Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Old Spice Ross | July 23rd, 2010

A few weeks ago, Wieden + Kennedy began executing a ground-breaking social media campaign on behalf of its client, Old Spice. The foundation for the campaign was set when Old Spice introduced during the Superbowl, the “Old Spice Man,” played by  Isaiah Mustafa, a television actor and a former NFL wide receiver. Mustafa, playing “The man your man could smell like”, generated a great deal of  buzz about Old Spice (a bit more background in our post from earlier this week – Small business and startups: engage your customers the old(spice)-fashioned way). According to Adweek, that commercial generated over 12 million view on YouTube.

In late June and early July 2010, Old Spice launched two new Mustafa ads, continuing the theme of “The man your man could smell like.” Shortly after the second ad – on July 13 – Old Spice started a full blown and unprecedented social media campaign. That day, Old Spice’s twitter account sent the following message to its Twitter followers:

Following that tweet, Mustafa proceeded to engage with individual Twitter users, posting numerous tweets and nearly 200 custom short videos on YouTube. One video even helped a Twitter user propose marriage to his girlfriend:

Old Spice’s novel social media campaign generated an incredible amount of buzz – especially in social media circles. It also generated a barrage of misleading articles and news reports – such as here and here. The inaccuracies were likely influenced by a July 12 AdWeek article reporting that Old Spice sales had dropped 7 percent during the prior 52 weeks. AdWeek correctly reported the sales figures for the 52 week period ending June 13 (one month prior to the social media campaign):

For instance, P&G picked up the Film Grand Prix this year for Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” spot from Wieden + Kennedy. Launched in February, it’s racked up nearly 12.2 million YouTube views. But in the 52 weeks ended June 13, sales of the featured product, Red Zone After Hours Body Wash, have dropped 7 percent, per SymphonyIRI (this excludes those sold at Walmart). P&G execs were not available to comment.

As you can imagine, the buzz about the purported drop in sales and ROI failure of Old Spice’s social media campaign, was deafening.

And it was totally inaccurate.

The social media campaign didn’t start until July 13. The sales figures for the 52 week period ending June 13 had absolutely nothing to do with the social media campaign – or the ROI from that campaign – as Becky McCray of the popular Small Biz Survival blog (a great resource for rural and small town business) pointed out when we discussed this issue on Twitter yesterday:

While it’s too early to talk about the ROI impact from Old Spice’s social media campaign, recent reports paint a very different picture than the one painted by the inaccurate portrayals from a few days ago. PRWeek reported a few days ago that:

Beginning July 13, Mustafa responded to questions, funneled through Twitter, from celebrities and ordinary folks alike. The brand’s ad agency Wieden + Kennedy developed and coordinated 186 customized video responses that contributed to a 107% increase in Old Spice Body Wash sales over the last month, according to Nielsen data from Mike Norton, director of external relations for male grooming at P&G.

Numbers and statistics can be very powerful. They can also be very misleading.

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