Digital phoenix: rebranding online


They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

It can also be very difficult to change how people see a brand or product.

For example, despite the many re-branding attempts by Volvo, I still have the association of the “bloody Volvo driver” in my head because of the way the majority of them drive (those that I encounter anyway).


The danger for ‘older’ brands, if they don’t find a way to stay relevant, is that they may end up left on the shelf.

This was the scenario that Old Spice found themselves in a few years ago. The brand had introduced a body wash line in 2003, but increased competition meant that by 2006 Old Spice was losing out to other brands in the market.


This was a brand with a 70 year heritage – a brand with considerable experience, and clearly masculine positioning.

The problem here? Relevance.

Old Spice was seen as something that your grandfather or uncle might purchase. It had lost any connection with younger males.

In February, 2010, the company launched the following online ad:

It went viral (over 46 million views to date).

The ad was done in a way that not only appealed to the male target market, but spoke directly to a female audience, who are more likely to be making the purchase decision for their products.

Old Spice also executed a follow up campaign to this in June 2010, which you can read more about here.

The Outcome

1) HUGE increases to the size of their social media platforms:

  • Twitter followers increased by 2700%
  • Facebook fans increased by 800%
  • YouTube subscribers more than doubled (from 65,000 to 150,000)

2) More than 1 billion unpaid impressions – a huge reach and response (talk about ROMI)

3) By the end of July 2010, Old Spice had become the number 1 brand of body wash for men in the US.

The case of Old Spice’s re-vitalisation shows that it is possible to teach an old brand new tricks (as long as it is executed well).

Personally I think the genius in the ad is how it manages to speak to both male users and female purchasers – not an easy feat!

Let me know in the comments –

  • What do you think are some of the reasons that a video would go viral?
  • Do you think that the ad maintains the brand’s integrity/ personality?

Until next time,

N. Apple_bitten.svga


22 responses to “Digital phoenix: rebranding online

  1. This is one rebranding that always stands out too me as they transformed there image and consumers perceptions about their brand through a simple funny ad! The follow up YouTube ad were able to connect to their now younger target market, which I think is why it become so successful!

    • Yeah it’s definitely one of my favourites. Especially inspiring as the majority of this campaign was actually done online, and re-branding can be so hard to pull off effectively. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Such a good ad, have you noticed all the ads that seem to be subtly copying the style lately? I think one of them is for Sorbent, and i reckon this one does as well

    • I agree, definitely a new style – much more interactive, breaking down the 4th wall and talking to us instead of at us. Thanks for sharing the vid – loved it 🙂 It seems that the more we embrace this two-way style of interacting with brands, the more they want to talk to us like that

  3. Wow! What a great article, you blog very well I am going to have to take a leaf out of your book!
    I really enjoyed reading this, and put a new perspective to refreshing a brand in my mind

  4. They’ve actually just brought out even more new products, according to the shelves at Priceline 😉 maybe they’ll do a Lynx and bring out a female version too (not that female lynx sells well). Ah marketing.

    • Yeah it’s pretty incredible to think that just a few short years ago this was a brand in trouble. Now they’re thriving! Viva la social media revival! A female line would be interesting – I would want to see how they’d pull that off with such a masculine brand 🙂

  5. This is an interesting read! I’ve seen quite a number of Old Spice’s videos, indeed would be a hit based on the comical nature of their ads ! Im pretty impressed by their rebranding outcome, definitely worth considering for some companies to revitalise their dying brands.

    • Completely agree! It’s definitely not an easy feat, but it does speak to the idea that with a clever campaign it can be done. I think a lot of what worked for them had to do with the originality of the ad and the way they really drew out the brand personality through these ads. Plus they’re entertaining 🙂

  6. I loved this ad!! Besides the fact that the main guy is an absolute hunk I think its comedic take really appeals to the younger generation. Plus I loved how they continued with this line of thought and introduced other similar ad featuring Fabio “The Mose Beautiful Man in the World”.
    Check out the ad at:

    • Hahaha, I love the Fabio re-take on this. It’s great that they’ve been daring enough to go back to it, a lot of brands wouldn’t want to risk it. Completely agree – the comedic aspect of the video helps seal the deal. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  7. Hey Apple,
    The Old Spice commercial is definitely one of the (if not THE ) best examples of digital rebranding marketing. One of my favourite ads came to mind when reading which was the Carlton Draught: Big Ad, I found it even has it’s own wikipedia page, not only did start a viral campaign before the traditional mediums, they did this in 2005! I don’t recall a lot of other advertisements “going viral” around that time.

    It is/was such a clever use of cheeky humour, ‘blokey’ attitudes and the timing was perfect for an ‘epic’ ad during the Lord of the Rings craze.

    • MGil, the Big Ad from Carlton Draught is probably one of my favourite ads of all time. You’re right, they were well ahead of the game with that one. It captured the cheeky nature of the brand (followed on with their subsequent ads) and our attention. So much so that 8 years on we’re still talking about it! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. What do you think are some of the reasons that a video would go viral? I LOVE THE VIDEO! I’ve watched it like a hundred times since that video has been launched. They also have sequels to the ad as well starring Terry Crews promoting the other product line. I think it went viral because it was so funny! As I’ve lived in Thailand my entire life, I’ve never seen/heard of the brand Old Spice before, but when i saw this ad, I kept telling my brother to get Old Spice products just because the ads are so funny. So in a way, i think the funny element worked in their favor. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Completely agree – the funny element is a massive factor – it’s the kind of thing that you’d want to share with your friends. I definitely think that the uniqueness of a campaign like this also worked to their advantage. Love that you were able to influence your brother’s purchase decisions because of the ad – just goes to show the power of good content 🙂

  9. viral videos almost always have some funny factor about them, think the old spice as was great for that. Also what helps this day is, if the ad can be copied and made fun of.. this extends the brand into copy cat videos and gets more exposure for them

  10. That is a great post Natalie! I totally enjoy your post. The way Old Spice advertising crack me up. It is pretty funny, which also is a smart tactic to capture the people’s attention and leave that vividly in our mind.
    1. I think that a video will go viral either it is done in a uniquely funny way or it is so original and authentic that you will never forget in your mind.
    2. This is just my thought but to uphold your brand’s personality is not the advertised item should be and feel like what it is shown on the video.

    • Thanks Mike 🙂 they definitely used humour well in this ad. I agree, this ad was definitely more focused on the brand personality rather than the product itself

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