TV commercials are packed with hilarious visual tricks to match the tongue-in-cheek script.

Will the "Smell like a man, man" campaign work?  Millions have watched the commercials online. And Isaiah now has a huge following on Facebook and Twitter. Whether all this popularity is translating into sales is another question.

Does the social media generation want to smell like a tangy ocean breeze? Over to you, son.

Simon S Kershaw is a creative consultant and a former creative director at Craik Jones.

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