Brands that get it: Old Spice

If you take even the slightest bit of notice as to trends developing through the social web, I’m sure you would have heard of the Old Spice responses campaign. You should at least be aware of their brilliant TV ads, an example of which is below. Even if you’ve seen this one before, I think you should watch it again.

Did you see that? Wasn’t it marvellous? Truly, this should be the direction that communications should be heading. In one month, that video has captured over 11 million views, which is over half as many views as Powerthirst, which has been up for years; because, you know, everyone should totally start using Powerthirst as a benchmark of awesome.

Indeed, it seems that I’m not the only one who’s mega enthusiastic about this all. People have gone wild for Old Spice, following their online exploits. Or not. Depending on who you talk to, Old Spice sales have either increased a great deal because of these campaigns, or haven’t really done anything amazing in the wider context of men’s toiletry sales. I’m of the opinion that it’s really too soon to judge whether or not Old Spice man has had a profound effect on sales. Instead, I think we should (without forgetting how recent these videos, and the responses campaign was) focus on the things Old Spice, and W+K, the agency behind all this, did differently.

Number one, people generally like being listened to, especially by brands. The historical connotations of the word ‘brand’ conjure up images of soulless offerings manufactured by the kind of organisations that Ronald Coase was harping on about in the 1930s. Think limited distribution, the marketing ‘push’, one way communication, or whatever you want to call it. We all know that’s certainly not the case now. Brands now are more friendly creatures, that have every opportunity to listen and talk back to their audiences. Generally, I’m suitably satisfied when a brand I tweet at manages to tweet back at me. That specific example is all about customer service, and all about AWESOME, but I’m sure you get the point. In their own way, brands are celebrities, and we’d all like to be noticed by some celebrities every once in a while, right?

Number two, the responses campaign was essentially responding to the internet in real-time. This, known as low latency advertising (props to Faris Yakob for that one), is truly the future of advertising, in my opinion. We all know, as people, that people generally hate waiting for things. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, we also love it when brands talk to us. However, Old Spice didn’t only respond to the internet in real-time, it responded to the internet in real-time with well polished, humorous video responses. To be on the receiving end of one of those bad boys must have made you feel like a celebrity, as well.

Used in conjunction with each other, these two things result in increased audience engagement on a scale we’ve never seen before. The internet didn’t know what hit it. This was a result of superb strategic planning, from the team who produced these videos, who managed to scour the web for decent questions from influential people, and then answer these questions as a way of maximising the campaign’s exposure.

One area I think really needs paying attention to, is that Old Spice has truly befriended the internet. I like to think of the internet as another country, almost. As such, it’s got its own cultural values, its own customs, and most importantly, its own unique sense of humour. The Old Spice responses were not only able to tap into this unique pool of memes and in-jokes, but exploit it to their advantage. I’m not sure if this is a deliberate result of brilliant writing and planning, or whether it just happened, but it’s a lesson the creative industries all need to learn. The internet can be your best friend, with just a little love. Get to know it first, and then make it happy. Just watch this response to Anonymous (the shady group of internet activists who were behind the Scientology protests), which they unanimously approved of, and you’ll see what I mean.


I’m holidaying in Greece. Trucker strike causes petrol shortage: Greece falls to its knees.

Hello all.

Many apologies for the lack of frequent updates, but I’ve been holidaying on the Greek island of Rhodes for the last week. It’s absolutely lovely here, if not a bit windy. The weather is just splendid, and the beaches are truly a joy to behold.

Rhodes itself, which is a small island an hour away from Athens by plane, is lovely and quaint. The island plays host to a medieval ‘Old Town’, which still, remarkably, is rather intact. There are small, quiet beaches and hidden coves, which give the island a wonderful sense of seclusion. It is, I guess you could say, a pretty quiet place. This is rather ironic, seeing as the town also is home to Faliraki, and its swathes of industrialisation: big, big hotels, big clubs, and big beaches, to cater to the many tourists who like to visit, and occasionally cause trouble. Makis, our hotel manager, who is a lovely chap, tells us that a few years ago, the tourists were causing all kinds of havoc in Faliraki, and around the island, but that this has generally subsided.

