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What can credit unions learn about advertising from Old Spice?

The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched pieces of television programming in any given year 111.5 million people watched the 2014 Super Bowl. As such, a 30-second ad spot goes for $4 million. The stakes are high, and Super Bowl advertising has become a cultural phenomenon of its own, with the breaks in game play garnering as much anticipation and attention from some viewers.

As of late, Old Spice’s ads have grabbed the attention of the masses. Its ads are creative, different (read: weird), and memorable.

Remember the three from last year?

This is a relatively new brand identity for Old Spice and begs the question: How did Old Spice get to this place in its advertising and what can credit unions learn from it?

The Old Spice Path

Old Spice entered the scene circa 1934 New York with a women’s scent product. The company then expanded into men’s fragrances, took its product worldwide, and discontinued its women’s line.

The company’s popularity stagnated in the 1980s. It needed to grow younger but hadn’t been able to tap that market. Proctor & Gamble bought Old Spice during the 1990s and attempted to refurbish its image. It changed the packaging and targeted teenage boys. By 2003, Old Spice was the second-best-selling men’s deodorant in large part to advertising such as this, starring former NFL star Brian Urlacher:

When companies such as Axe started to gain popularity with their hyper-sexualized ads Old Spice went two different ways. The company hawked its experience, using Bruce Campbell:

It also made a larger effort to woo women, who purchase as much as 70% of the shower gel for men in their households, according to the New York Times. Thus the brand’s famous ad:

This ad went viral. It attracted 5.9 million YouTube views in the first 24 hours it was online. Old Spice Twitter followers increased 2,700% and traffic to its website spiked 300%, according to Fast Company. Old Spice’s continued weird and potentially viral advertising has allowed it to transition into different product areas such as hair care.

Lessons For Credit Unions

Lesson No. 1: Grab The Audience’s Attention

In its competitive market place, Old Spice knew it needed younger customers to grow. It made changes piecemeal new packaging here, a new brand ambassador there until it eventually embraced a quirky and weird brand identity, one that captures the attention of an audience that goes to great length to avoid watching ads.

According to research published by The Guardian, 86% of the nearly 4,200 surveyed respondents reported skipping through the advertisements when they are not watching live TV, yet 51% said TV advertising is more memorable than newspapers or ads.

What’s more, according to Forbes, commercials in the future might take a more discursive role. If that’s the case, ads like Old Spice’s could be the way to cut through the clutter and get a brand not only seen but also discussed.

Lessons No. 2: Lead With Experience

The mechanisms that drive domestic commerce are always shifting. There are 543,000 new businesses launched every month, according to Forbes.

The way to fight what’s new is to promote experience. Old Spice is more than 70 years old; it knows a thing or two about the market it is in and the products it sells.

Whether it’s competition from online lenders or rival body wash and fragrance companies, experience and by extension well-developed expertise sells. A history of satisfied customers speaks volumes.

Lesson No. 3: Learn Who Makes The Decisions

Before you promote a product, first identify and understand the target audience. Of course, the target audience and those who actually make the purchase can diverge.

Though men are ostensibly the ones who use Old Spice, the women in their lives are doing the actual purchasing. Old Spice smartly realized to whom it needed to tailor its message.

Interestingly enough, the same holds true in finance. More women are either leading or co-leading household financial decision-making, according to Daily Finance.

It’s time to follow Old Spice’s lead: Tailor your advertising to those who are making the decision. Those are the people who are listening.

January 21, 2015

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