Monday, July 19, 2010
we're confused by the men your man could smell like


Everyone has been talking about the brilliant Wieden + Kennedy Old Spice ads, but we must point out the fatal flaw: It's damned complicated to actually buy the product. You see, Old Spice has failed to minimize the burden of choice. When we were kids, Old Spice had one scent, a naval-minty-seaside thing that our dad wore, and it was a known entity like vanilla or chocolate or clover in spring, a fond memory evoking the scent of the leather band on grandpa's wristwatch. Now, your supermarket carries Old Spice Aqua Reef and Red Zone and High Endurance Pure Sport, and perhaps a Classic in there somewhere. We dig the spots, the YouTube Twitter responses, the humor, the manly Isaiah, yes we do. And yes we get the concept of shelf space.

But that burden of choice -- you know, making the purchase decision more complex than it has to be -- is always a mistake. Sorry, Old Spice, we didn't pick one up; smelling like your man was way too complicated.

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posted by Ben Kunz @ 8:06 AM   19 comments

19 Comments:
At 8:32 AM, Blogger Åsk Dabitch said...
To me this actually reads a package design problem. The red sticks all look so similar, despite the various very different looking scente logos slapped on top. You end up reading neither "old spice" nor "new variation of scent"  
At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Julie said...
I agree with Ask Dabitch - the adverts and social media campaign are about modernising an 'old' brand...dragging Old Spice from your dad's shelf in the bathroom to his son's shelf.

I think that the problem with Old Spice is that they haven't modernised their packaging in line with their other modern campaigns - they're clinging to their brand colours and uniformed packaging too much.
 
At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Vincent Ammirato said...
How to improve? Maybe an Old Spice cut-out of Isiah at purchase point with a tongue-in-cheek chart to show you which product you need to smell like a particular kind of man.

For example:

Want to smell like a lumberjack?

Chop down a tree with a homemade ax then wash clean with Old Spice Pine Scent.
 
At 5:41 PM, Anonymous dave laskarzewski said...
Hellooo ladies. Look at the commercial. Now back to your blog. Now back at the commerical. Now back ... anyway. The spots advertise body wash, not deodorant.  
At 6:42 PM, Anonymous ilya said...
This looks like the wrong shelf -- that's deodorant sticks, and I think what The Man is advertising are shower gels.

But yeah, some kind of "As Seen on YouTube" label would be very helpful.
 
At 9:53 PM, Blogger Ben Kunz said...
Dave and Ilya, you raise a point. That there are even more choices to confuse me, poor bodywashless shopper.

Vincent, you NAILED the solution. Put up a POS display that evokes the popular spot, with an Isaiah guide to which brand to buy. Wish W+K would get on that. I'm confused and smelly.
 
At 9:53 PM, Blogger Ben Kunz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.  
At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
One size fits all. Yup, that works.

I customize my home pages on my main sites. I customize everything I care about on the web.

I customize my ring tones.

I customize the main menu of my iPhone.

And you complain when a consumer products company offers me choice?
 
At 11:09 PM, Blogger Ben Kunz said...
Thanks for the feedback. When choice is not clearly differentiated, with clearly positioned points of value, then yes, it can create confusion. If you've ever tried to buy a couch in a massive furniture store, you know that pain. Sure, it's nice to have 1,000 options, but what you really want is help finding 5 that are a close fit to your style.

The reason you personalize your home pages and ring tones is because you are filtering out unwanted options, to give yourself simpler choices that reflect what you really want. You are minimizing your own burden of choice.

See: GM's recent shrinking of auto brands, and the constant challenge Ford has explaining a Mercury is something more than a Ford with more chrome. Detroit is a classic example of product choice clutter and what happens when consumers begin to yawn in the face of option plenty.

I agree, choice can be good, but there is a disconnect between the W+K spots positioning Old Spice as "the (one) man" you could smell like and a shelf full of (many) red plastic options with small type and nuanced differences. "Minimizing the burden of choice" means giving consumers a simple path to move ahead -- it is a balance.

Thanks again, mate.
 
At 2:24 AM, Anonymous Cory O'Brien said...
Another problem is that the product levels aren't that different from one another. If you look at the active ingredients, one version will have 18%, the "High Endurance" version will have 19%, and the "Red Zone" version will have 20%. The packaging looks similar, the names all sound like they'd get the job done, and they all basically have the same ingredients, so it's basically just a crap shoot if you'll get the right one, so you pick based on price and scent. Let's hope they've got a packaging and product line redesign in the works to compliment their fantastic advertising efforts.  
At 10:42 AM, Anonymous jason (jelefant0 said...
I think this points to one of many cracks in the dam of 20th century advertising philosophy. The campaign was very entertaining, but not direct in its "call to action" (as you've noted). We'll see if the long-term resonation works to build sales. If not, this becomes a case-study of mis-matched magnetism. For all the social accolades the campaign is attracting, it is much more a traditional approach than a harnessing of social power. 20th century = brand tells/sells me what to buy. 21st century = audience tells brand what to make/do/say.  
At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Howie said...
I tried commenting yesterday. Their competitors use colors to denote the flavor. Edge. Gillette. Etc. They fail to do this. They didn't do their research before coming up with packaging because they never had various scents this was a first.  
At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Vincent Ammirato said...
They could even keep the same colors but come up with some unique iconography. Imagine if they treated the product (deodorant/soap) and scents like they were a web pages navigation.

Keep your shiny red...almost all the same. But in the top left corner was a product icon and the top right corner was a scent icon.

Then you could go to the Old Spoce site and have a little interactive app where you enter answers to some (could be silly) questions and Isiah spits out a few suggestions to "Smell like the man you should smell like".

Boom.
 
At 5:36 AM, Blogger Amy - jkr said...
Good article as this is a classic design dilemma; strong shelf blocking is impactful, but give the consumer too much choice and they get confused, as the comments above show.

Plenty of brands share this issue, but it’s notable with Old Spice at the moment, because the advertising’s message is so brilliantly basic.

More at www.jkr.co.uk/design-gazette/ if you’re interested...
 
At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
or you can just pull off the top and smell the damn thing. you seriously underestimate people's ability to not see a shelf as some grandiose integrated marketing campaign. its a god damn shelf with smelly things on it, people are gonna smell them.  
At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
...When choice is not clearly differentiated, with clearly positioned points of value, then yes, it can create confusion...."


That sounds like a marketing person trying to justify his/her existence.

So long as the main brand is strong, the fact that there are subtleties within that brand don't matter. Indeed, such availability of choices may make the brand even stronger by allowing small differences in choice whilst remaining within the brand.

Look at the Axe brand. The main brand (Axe) is very strong, yet the multitude of choice within that strong brand doesn't confuse. The choice encourages experimentation within the main brand, and discourages a consumer from leaving to try another brand or brands.
 
At 10:45 PM, Blogger mtlb said...
Or use in-store ultrasound aiming Isiah’s voice at you just as you pass: “Hello moms, look at the left. Now back to the right where you won’t find the man of your dreams, but you will find Old Spice Classic.”  
At 5:19 PM, Blogger mtlb said...
Old Spice saying sales are up.  
At 9:17 PM, Blogger Ben Kunz said...
OK, OK. I'll buy one.  

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