New Life for Old Products

Volume 8 Letter 3

In the “this may be hard to believe category”, Old Spice is now the number one selling antiperspirant, deodorant and body wash brand in the United States. Old Spice ‘Red Zone’ products have found their way into my household not as my cologne but as my son’s.

Originally founded in 1937, Old Spice was launched as a fragrance for women and then in 1938 was launched as a cologne for men. The Shulton company introduced the world to ‘Old Spice’ through shaving soaps and aftershave lotions. Old Spice was fashioned after a nautical theme and thus old style sailing ships were used as the trademark and the bottle shaped like a navigational buoy.

In 1990 P&G purchased the “Old Spice” brand and replaced the old Clipper logo with a Yacht to better identify with the men of today. Since 1992 P&G has introduced many body washes and colognes under the “Old Spice – Red Zone” brand. In 2008 P&G relaunched the original “Old Spice” brand as a classic scent in both the after shave and cologne categories that are now offered in white plastic rather than white glass bottles. Who would have thought that in 2008 “Old Spice” and its “Red Zone” offshoots would dominate the men’s cologne market?

In the ups and downs of any product’s life, brand managers will be faced with a decision – to stay the course or abandon ship. It’s always tempting to start again with a new brand. Often we see tired, faded brands set on the garbage heap replaced by fresh new logos and heavy advertising budgets. The cost of starting over can be prohibitive but in those tired old brands there just might be a loyal group of core customers waiting to be tapped. How does one chart a new course?

The goal of reviving an old brand is not to return it to its former glory but rather to focus on its core strengths while finding new opportunities. Authors Nikhil Bahadur and John Jullens suggest a four step review process before determining if a brand is worth reviving:

    1. Purchase assessment: does the brand suffer from poor awareness or poor opinion? If the awareness is high go to step 2. The Old Spice brand suffered from poor opinion not poor awareness.


    1. Brand equity: Is there any equity – any positive sentiment – left with the target segment? If yes go to step 3. Many young people could associate “Old Spice” with strong confident men.


    1. Competitive assessment: Which competitors are taking away the market share and why? If your product can match or beat existing competitors move to step 4. P&G was confident that Old Spice products could outperform competitive products by keeping a young man smelling good and cool and dry under pressure


  1. Develop the value proposition: Consumers buy products or services on three levels. Re-position the product to make it work on all three levels:
    1. functional benefits – does it work,
    2. emotional benefits – does it make me feel good and
    3. self expressive benefits – does it allow me to express myself

“Old Spice Red Zone” has addressed all three levels of positioning. First the product works and keeps a young man smelling good and says to others he is cool under pressure ie. ‘in the Red Zone’ which is the last 20 yards before scoring a touchdown in American Football.

The Old Spice brand was originally associated with older men. Many readers of this newsletter will remember it as their father’s cologne. Since 1990 P&G has managed to re-position the brand basically skipping a generation of men. The re-positioning made Old Spice and Red Zone antiperspirants, deodorants and body spray number one among teen age boys and young men. New life in new old brands – you bet!

Nikhil Bahadur and John Jullens, “New Life for Tired Brands” Strategy and Business, Booz Allen March 08 Reprint No. 08101

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