How did Old Spice commercial go viral and gained 1.2B impressions - viral marketing sorcery (10 min read)

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like - Old Spice hilarious marketing campaign that depicted an archetype of an ideal man. 

This campaign was so successful it completely changed peoples' perception of the Old Spice brand and started the whole series of hysterical video ads

?Strategy & Tools

Old Spice History Timeline

  • 1938 - Old Spice deodorant is invented and manufactured by the Shulton Company.
  • 2003 - Old Spice body wash for men was launched and had been one of the largest players in the men's grooming market in the United States.
  • 2006 - Old Spice was losing ground. It joined forces with a new advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy, to turn things around
  • February 4, 2010 - “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” was released.
    • This Old Spice commercial gained 220,000 YouTube views in a few hours.
    • The average views on ad continually remained approximately 100,000 views every few hours.

An innovative video

Old Spice first created a character, the Old Spice Guy, that got people stunned and horrified. Then it created a fascinating experience that people wanted to be a part of. Sat up the new trend and got ready for the flood of less successful copycats!

Crazy Yet Catching introduction

He was "the man your man could smell like." We looked away from him and were suddenly transported onto a majestic ocean liner. An outstretched hand offered us "two tickets to that thing you love," shortly before the tickets magically dissolved into diamonds. Then he was on a horse.

This ad became the most popular and audience loving one. 

Connecting With Fans & Celebrities

Old Spice Guy (Isaiah Mustafa) made personalized videos for fans, prominent bloggers, and some celebrities who then told their millions of followers about it.

In total 186 personal videos were created.  Many of the videos were 10 to 15 minutes long. 

Videos gained more than 65M views, making it one of the fastest-growing and most popular online interactive advertising campaigns in history.

How successful was the Old Spice campaign?

The campaign of “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” gained nearly 105 million views on YouTube. Along with YouTube views, other benefits were

  • 1.2 billion earned media impressions
  • 2700% increase in Twitter followers
  • 800% increase in Facebook fan interaction
  • 300% increase in website traffic


The Old Spice commercial with the Old Spice Guy launched online several days prior to the Super Bowl in February 2010.

Then premiered on television the day after the big game, the ad helped the brand capture 75% of all conversations in this category

Marketed Everywhere Simultaneously

Old Spice videos were posted on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, 4chan, YouTube, TV, and several other sites all at once. It got a gigantic amount of people talking about it.


Figuring Out The Main Target - Women

Old Spice discovered a key insight - Men liked using scented products, but they felt it sacrificed their masculinity. Women were responsible for more than 60% of body wash purchases.

The 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like' ad deeply focused on speaking to both men and women simultaneously.

There's also a second reason behind targeting women.  

What is the no.1 motive men use perfumes & deodorant - for ladies. If a deodorant makes a man more appealing to the ladies, that's well enough for men to buy it and use it.

If that deodorant not only makes them more appealing, but will transform them into an "ideal man every woman desires," that's a no-brainer.

Humor Effect

The incongruity theory of humor suggests that we find fundamentally incompatible concepts or unexpected resolutions funny.
Basically, we find humor in the incongruity between our expectations and reality.

Absurdity chases absurdity in Old Spice ads. Featured the Old Spice Guy beating a pirate piñata with an oversized fish, helping a guy propose to his girlfriend, and flirting rapaciously with actress Alyssa Milano. These types of odd ideas created funny advertisements, leading to 11 million video views within 48 hours.

Video compilation of their ads

Viral ad video structure

Fantasy Theme

Old Spice marketing was based on a fantasy theme. This means a shared fantasy of your target audience. It's their inside jokes, heroes, villains, hopes, fears and other cues. 

The Old Spice commercial created a portrayal of the ideal man, an over-the-top representation of everything a man may aspire to be.

Isaiah is tall, handsome, muscular, confident, smooth, witty, capable, cool, charismatic, intelligent, and one could assume he smells fantastic. The Fantasy Theme is powerful here.

It communicates to women what an ideal man's standards may be - quite unachievable.

To the men, it communicated the absurd requirements to be an ideal. To take some of the pressure off themselves, at least they can smell like him

Semiotics - Symbolism

Simplified, semiotics is the study of signs. To use semiotics efficiently, you must identify the:

  • Signifier - physical existence - the form which the sign takes
  • Signified - The mental concept - what the concept represents

In this case, Old Spice featured many elements that are deeply desired and associated with high status: yacht, island beach, diamonds, white horse (representing the knight on a white horse).

Uses And Gratification

The uses and gratification approach suggests that people use the media to fulfill specific gratifications.

There are four uses that have been identified for media use:

  1. Information - There's an amazing body wash for men
  2. Personal identity - The ideal man, or at least a man striving for perfection + a witty man identifying with a hilarious ad
  3. Integration and social interaction
  4. Entertainment - Hilarious ad

?Window of Opportunity

A deep understanding of your audience is one of the best marketing strategies you can ever come up with.

The best strategy to do that, is to:

  1. Do your research in advance
  2. Check your competitors
  3. Create a customer persona
  4. Get to know your clients personally
  5. Watch the comments
  6. Witness external social habits
  7. Conduct surveys 

After you already establish your ideal client persona, present your product in a humorous way. Old Spice is a perfect example a good laugh sells.

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