Old Spice is, to me, a fascinating paradox of a brand. As not one who pays too much attention to the deodorant I wear, but who knows many people who swear by the product (or swear by other people using the product) I was able to collect many enthusiastic comments regarding the product. What was interesting to me was that there was two distinct lines of praise for Old Spice. One was how the brand was “mature” and “classy”, specifically in comparison to rival brand Axe – the general consensus being that Axe was appropriate for teenagers, while those over a certain age should be using Old Spice instead. At the same time, Old Spice has a reputation as a brand associated with humour and irreverence, with many people often bringing up how they enjoyed how Old Spice was never too “serious”. A quick look at the FAQ section of their Canadian website (where, in between explaining their products, a ‘short-necked giraffe’ tried to get me to look at his screenplay), confirmed this to be the case. Old Spice has a brand then, it seems, that is carefully designed to be mature – but not to mature. To be more specific, it seeks to be associated with a degree of class, but doesn’t want its target market of younger men to feel that it is too full of itself or being too serious, thusly their brand constantly having its tongue firmly in cheek.
Looking purely at their products, I found that their branding, in store and on the website, tended to follow these general trends. I soon began to come up with a variety of brand associations, settling on “fun”, “irreverent”, “masculine”, “(playfully) classy”, “’tongue in cheek’”, and with a unique blend of “mature yet silly.” This is visible not just in their famous advertisements, but all over the website and the packaging itself. For example, many of their bottles features a ‘classy’ style of writing – elegant cursive within a gold frame, or other ornate lettering. At the same time, the same packaging will features fanciful and fun artwork and designs, and even messages similar to the ones displayed on their website. Perhaps this was best displayed by their cologne packaging. A simple red design with the branded text on front gave a classy appearance – with the word “classic” itself prominently featured. On the back of the box however, was a message informing me that “If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t be here”. This is clearly having some fun with the customer, while still reminding them of Old Spice’s heritage and reliability as a brand.
From the branding, I believe we can pull out the full value proposition of Old Spice. Firstly, and most obviously, would be the tangible benefit of making you smell nice, and to keep you smelling nice. While this might seem a little bland for such a colourful brand, it should be remembered that for many, Old Spice is simply a practical product – to expand upon simply “smelling nice” I would say that Old Spice’s general tangible benefit, through deodorants to shampoos and soaps, it to make you more presentable throughout the day. Of course, there are plenty of emotional benefits as well – scent based brands, I think, have to lean heavily into their emotional value due to being so subjective. Axe, for example, has the emotional value proposition of making one attractive to women. Old Spice, in a subtler vein, is more about selling confidence. Partially this is obvious (many Old Spice produces use the term “confidence” directly in their descriptions) and partially it is seen in a more pervasive manner throughout their entire brand. The brand itself is confident enough to be playful with its own image, not being concerned at all what others might say about it. At the same time, its scents tend to have a lot of “masculine” branding – references to the outdoors, high seas and hard work. No matter what confidence means to the consumer, Old Spice is providing a variation.