Old Spice is a brand that has been around since forever. Well, maybe not forever, but 72 years is still a long time in the cutthroat consumer marketplace. It was my father's aftershave. And my grandfather's. I knew even when I was a young boy that when I grew up to be as old as they were - and at the time, they seemed really old, in part, because of that Old Spice smell - I wasn't going to follow suit because I hated the smell. When my grandfather lit up a fat stogie back in the day, I think I was the only one in the room who was happy about it. Stogie stink vs. Old Spice musk, no contest for a 10-year-old. The name didn't help. I figured, they don't call it Old Spice for nothing - it's for old people, duh. So I really did a double-take when I recently learned how P&G's Old Spice is undergoing a transformation and rapidly becoming a hip brand for men, thanks in no small part to P&G's new 'Smell like a man, man' advertising campaign for Old Spice shower gel, starring the actor Isaiah Mustafa.

The initial 30-second ad, which dates back to last February, began with the dashing actor standing in a bathroom donning merely a towel and challenging female viewers to compare the looks of their man to him, their man to him, the Old Spice Man. No contest, he confidently points out, but adds, 'Sadly he isn't me, but if he stopped using ladies' scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he's me.' True, when I watched this ad I wanted to strangle Mr. Old Spice. But P&G did their research - they weren't talking to me, they were talking to the women who their research suggested purchase as much as 70% of the shower gel for the men in their households. At the same time, marketers are aware that using traditionally female body care products, such as body wash, strikes many men as unmanly. I found this out about 10 years ago from a study I published with one of my colleagues, Elisabeth Tissier-Desbordes, based on interviews we conducted with French and American men. Part of the problem is perceptual - men have a hard time conceiving of body wash as something that gets them as clean as bar soap. According to P&G's recent research, the situation hasn't changed as much as you might think. In essence, the challenge for P&G, as nailed by Andrew Adam Newman in a recent New York Times article, was this: 'How could they market body wash to female purchasers and yet still cast the product as decidedly masculine to lure men away from bar soap?' The answer is found in the 'Smell like a man, man' campaign. Following on the heels of the initial spot, which became an Internet sensation with more than 13 million hits on YouTube, is a follow-up spot with the Old Spice Man, which is also proving to be a YouTube favorite, clocking in at more than 8.2 million views since June 29.

In and of itself, the 'Smell like a man, man' campaign is terrific - it's funny, effectively communicates its message, and likely appeals to both women and men.  No doubt, we haven't seen the last of the Isaiah Mustafa ads, and it will be fun to see what Wieden & Kennedy - the creators of the videos - will come up with next.  But it shouldn't surprise us that P&G wasn't willing to rest on its laurels and sit back in the hopes that their videos would go viral, spread, whatever you want to call it.  Readers of my book Connecting With Consumers, are aware of some of the innovative social media campaigns already carried out for P&G brands - Being Girl being one of the more successful.  And so, this is where P&G has turned an enormously popular video ad campaign into pure genius, via an approach that truly connects with consumers.  Early last week, P&G brought Mr. Old Spice to field questions from consumers through Facebook and Twitter messages.  You Tube videos were created with Mr. Mustafa appearing in a bathroom donned in his now iconic towel, responding with answers provided by four script writers.  Close to 200 minute-long videos were uploaded to YouTube, largely featuring queries provided by major influencers and celebrities like Alyssa Milano, Demi Moore, and George Stephanopoulos. Check out this example.  And like many successful viral campaigns, the parody videos have already  begun to appear, and there is a 'making of' video also gaining widespread circulation.

Already considered by some to be one of the best campaigns of 2010, the secret to the Old Spice campaign was summed up succinctly by WOMMA's Pat McCarthy:  Traditional media translates well into new media when you create spot-on content that engages influential people.

UPDATE:  Latest Nielsen data provide some happy news for P&G and Mr. Old Spice - sales of the entire Old Spice Body Wash range rose by 55% over the last three months, and by 10% in the last month alone.  Bad news, though, is reflected in this Jezebel.com observation: 'I still stand behind not wanting my boyfriend to smell like my dad.'