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Setting the stage for Old Spice to own the Internet

[Cross-posted from Teehan+Lax]

A lot of ink has already been written about why Old Spice owned the Internet last week, and I don’t want to rehash the various aspects that RWW has covered, and Dave Stubbs has mentioned, among others, but what I feel is missing from the conversation is how it all started. My friend Leigh Himel deconstructed what the brief could have looked like, and I think it’s worth expanding on to describe how the campaign set the foundation for success.

It all started with the insight and a deep understanding of the market and the consumer.

The objective, as Leigh rightly points out, was to re-position and re-invigorate the brand.  To do this the team needed to understand the competitive landscape, the perspective consumers had of the brand, and the territory they had to play in. The market was saturated with female unfriendly AXE advertising, and as women are the primary consumers for male scent gifts, turning that into an advantage would have been mandatory for Old Spice.

With that as the starting point the Old Spice team (with a receptive client) decided to do the obvious: appeal to women without alienating men.

Old Spice cast the perfect actor for the new positioning. A former NFL player, a nice guy, and someone who wasn’t so perfect that men would feel threatened. Genius casting. Based on, I imagine, a perfect casting brief.

The next step was to create a seriously funny commercial that turned all the cliche’s of advertising and film on their heads. “Look at your man, now back at me”. “It’s now diamonds”. “I’m on a horse”. They made a commercial that was frankly better than 90% of the TV shows it appeared alongside. I first heard of it because my partner was watching TV and told me I had to see it. So what did I do? I went to YouTube and there it was. Word of mouth at it’s finest, but it would have been dead in the water if the team hadn’t thought to seed it online first.

They let that roll and roll it did. Everyone who saw the commercial started sharing it, and a character was born.

Now what to do with the follow up? The character was a success both online and offline and while they could continue to let it ride as a TV spot, the proof was there that they could take advantage of how much the spot resonated with the folks online.

The plan was to create a new TV spot, let that simmer for a bit and then pounce. The social media marketers did their homework and decided what the right outlets were to start spreading the character. The fact they took on 4Chan and won speaks volumes about how integrated and on the ball they were. While everyone talks about how they took over Twitter in a day, they really started seeding the campaign before that. They laid the groundwork. And it paid off. Big time.

It came on my radar with @jakrose tweeting that he’d received a video reply early Tuesday morning. “Fry it up and eat it down JakRose. Fry it up and eat it down.” The network effect took over and for the next two days it was all I cared about that was happening online. The social team did a brilliant job monitoring responses and working with the creatives to write compelling copy. They didn’t just target celebrities and “influencers” but responded to comments, Diggs, tweets and blog posts that they felt fit with the character as a whole. They were obviously fully immersed in the language and cadence of the social web because their video responses contained references only a geek would love (or get). They respected all the unwritten rules of the culture and tailored their responses to match the brand, and the mediums they were using.

They embraced the mash-ups and promoted them. They let the community roll with it. They poked fun at themselves (Old Spice responding to @isiahmustafa) And they set a time limit. Any longer than 2 days and it would have become tired. Any shorter and it would have been disappointing. The mash-ups continue to roll in, with the most recent being Mel Gibson calling the Old Spice Guy.

It was brilliance that came from the initial insights and work they did a couple of years ago. And deep understanding of how the social web works.

The challenge will be what they do next and if it moves the needle at the top of the purchase funnel (awareness & consideration). But I have faith, and am looking forward to every moment of it!

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Accepting what you don’t know

Part of what I strive to understand each and every day is what I don’t know, and being okay with it. It’s tough when you’re a perfectionist, let me tell you. But it’s true. I, and no other human being on this planet, can possibly know everything. The trick is to be okay with it and to surround yourself with people who do know the things you wish you did inside and out. In the end it makes for a much more peaceful & meaningful existence – not just in a personal sense, but in a business sense.

In practical terms, it means letting go of your preconceived notions about a lot of things; the urge to always have the answers; and in a lot of ways, to challenge your own status quo. I try to do this in all areas, not just business. I know I’m not a celebrity chef (or even much of a chef at all since I really don’t like prep or clean up), so I don’t just throw miscellaneous things into a bowl and make the family cope with the results. I actually seek out recipes. I’m pretty sure my family is happy about that. By seeking out recipes I also don’t waste my time trying to prepare complex and time consuming dishes that I’ll resent trying to make as soon as I start.

I also know that I’m not a Systems Admin, so I don’t even try to muck about with command lines when I have a problem, I call in help. Now, I’m sure if I spent enough time reading about it I could potentially figure it out, but truth be told, why would I want to waste time I don’t have learning something I’m just passingly interested in? Sure, it could make me a more rounded individual, and I’m not opposed to learning, but at the end of the day I need to ask myself: is this particular expertise going to make me happy or just more knowledgeable? Am I okay with partnering with someone who does have that expertise and actually *listening* to their advice? The answer in most cases, as I start to approach 40, is yes. That doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to add… it just means I need to be comfortable shutting up every once in a while and letting go… and trusting that others have spent just as much time as I have building their expertise in a specific field.

Not always the easiest advice, especially as you’re embarking on your career, but in my opinion, it’s crucial for cutting through the noise and finding your signal.

[Photo credit: The Gifted Photographer via Flickr]

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