But here’s the thing… on paper, those adverts shouldn’t actually work.
Because who would naturally pair a comedic promotional style with male grooming products? To most, the concepts simply don’t mesh.
And that’s exactly why we’re going to workshop Old Spice today, exploring how this business established such a powerful, impactful presence through a very deliberate brand identity strategy.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘brand archetypes’, here’s a quick rundown:
There are 12 Brand Archetypes that are commonly referenced, which are divided into the following four groups.
The first includes: the Outlaw, the Magician and the Hero.
The second includes: the Lover, the Jester and the Everyman.
The third includes: the Caregiver, the Ruler and the Creator.
The fourth includes: the Innocent, the Sage and the Explorer.
Each of the archetypes relates to an instinctive and basic human desire, and this is why we often find ourselves naturally gravitating toward certain brands over others.
Old Spice itself perfectly emulates the brand archetype of the Jester.
The Jester is all about enjoyment and pleasure, living life in the moment, with a typical brand voice which is child-like, playful, cheeky and optimistic. These brands typically aim to entertain, whilst being driven by the pursuit of fun, happiness, laughter, togetherness and positivity.
When first considering the fact that Old Spice produces male grooming products, from deodorants to shampoos to soaps, you wouldn’t necessarily pair them with the Jester archetype.
However, when you look at their communication and marketing material, Old Spice maintains the Jester personality – specifically through introducing this element of ‘spice’ to all their copy and creative.
As we briefly touched upon at the beginning of this workshop, it was The Man Your Man Could Smell Like advertising campaign, featuring Isaiah Mustafa, which most powerfully portrayed this brand personality type in action.
The advert humorously implies that using the masculine-scented Old Spice body wash will make a man more wealthy, attractive and over-all impressive, and it’s Old Spice’s self-aware, over-the-top polished, straight-faced, exaggerated delivery which makes these campaigns comedy gold.
But here’s the thing…
Old Spice didn’t sit down, pull up a diagram of the 12 brand archetypes and flippantly decide to align their brand with the Jester for the sheer sake of it.
Rather, they considered what would most resonate with their audience instead. They thought about what would set them apart from all the other male grooming ranges cramming the supermarket shelves; what would make the brand both relevant and memorable to a modern market.
And that was humour.
Old Spice could have quite easily targeted the older demographic, launched in the early 1930s and therefore a familiar brand to a segment of their market for a number of decades.
Yet, rather than be pigeonholed as a product range for ‘older gents’, Old Spice decided to revitalise its brand identity to appeal to a modern audience spanning multiple generations instead.
For example, the Old Spice website, whilst lacking this characteristic ‘fun’ personality that emerges in their adverts, is both functional and practical for those seeking quality, first-rate male grooming and toiletry products.
Nevertheless, there is definitely a wink towards the Jester personality with the hero image of an ‘edgy’… dare we say it… hipster-like figure, who sports a dapper moustache and beard combo. Likewise in the copy itself, with the somewhat serious headline and cheeky subheadline pairing: Trusted Grooming, since forever; in addition to the description for the new Old Spice beard care collection: We know men have thicker skin and luxurious facial hairs to grow classy mustaches and thick beards if they so choose. We built our products uniquely for your face, the face of man.
Here Old Spice has achieved a seamless blending of a traditional ‘barber shop’ setting with this more modern vernacular and styling, once again appealing to multiple demographics in one fell sweep. Not to mention how their product bundles have names such as ‘Swagger Kits’.
But to return to the advertising campaigns Old Spice is particularly famous for…
The first The Man Your Man Could Smell Like video promotion was released 10 years ago, yet feels as fresh and ‘on brand’ for Old Spice as ever. With a high degree of production underpinning the video, combined with the witty comedic style, humour emerges exactly because of how exaggerated the advertising is.
The campaign strategy even evolved to the point that when Old Spice released a new product line, Bearglove, it began competing with itself. In these adverts, the smooth-voiced Isaiah Mustafa meets his match with the physical powerhouse and comedic actor Terry Crews – which can be viewed here in this handy compilation video. Yet again, comedy comes from how each figure works to undermine the other to push their product line forwards, albeit this is supposed to be an attempt for Old Spice to promote all their products (not to mention the deliberately dodgy special effects typical of many online viral videos.)
More recent advertisements continue this self-aware, tongue-in-cheek trend, whilst promoting the Old Spice hair thickening range. Like this video, for example, styled for the 60s/70s but with humour perfect for a contemporary audience.
The Jester brand archetype continues to manifest in how Old Spice is willing to poke fun at itself, prompt laughter and invite joy into their audience’s life. However, what makes these adverts so successful is not merely the fact that they’re funny, but because of how ‘shareable’ they are too. They don’t feel so much like promotional videos, rather clips brimming with lighthearted jokes and viral memes that you feel compelled to flick over to your friends and family so they can share the enjoyment too.
And right there, you’ve become a brand advocate and are doing Old Spice’s promotion for them.
Just look to the YouTube comments and many people are surprised that they’ve elected to watch an advert, with most of us skipping over video ads the first chance we get.
Old Spice might be positioning themselves as ‘jokers’, but it is a very deliberate, very effective strategy.
Not only does it nurture this advocacy and sense of connection and community around the brand; it reinforces the memorability of the brand and subtly shapes the audience’s thinking so that we consider them not as ‘just another brand’ or ‘another corporation out to get my hard-earned money’, but rather as a mate, a pal, a trusted brand that we can turn to for our more intimate grooming needs.
Additionally, if the Jester is all about pleasure and grooming is all about self-care and confidence in our own skin, it suddenly seems like this brand archetype isn’t such a leap for Old Spice as we initially thought…
So the next time you’re reflecting on your own brand identity – what kind of personality emerges in your marketing, brand voice and messaging – consider what you’ve learned in this workshop.
Would it be worthwhile identifying what your own brand archetype is? Working on your own brand storytelling strategy?
Because long-gone are the days in which we could simply highlight our products/services, outline the benefits, and expect audiences to come flocking to our doorstep.
Instead, we have to think about how we can differentiate ourselves in a crowded market and develop connections with our target audiences that go beyond the transactional.
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