The market segment has been around for decades. One of the brands in this segment was consistently popular but was declining in popularity—in part thanks to a wave of competition—and in large part because it had an age relevance problem. Originally a success with young men, this brand eventually was perceived as a product more relevant for someone older than them—even their father or (gasp!) their grandfather.
Although we could just as easily be talking about a radio station (age relevance is a topic we often address in Plan DeveloperSM studies,) this is this story of Old Spice.
Most people use the product type, it is a crowded category, and a great number of brands are vying for loyalty and attempting to be the top-of-mind brand with the most buzz.
Of course, I’m talking about deodorant, but maybe it does smell, uh I mean, sound a bit like radio….
The goal, of course, is to constantly evolve so your brand doesn’t “age out”. Research provides insights into how your customers’ tastes are changing, how their loyalties are shifting, and how fast it’s all happening. But Old Spice didn’t evolve, and had to either a) change the name and build new images or b) figure out how to contemporize the brand. Axe Body Spray, originally launched in France in 1983, was introduced to the U.S. market in 2002 and squarely set its sights on males under 25.
So how does a heritage brand, associated with older men, become a favorite of younger men?
The most obvious example of how they did it was their 2010 Super Bowl commercial starring former NFL wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.”
That commercial, which spawned countless other quirky versions, has been viewed nearly 60 million times on YouTube.
It first aired in February 2010. By May 2010 sales were up 60% and by July sales were double over the previous year.
What is less known is that Old Spice’s rebranding effort started four years earlier, when the decision was made to target teens and millennials.
Their 2008 “Swagger” campaign, which included this spot with LL Cool J, was quirky and fun. Not taking yourself too seriously and injecting fun is a good strategy for shifting the perception that your brand is old.
Even lesser known are the guerilla tactics the brand employed to target younger consumers. According to Marketing Gunslingers, Old Spice’s strategy laid out during this time included:
- Rather than targeting adult men, they went after teens and tweeners who had yet to declare a loyalty.
- They handed out free samples of their “High Endurance” sub-brand to kids in 5th-grade health classes across America.
- They focused on the sports crowd, suggesting a correlation between their products and athletic prowess.
- They went grassroots, sending reps with promo swag, to high-school games and skate-park events.
- They expanded their product lines to include a suite of washes and sprays.
Once a brand has overwhelming age relevance issues, it is very challenging to change perceptions without a full scale rebrand.
Heritage brands in mature product categories don’t have to (and should never) sit still.
That’s true whether it’s a radio station or a deodorant.