Considering Greece’s ongoing economic crisis, I was quite concerned to see how such an ordeal would have affected the country first-hand. Much to my relief, there weren’t any airborne flaming toilet rolls, or anything of the sort, when I briefly landed in Athens before connecting to Rhodes. No, the people I’ve talked to say that again, things have gotten a lot better. Yiorgious, a family friend, imparted that, “If you have a job, you don’t feel it.” It’s only when you don’t have a job that you start to feel the true extent of things. The job market isn’t doing fabulously, and it’s very hard to find work. Not so different from England, then.

However, a crisis of quite a different nature took hold of the country a few days ago. Truck drivers responsible for delivering petrol to the nation’s petrol stations went on strike, refusing to work because of new EU sanctions that would increase competition in the Greek oil industry, as a way of alleviating some of the pain caused by the country’s economic woes. The truck drivers, unfortunately, didn’t see things the same way, and three days ago refused to drive their refuelling trucks, essentially denying the country of petrol.

On the first day of the strike, as we drove through Faliraki on our way to the beach, we saw long queues of cars outside petrol stations, literally stretching for kilometres. Later that day, we heard that another family friend had queued for over an hour to fill her car up. Yesterday, the queues were gone, and petrol stations around the island were unanimously closed, as they’d all exhausted their petrol supplies.

Then, yesterday evening, the Greek government invoked a ‘rare emergency order’, forcing the truck drivers back to work. Minister of Finance, George Papaconstantinou, was quoted as saying that “No one has the right to paralyse the country.”

Despite the presence of this ‘rare emergency order’, truck drivers in Athens refuse to relent, comparing themselves to King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans. The internets are going to have a field day with this.

Suffice to say, it’s a sad state of affairs that a petrol shortage, in two, maybe three days has managed to essentially bring the country to its knees. This should perhaps be a sign that our reliance on oil is perhaps maybe a little insane. Then again, Greeks have always been (at least from my experience) partial to thinking in extremes. The economic trouble it’s now facing was caused by mass dissidence to government opinion (not paying taxes), and the problems that resulted from this was met by a collective uproar. I’d say it’s because we’re passionate.

I’ll try my best to keep you updated as things progress, but I’m being assured that the petrol stations on Rhodes are now all functioning once more, and that the island can rest easily once again. We’ll see. We’re just on our way to the beach now. We’ll hopefully make it back.

Update: We’re still not able to get petrol, even though the strike is supposedly meant to be over. I’m getting conflicting reports from the BBC News site that the truck drivers aren’t relenting, but I’ve also heard that there is petrol, but since there’s such a high demand for it still, it’s extremely hard to source. We’ve been advised to visit a petrol station very early tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know how that pans out.

Update #2: (30/07/2010) We finally managed to get some petrol this morning. There was a short queue outside a nearby filling station at 8am. The gentleman working there told us that things should be back to normal today, and that there’s plenty of petrol for everyone.

Update #3: (30/07/2010, PM) Have just come back from the beach, and the traffic all over town is ridiculous, thanks to large queues of cars outside petrol stations. If you’re in Rhodes, don’t go driving tonight, and if you need petrol, go early in the morning.

Update #4: (04/08/2010) Things have been normal for a few days, now. For any tourists thinking of visiting, there’s no more trouble finding petrol, at least not in Rhodes.


Social Media for the Masses

As I tweeted yesterday, it’s a very humbling and satisfying feeling, teaching your Web 2.0 illiterate dad to use Facebook. I’d call it research for #sotonsms, which is very soon to be making waves.

Being born into web culture, I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel, being introduced to this extension of the physical world, that effectively brings it all closer together. There must be a considerable shock factor in discovering that your niece, or nephew, can take a picture of their newborn child on their BlackBerry, and have it delivered to your eyes, half-way around the world, in a matter of seconds. I don’t feel it, sadly. I grew up alongside the Web, and the Web grew up alongside me. Sentimental notions of nostalgia aside, it was quite refreshing to see how social media can be used as an energising force, an untapped resource for some, which holds the key for richer expansion of physical social networks. To most of us, this doesn’t sound like much, but I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about all of those who haven’t the faintest clue what social media is, or what it does. Call them what you like; digital immigrants, massive passives. Those who I’d go as far as to say they are actually fearful of technology, when actually, with some gentle poking in the right direction, they can start to see how social media is worthy of being classed as a new friend. I’d imagine the realisation is like a switch flicking. One minute, Australia seemed ever so far away. Once the vast and mysterious land visited once or twice on holiday. The occasional phone call, or wad of pictures through the letterbox is as far as your knowledge goes, with regards to the day-to-day lives of your family in Oz. All of a sudden, you know what your dearest relation across the pond is eating for dinner, at that very moment. Australia is literally on your doorstep, all of a sudden. For that to happen… Well, I’d say my dad’s lucky his head didn’t explode.

