Deconstructing The Viral Video: Part 1


This is the first installment of our multipart series discussing viral video marketing. And don’t forget to check back this Friday for a look at how startups have utilized viral video marketing and a peek at the emerging trend of viral Kickstarter videos.

If you told someone even eight years ago that Old Spice was responsible for some of the most innovative marketing campaigns of our day I doubt anyone would believe you. They were the stodgy brand primarily associated with older gentlemen, and it was actually a bit of an insult to tell anyone younger then middle age they smelled like Old Spice. In 2006 that all changed. Proctor and Gamble, the parent company of Old Spice, dropped its Madison Avenue mainstays and decided to use the Portland based advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy. They were essentialy given full creative range to rebrand Old Spice as they saw fit. Proctor and Gamble was well aware of the fact that Old Spice was in not in any position to compete with the young and creative ads being released over at Unilevers subsidiary Axe. Previously their advertisements were primarily product based, traditional, and very straightforward.

That all changed when W+K assumed creative control, instead of focusing on the practical aspects of the brand they shifted to producing stories and framing Old Spice as a lifestyle product. They also made it a high priority to both engage with and interact with their audience via social media platforms. The outcome was a complete rebranding as well as rebirth of the 84 year old company. In February of 2010 they launched the wildly successful “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign featuring the smooth talking Isaiah Mustafa and the videos almost immediately went viral. A couple months later W+K crafted a two day social media blitz where people were invited to tweet questions about life, love, and of course manliness to Mustafa. Over the course of those two days the team produced over 180 videos including: shot outs to celebrities, a special get well message to founder Kevin Rose, and a marriage proposal. They made a special point to target social media addicted celebrities and high ranking members of the Technorati. If you can get at least one of these high profile people to share your video then your reach is nearly instantly extended to potentially millions of people.

We might soon see how other brands can recreate this success. It was announced earlier this week that the executive creative director of W+K, Iain Tait, will be joining the Google Creative Lab. They are the in-house creative marketing team that is responsible for all things Google. Ingrid Lunden over at TechCrunch pretty much sums it up when she says that “Google has been criticized time and again for failing to ‘get’ social media right but picking up a guy like Tait could be a back-door route for convincing the public otherwise.” With his experience in rebranding and audience building it will be interesting to follow what sort of work he will produce for Google.

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