Bring Life to Digital Mascots

Posted on July 24, 2010


Currently, two particular brands are reaping the rewards of extending the success of creative TV spots to the digital space. In an effort to promote their reduced sodium Sidekicks, Korr playfully introduced Salty, a disgruntled salt shaker, to mass media. Old Spice’s latest award-winning TV commercials for Body Zone body wash featuring buff actor Isaiah Mustafa have garnered widespread praise among audiences and popularity via social media outlets.

The Salty scoop

Stocked with a  YouTube channel, a Twitter page, and a Facebook profile, Salty, the funny and cute shaker, demands online attention, occasionally appearing on Chatroulette. Salty’s friends, fans, and followers participate in contests and post pictures via Flickr.

They have cleared out 18,000 replica shakers in the first 25 days of the campaign, according to marketing blogger, Marta Kagan. The adorable shaker effectively has transformed an ordinary product into the leading product in its category with a 10 percent spike in sales.

The shaker’s campaign appeal comes from the experience. Salty provides a conversation about a brand and provides meaning to the brand message in a very entertaining way. As Kagan writes, “Watching his videos or talking with Salty on Twitter or Facebook or Chat Roulette doesn’t feel like watching an ad at all. It feels like FUN.”

And that’s the beauty of good brand marketing — ditching advertising for a good, fun, and relevant story.

Old Spice seduction

The ad blitz began in February when Old Spice introduced its brand character,  the Old Spice Man, during the Super Bowl. Played by a shirtless Mustafa, a former NFL wide receiver with a brooding baritone, polished comedy, and six-pack abs, the Old Spice Man introduced himself to the world as “the man your man could smell like.” Wieden + Kennedy (Portland, OR) created the legendary ad, which now counts 13 million views on YouTube.

The blitz continued last week with a simple, eerie message Wieden posted on Old Spice’s Fabceook and Twitter page: “Today could be just like the other 364 days you log into Twitter, or maybe the Old Spice Man shows up @OldSpice.”

Show up he did. In a 48-hour blast of nearly 200 real-time video responses to questions from high-profile social influencers like Alyssa Milano, Perez Hilton, and Digg’s Kevin Rose via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Reddit. Responses also included a marriage proposal, an ode to Demi Moore, and the answer to a request for an Old Spice voice mail app.

Wieden decided to center the push on Twitter and YouTube with the former serving as the distribution channel and the latter hosting the videos. The campaign generated more than 58 million Old Spice YouTube channel views, and followers to the Twitter account have grown to 43,000, partially due to a Twitter ad promotion that featured the push as a trending topic.

According to AdWeek’s Brian Morrissey, the effort involved a team of writers, art directors, producers, editors, and social media strategists. The social media experts initially identified popular bloggers in key areas including entertainment, technology, and advertising (Perez Hilton, 4 Chan).

Iain Tait, global interactive executive creative director at Wieden, admitted some videos were pre-shot, but the vast majority were written and produced on the fly in the studio within the 48-hour span. The social media team scoured the Web and fed funny or interesting comments relating to the brand to the creatives.

“We don’t have the answers of who the real influencers are in the world right now,” Tait said. “We wanted to pick a cross-section where we could meet influencers in different areas.”

With several videos, typically shot in a take or two, released in an hour, the Wieden team ruled the real-time Web with the campaign. Tait warns that the shift to real-time advertising requires both a brave client and team of creatives willing to churn out work on extremely tight deadlines.

“What’s happening is, everyone is having such fun with this thing,” Taid added. “It transmits itself through to the Internet. People have a sense of something fun going on here.”

Both the Korr and Old Spice campaigns demonstrate how creativity, fun, and bravery breathe life into brand mascots, even without a media budget. If you don’t have a big-time ad agency writing copy for you on the fly, the principles of these campaigns are within any brand’s reach. As’s Craig Reiss explained, the following rules apply to all:

  1. Create a persona that is strong and on point.
  2. Seed social networks with invitations to interact.
  3. Engage the engaged, the famous and the influencers.
  4. Personalize the response and people will compete for inclusion.
  5. Make it episodic and easy to share.
  6. Keep the videos simple and short.
  7. Promote it with tie-ins offline.

In just a week, the buzz of Old Spice helped establish more lists of social media best practices and a compendium of lessons. Surely this isn’t the last social media darling we’ll hear about from Wieden + Kennedy, and hopefully more brands will follow in the Old Spice Guy’s footsteps. For now, we all could benefit from more case studies like these.

I encourage you to openly share some of your cases, tactics, or lessons for viral success below and help bring life to brand mascots. Or join the conversation at Digital Pivot and read more.

Posted in: branding