You wouldn’t have caught me dead wearing Old Spice when I was coming of age in the 1980′s. Old Spice was, first of all, “old” simply by name. Dad wore it. Today, every cool kid is wearing it.
Likewise with Johnny Cash. Dad listened to the “man in black”, but nobody was playing his music on their Sony Walkman. Today, the late Johnny Cash is permanently cool and genuinely missed.
Few musical acts have made a comeback as astonishing and deserving as the one Johnny Cash mounted in the five years before his death. He went from being a forgotten-about archive from the Hall of Fame into a six-time nominee at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.
Few brands have staged a comeback as noteworthy as Old Spice. It went from being a low-value brand from the past into one of the world’s leading men’s grooming products in an exceptionally short period of time.
Why do some brands fade away and others come roaring back? What do the successful bands and brands that come back to life have in common?
1. Change Your Message
Old Spice changed their marketing message. They brilliantly adapted their message to the self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek tone of today’s youth. Their commercials began to spread virally on the internet spawning websites dedicated entirely to Old Spice commercials.
Johnny Cash changed his message too. Instead of recording country or gospel songs, he recorded songs originally by hard rock bands like Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, U2, Tom Petty, and Danzig. His series of American Recordings also included his own songs, but the albums focused on speaking the language of the youth of the day.
2. Change Your Partner
Old Spice collaborated with advertising agency Wieden and Kennedy to create advertising that was edgy and in touch with young consumers. Wieden and Kennedy is best known for their work with Nike, and they’ve also developed many cutting-edge campaigns for Coke, ESPN, and Miller beer.
Johnny Cash collaborated with Rick Rubin to create music that was edgy and in touch with young consumers. Rick Rubin is a producer famous for starting Def Jam records and working with performers like Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Metallica.
3. Don’t Give Up
Rebuilding a damaged for forgotten brand is not a quick fix.
Old Spice began their turnaround om 1990 when it was purchased by Proctor and Gamble. In 1992 they updated the logo and color scheme. Over the next 15 years they released body washes, body sprays, deoderant sticks, and shaving products. When the new Old Spice became popular, they rereleased the original blend with the slogan “If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t exist.”
Johnny Cash began working with Rick Rubin in 1994, and won a Grammy for Best Folk Album for “American Recordings”. It met with plenty of critical acclaim, but it was the subsequent volumes, particular volume IV of the series, that truly cemented Cash as a contemporary icon. His 2003 version of Nine Inch Nails “Hurt” remains a cross-generational classic.
Here are two videos that illustrate the brands post-turnaround. The very emotional “Hurt” by Johnny Cash can be viewed here. Below is the phenomenal “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” from Old Spice.