Thanks to marketer interest in social media, we're quickly learning what social media is capable and not capable of. And by in large, it's capable of doing a lot.

Case in point: it appears that Old Spice's critically-acclaimed YouTube/Twitter campaign has indeed boosted Old Spice Body Wash sales -- by a whopping 107% in the past month according to Nielsen. This is 'success' by any definition. But just what kind of success is it?

One of the biggest challenges any marketer has in the world of social media is finding a way to sustain a campaign. After all, there is plenty of fierce competition for consumer attention on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and just about every major brand is doing something in these channels at any given time. With billions of video views, status updates and tweets, social media is really as cluttered and chaotic as it is powerful and inspiring.

Which begs the question: when marketers shoot for social media win, should they be aiming to create campaigns that deliver long-lasting results, or should they be happy with a series of short-term victories? It's a somewhat difficult question to answer.

While it is too early to measure the impact of the Old Spice campaign over the long term, for instance, it seems pretty clear: this is a campaign that will eventually fizzle out. The setup probably is not sustainable, and in any case, it seems quite likely the initial hoopla will die down and we'll all become a lot interested in watching the Old Spice guy's videos. In other words, his shtick will wear off. Yes, there may very well be ways to extend the core concept and themes, but Old Spice is not going to see continued month-over-month sales increases of over 100%.

Perhaps it doesn't need to. There's a good argument to be made that shooting for sustainable performance of any one campaign is a fool's errand in the realm of social media. But on the flip-side, there are a number of challenges for marketers looking to string together a series of one-hit wonders:

  • Most people don't win the lottery twice. Old Spice, for instance, is probably not going to be able to immediately follow up its 'Smell Like A Man, Man' campaign with a campaign of equal or greater impact.
  • Short term results don't a long term business make. While few marketers will complain about short-term sales spikes, they're not necessarily as beneficial to a business as marketers would like to believe. In some cases, they can even be detrimental because they fool a company into making long-term decisions based on short-term results. This is especially true for marketers pushing newer products and services with less brand recognition.
  • A hit or miss mentality can be tough to maintain. The idea that you can 'fail early and often to succeed quicker' is nice in theory, but it can be somewhat problematic too. After all, if your strategy is to run lots of campaigns and hope that a few succeed wildly, a low percentage of successes may be more discouraging than encouraging.

At the end of the day, I don't think there's a good answer here. Although social media has certainly matured to the point where it's no longer okay to say "this is so new let's not worry about ROI", there's still a lot to be learned about how social media is best applied to produce said ROI. That means marketers should probably worry first and foremost about finding ROI, and then they can worry about if and how to sustain it.

Photo credit: bobster855 via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 3 August, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (4)



In my opinion, campaign is just that a campaign with short term goals.

Be it an increase in sales, increase in awareness of a brand, increase in visits to a page or promotion of a sales offer, still it's a short term enterprise.

It has its objectives, start and end. After that, there is a time for another.

Nature of social media is a conversation with the consumer base, or better people. Giving something to talk about, maintaining that conversation and building it on a core brand values is key for building the brand equity.

Core values are best expressed through story, form of communication so old that it is in our genes. It is easily transferable and if interesting (better emotionaly resonant) it spreads like folklore.

To conclude, ROI is great and can be measured per campaign basis. Social marketing is a long term process in which stories of a brand are communicated and in term activate and rally people to talk about the brand, think about it and share their experiences. Campaigns can then leverage this and call to action that can be measured.

Old spice has done a great job at continuing its story of a 'Man's man deodorant' and I hope will continue to tell a lot more interesting stories with that theme

almost 8 years ago


Fredrick Nijm

The key to Old Spice's success is what they do to follow up with the Old Spice Man. If they continue making improvements in how they market using social media etc, then sales will only continue to improve. You can't realistically think that every campaign you produce is going to give you the results you expected before you ran them, but they could effectively follow this up with something else and actually do better than they have before. 

If they don't then, the Old Spice Man will just be a campaign that makes us laugh, but doesn't get us off our coaches and off to the store to smell like him. 

almost 8 years ago



This is a perfect example of an ad campaign that's classier than it's product.

First of all everybody's talking about the campaign and the "old spice guy"

Men are laughing with him and women are lusting after him.

Hmmm, what about the product?

Old Spice is after all, a pretty low rent product favoured by adolescents and cheapskate older guys with no imagination.

I doubt very much if hunky Mustafa will actually be wearing any, except perhaps on any product appearance promotions.

So they doubled their sales. So what. Many are probabloy just curious. Once they try it, are they likely to buy it a second time? I think many won't.

Plus I doubt if any serious male will even contemplate changing their after shave.

As I said at the begiining, if the campaign exceeds the reality of the product, then you have a serious problem. You may fool them once but they won't trust you a second time.

almost 8 years ago

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

Whilst the campaign in total was apparently successful (sales rose), did they use other channels other than social media? My understanding is that they used print and t.v. too (but I could be wrong about this, I am sure someone will correct me!). 

If the campaign was multi-channel then I really don't see how we can attribute the campaign success to social media. It probably played an element, but that might have been minuscule and the value it actually added could well have been trivial.

In reality you could have run some print ads and some T.V. spots and got the same result. 

To me this sounds like social media trying to justify itself because it happened to be standing close to something that was successful regardless. 

almost 8 years ago

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