Old Spice—This Ship Still Sails the Ocean

Old Spice, the brand once associated with sea captains and early Americana, completely rebranded their products in 2008 and have been successfully expanding their line ever since. How they reinvented the brand and continue to appeal to the younger generation is a story in super-successful promotion.

How do you take an old brand and make it fresh and appealing to a new generation?

On the shelves since 1938, Old Spice had long been associated with colonial America, the past and elderly gentlemen. However, in 2008 all of that changed. Originally owned by the Shulton Company, Old Spice was bought in 1990 by Procter & Gamble. In 2008, with sales suffering, they kicked off a new campaign—Old Spice Swagger—completely transforming the face of the Old Spice brand as well as their customers.1

The Old Spice Swagger campaign started when Old Spice realized they had to pick up their game if they wanted to compete with new younger men’s products, specifically Axe.


When Axe entered the scene, they turned the industry on its head: instead of focusing on the effectiveness of their product as an odor blocker, Axe promoted themselves as the product to buy if you wanted to attract the ladies. Old Spice, who had been standing by their 1-800-PROVE-IT campaign (try it and if you don’t like it, just call 1-800-PROVE-IT and we’ll buy you a stick of yours!), bit the dust.

To make matters worse, Old Spice’s “Glacial Falls” scent was performing horribly. It was the worst performing scent in the Old Spice cupboard and was in danger of being discontinued, losing precious shelf space. P&G decided they wanted to rebrand and relaunch “Glacial Falls” to save the scent and give the brand a boost. Procter & Gamble hired a small group of agency experts to think up a new campaign. Consumer research revealed an opportunity for the brand to appeal to men of all types by celebrating the art of manliness, starting with an illustrated guide to masculinity—“The Manbook”.

The Manbook seemed to match the principles behind the Old Spice brand for the internal P&G team. It established Old Spice’s unique voice and inspired new ways to engage consumers. But this wasn’t enough on its own.

Old Spice wanted to keep the “Glacial Falls” scent but totally rebrand it. To compete with Axe, their target was young guys between the ages of 12 and 34. They were aiming to reach a male audience that wanted to smell great yet not take themselves too seriously. Since Old Spice had created a niche for itself as a product for older, more serious men, they needed to distance the brand from that association.

The objective of the rebranding campaign was to double the sales of “Glacial Falls.” Ultimately, they surpassed that. How did Old Spice transform “Glacial Falls”? They gave it a new, awesome name and a new, awesome attitudeSwagger.

The campaign would be all about how Old Spice gives guys “swagger,” transforming them from nerdy wimps into strong, manly studs. The campaign billed the new scent, Swagger, as “The Scent That Makes a Difference” and hit the web running.

Old Spice released a series of new print and television ads featuring a member of the Chicago Bears, LL Cool J, and NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. The ads showed these huge celebrities as young men. Before they started using Old Spice Swagger, they were nerds without confidence. Swagger made them the confident, popular and amazing men they are today.

This campaign included a contest to make your own Old Spice Swagger commercial, with a chance to win $10,000. The audience was engaged, and interest was growing.

This all may seem extravagant in terms of spending to get the new campaign kicked off. However, the Old Spice executives were applying a basic law, which worked out very well. They were creating a lot of interest, so they now had people to market their new ads to.

In an essay entitled “FINANCIAL PLANNING,” L. Ron Hubbard advises, “It is more vital to pressure income up than to save money by financial planning restrictions. The Emergency Formula places, rightly, economy after promotion. Promotion comes first.”

Additionally, using many channels to get their message out, in February 2010 “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign was launched. NFL player and actor Isaiah Mustafa played the manly, humorous new face of Old Spice. It appealed to the female demographic, telling them that “anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady.” Premiered on YouTube, the ad, which bordered on the ridiculous, instantly went viral. Audiences loved it, watching it over and over, sharing it with their friends. Within one week it had over 40 million views. The results of their multi-channel approach:

• ranked Old Spice as the number one brand of body wash for men;

• succeeded in targeting 18- to 35-year-old males;

• Old Spice body-wash sales were up 27 percent year on year in the first six months.

And by the end of the campaign, they had:

• increased their Facebook likes eight times;

• 27X’ed the number of Twitter followers;

• their ads were ranked #1 on YouTube; and

• website traffic increased by 300 percent.2

This wasn’t where the creative team for P&G stopped, however. They continued to innovate and kept the brand in front of the public with other promotions, including some very successful ones with another former NFL player turned actor, Terry Crews, in several unbelievable “Smell is Power” and “Power in a Can” ads for Old Spice Body Spray. Then they launched some with both Crews and Mustafa that again pushed the envelope, but appealed to the target population. One ad even has Mustafa holding an axe and saying, “Don’t use this,” before he picks up a paddle and starts paddling a canoe in a tropical-looking setting.3

Many of these ads end with the whistle of the original Old Spice radio theme song, which had the tag line “Look for the package with the ship that sails the ocean.” That original positioning and theme song has such a strong association that the company ensured it has lasted through all the various campaign changes.

Old Spice’s business has grown by double digits every year since the new positioning went to market.

The latest evolution of Old Spice creativity is a little more difficult to track but still keeps viewers interested. It aired during the January 2018 Grammys and the Superbowl Pregame show in February of this year and was entirely in French with no subtitles. Presumably the creators figured that viewers would go to the YouTube version of the ad in order to read the subtitles.

The point of these many evolutions and reimagining of Old Spice is that they continue to keep the brand fresh and the ads new and different, pushing the envelope of usual advertising.

This is also an application of the basic laws of promoting as written by L. Ron Hubbard in the Emergency Formula:

“Promote. That applies to an organization. To an individual you had better say ‘produce.’ That’s the first action regardless of any other action, regardless of anything else, that is the first thing they have to put their attention on.

“Exactly what is promotion? Well, look it up in the dictionary. It is making things known. It is getting things out. It is getting oneself known, getting one’s products out.”

It seems Old Spice applies this natural law very successfully.


  1. O’Neill, Megan.“How Old Spice Swaggerized Their Brand and Men Everywhere.” AdWeek.com, 22 July 2010.
  2. Chevalier, Neil.“Old Spice One of the Most Successful Rebranding Campaigns Ever.” Digitalmarketingstrategy.ie. Digital Marketing Strategy Blog, 5 Apr. 2017.
  3. Bishop, TJH. “Old Spice: All Isaiah Mustafa vs Terry Crews Commercials.” YouTube.com, 27 Oct. 2015.
  4. “Old Spice Captain Red Collection TV Commercial, ‘Red Sweater.’” iSpot.tv, n.d.


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Issue: 18082001INT

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