Successful Brand Strategy Example
(Old Spice Repositioning)

Old Spice is a household name. A brand that has been around since 1937.

So you’d think that this brand strategy example would be a slow burner built over generations.

But this is a modern brand strategy example and a story of success at that where the old guy ditched his slippers to turn on his cool and appeal to the young up-and-comers.

In this article, you’ll learn about the successful repositioning strategy of Old Spice.

Brand Strategy Example
(Old Spice Repositioning)

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A Short History Of Old Spice

Old Spice is a brand that’s old by name and old by years. 

Founded in 1934 by some fella called William Lightfoot Schiltz, their first product was actually made for women in 1937, followed by the men’s line in a year later.

Over 50 years, Old Spice became a consistent presence in the men’s shaving soap and aftershave lotion category before Proctor and Gamble acquired them for US$300 million in 1990.

Old Spice Original Positioning

I remember my first association with Old Spice through my Grandad. 

He was many many years past his best days and before heading to the pub for his liquid lunch on a Sunday afternoon, he’d slap on some Old Spice and head out the door.

For me, Old Spice was an old man’s aftershave that I wouldn’t even buy my dad for not wanting to offend his youthful 40 something appearance.

As far as brand positioning was concerned, Old Spice had carved out a comfortable place with an aging generation and therein laid their impending doom.

At the wise age of 15, I (and every last one of my friends) were wearing Lynx / Axe (Lynx Africa was my poison of choice which I believed gave me a rustic but cultured scent).

Younger generations weren’t interested in the products or the image Old Spice had on offer so if they wanted to survive, they needed a drastic change.

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Old Spice Repositioning Strategy

P&G realised they had a problem. Their “Old Man” reputation was dragging them down and they needed to shake it off.

Their goal was to appeal to the pre-adult generation and lock them down before they hit their adult years. But to do that, they’d need some swagger.

A New Target Audience

Through their original position, Old Spice was targeting the older 40-60 year old market and even then, many 40 somethings considered themselves too young to wear Old Spice.

After assessing market trends (and seeing the writing on the wall), they identified target market users from teens – 34 years though shifting the brand’s perception within that target group was going to be a challenge.

Global agency Wieden + Kennedy met the challenge head on with a new campaign “Old Spice Swagger” which took a new tongue-in-cheek approach that quite simply, appealed to the younger generation through humour and personality.

They knew they were on to something when their sales quadrupled which inspired them to go all-in on this new strategic approach with the “Be Like A Man, Man campaign.

Be Like A Man, Man Campaign

Through some savvy market research, W+K uncovered that 50% of body wash sales came from the purchases of women.

So women became the target for the “The Man Your Man Can Smell Like” commercial.

Through the highly virile handpicked actor Isaiah Mustafa, the Old Spice brand spoke directly to women stating that although their man wasn’t him, he could smell like him.

The messaging goes on to point the finger at their man’s current choice of body wash as “lady scented” before creating an association of multiple fantasies including yachts, diamonds, show tickets and horses.

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Old Spice Brand Personality

The driver behind the shift in attitude by the younger generation towards this previous “Old Man’s Brand” was without a doubt largely down to the personality of the repositioned brand.

With the jester archetype at the helm, the Old Spice campaigns were laced with tongue-in-cheek humour that pokes fun at the dated idea of manliness and the unattainable expectations of the real world.

From their hilarious ad campaigns to their dry humoured website content and social engagement, the Old Spice brand adopted a new voice and attitude that is unapologetically brash and entertaining.

This witty personality is the #1 reason for the shift in brand perception.

Old Spice Communication Strategy

As the brand began to gain traction with it’s new found swagger, P&G engaged Landor to revamp the brand’s communication through messaging and visual identity.

Old Spice Brand Identity

The Old spice identity has always been associated with a nautical theme. Why? Founder William Schultz chose colonial ships because of their association with shipping spices.

That sentiment however was lost when in the brand replaced the colonial ship with a sailboat in the 70’s, which remained until place until Landor revived the brand heritage and original colonial logo to return the brand to it’s roots.

Brand Messaging Strategy

Landor worked closely with Wieden+Kennedy and Citizen Relations on the Old Spice repositioning strategy.

The brands messaging played on the traditional idea of manliness, providing tips, suggestions and rules on how to by manly, leveraging old world type, illustrations and tone of voice. 

Manliness 101 and the Manbook articulated the cheeky principles behind the Old Spice brand, which acted as an internal brand guide for brand representatives.

Through the Manbook, the language and tone of the brand extended to packaging, website copy and right across the Old Spice touchpoint suite.

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Brand Repositioning Strategy Results.

The turnaround of the Old Spice brand is nothing short of remarkable.

Driven by the revamped personality, attitude and voice

To say this ad was a success would be an understatement. 

The campaign also won the 2010 Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix and an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Commercial.

5.9 million YouTube views on Day 1

20 million views after 3 days

40 million views after one week

Twitter followers increased 2700%.

Facebook fans increased 60% traffic increased 300%

YouTube subscribers doubled

The Impact on the brand and it’s sales nearly as impressive

P&G gave Wieden & Kennedy a target of a 15% increase in sales. Over the following year sales increased over 125% and Old Spice became the #1 brand for men’s body wash.

Over To You

We need to consider that very little changed in the Old Spice product or the product range.

The brand simply redefined who it would communicate to and how it would communicate to that group of people.

There was no high scale product development or a differentiation through their product line or offering. They didn’t disrupt the market and they didn’t introduce anything that wasn’t already there.

They simply found a new audience to communicate to and a new way to communicate to them. That’s it.

They brought the brand to life through personality and language that resonated with their new audience and completed transformed the perception for the brand amongst their target audience and the broader market.

So before you begin defining your next brand’s positioning strategy, consider the value of knowing your audience and the type of communication they respond to.

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  1. This is a brilliant in-depth analysis of the brand, well dated from the beginning to the end without a stone unturned. I think with this, a strategy approach by anyone can be well understood. Thank you Stephen.

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