I doubt my dad will ever become a social media maverick, like me or you, say, but I certainly hope that he continues to want to explore this new world, and all its wonderful benefits. Yesterday, I talked my dad through leaving comments on Facebook profiles, and even taught him how to snap a snazzy new profile picture, using our webcam. For anyone in the business of training digital passives in using social media, it can get a bit tedious. Left click this button, scroll down, left click that, highlight that (left click then drag the cursor), right click, click Copy (left click), right click, then left click Paste. Even reading it back, it sounds terribly tedious, but it’s something that a lot of us take for granted. We don’t even think about how computers work; we just use them, whereas for some, it must be like learning to see again. It’s a monumental task, but I’m sure there’s hope for my dad.

There was a point yesterday when my dad discovered the baby pictures of the sister of an ex co-worker of his, who has since moved to Poland. They were quite close. The minute those pictures hit the screen, my dad began cooing. His face lit up, and for a moment, I became infinitely more interested in watching his reactions, than watching what was on screen. It almost brought a tear to my eye.

There’s certainly something humbling about teaching the Web to the man who brought you up, and taught you the ways of the world. In some ways, I’m sort of returning the favour, by helping him find his feet in the digital world. That’s what I’d like to think, anyway.


Southampton Social Media Surgery: PRODUCTION UPDATE!

Yesterday we held the first of what I’ll imagine is a series of meetings for Southampton’s Social Media Surgery. I’m aware that lots of you who want to help out were unable to attend, so I’ll summarise things for you here.

We decided that it’s probably best to hold the surgery around mid to late October, after the hullabaloo of Freshers’ Week. We’re looking to hold it in the computer rooms in the Murray building (Building 58, Highfield Campus) on a weeknight, somewhen.

As for the actual format of the sessions themselves, we thought it may be a good idea, since social media is such a broad topic, and to maximise the resources we have, to have one ‘surgeon’ to five or so ‘patients’. The surgeon would demonstrate to the group how they can use a certain service, (say, how to set up a WordPress blog, or how to make a YouTube video) and would then oversee the patients as they set up their blogs, or make their own YouTube videos, and offer one-to-one help to anyone who gets stuck. We figured it’d be good to get people actually using social media themselves in the sessions, while providing support if they need it, since we want to help our patients develop their own internet skills, and not simply use the service as a crutch.

To close the meeting, we delegated out duties to people. If my memory serves me correctly, Lance Corporal @aaronbali assumed responsibility for finding surgeons, Lieutenant @daxleewood is in charge of securing a venue, and General @parboo and myself are responsible for finding potential ‘patients’.

We’re still in the early stages, but I really think this idea has the potential to become something great. As always, we’re always looking for people to help out, and be helped. If you know know your social media, or are a worthy cause in need of help with your web presence, do leave a comment below and someone will get back to you.

Oh, and please do follow (and use) the #sotonsms hashtag on Twitter, to keep in touch with everyone involved, and to find out about upcoming production meetings.

Thanks. 🙂


Southampton Social Media Surgeries

Know anything about social media? Do you know your Facebook from your Twitter? Your Tumblr from your WordPress? Live in the Southampton area? If so, I may have a very interesting proposition for you.

Social Media Surgeries are events set up to help local charities, non-profits, and anyone who expresses an interest in getting their head around social media, for the greater good. Imagine a room full of geeks, imparting valuable knowledge about the interwebs to people who could really use some social media goodness in their lives. Perhaps these people are already using social media, albeit not to its full extent. Social Media Surgeries are about helping people enrich their lives through technology, so they can go and use social media to do amazing things. That’s the dream.

Have I piqued your interest? If so, and you would like to help out, please leave a comment below and I’ll be in touch to keep you updated on when, and where any surgeries will be taking place. In a similar way, if you’re a local organisation looking to expand your social media operations, or aren’t quite sure how or if social media could help you in doing what you do, then please do leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

If you are interested in helping out, you may be interested in this Twitter list which keeps track of everyone interested in helping out so far. Again, get in touch if you would like to be added. We’re also using the #sotonsms hashtag. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.