The man Gary V no longer is

I ran into Gary V briefly at the RE/MAX convention in Vegas a couple weeks ago. He’s a magnificent ball of passion – a dynamic speaker, creative thinker and tireless marketer.

When I got home I read his new book, The Thank You Economy. It’s a good read. Gary’s central thesis is that brands that want to be successful in this economy must consistently engage the marketplace in human ways, often using social media.

I buy that. In some cases. The problem with Gary’s argument is that it’s far less universal than he suggests and misses some of the subtle nuances of brand strategy.

One size fits all

One of the ways Gary makes his case in The Thank You Economy is by taking Old Spice to task for a lack of social media follow up to their successful “Old Spice Guy” campaign.

He suggests that the brand’s silence on their widely followed Twitter account sends a message of thanklessness to its customers – a message that spells failure within the new Thank You economy.

Gary writes:

If I were captain of that ship, you can bet that ten thousand tweets would have gone out since July 14, the last day of the response video portion of the campaign. To me, it looks like Old Spice is a sprinter stuck in a traditional marketing mind-set, not a marathon runner living in the Thank You Economy.

That’s what he did for his Wine business, which worked. It’s also what he’s done for his own personal brand. That worked too. But is that what branding is? A one size fits all proposition?

Perhaps it is in the Thank You Economy world. Not in mine.

The Old Spice brand

In 2009, Old Spice evoked visions of mothballs, single-edged razors and grandpa. The brand was safely tucked away in the time capsules of our lives.

But in 2010, Proctor and Gamble injected a fat dose of Viagra-enriched adrenaline into Grandpa by embodying the brand in the form of a half naked, exquisitely muscled spokesman who told the men of America that he is what the women in their lives wished they could be.


Sales of Old Spice spiked. Wieden + Kennedy’s brilliant campaign conjured up the magic of Madison Avenue’s heyday, when advertising still had the power to really sell products. The ads kicked you off your couch by playing in the fertile space between who you are and who wish you could be.

Gary recognizes that. He clearly articulated it in his book. In fact, he bought a bottle of Old Spice hoping he too could be the man every woman wants her man to be.

But something happened. Gary wasn’t thanked appropriately on Twitter. And felt the brand had abandoned him. And many others like him.


As a result of Old Spice’s decision not to place a social media monkey behind the wheel of a twitter account pushing out tens of thousands of tweets into the universe, Gary will not be replacing his stick of roll-on.

Should that worry Proctor and Gamble? Not really. Not when you dig deep into who the real Old Spice Man is.

He sails. Fish leap from the ocean right into his able arms. He doesn’t just live life, he owns life.

Twitter? The Old Spice Man doesn’t Tweet.

This man, the man the brand is both inventing and appealing too, doesn’t need to be Tweeted at to feel loved or important. His confidence is inherent.

The Old Spice man makes the The most Interesting Man in the World jealous. That’s the sort of thanks real Old Spice men require.

I do not know why Proctor and Gamble hasn’t put more into their Twitter feed. But that action put Gary into “utter shock.” He was “devastated.”

He writes:

I want to call Old Spice and beg them to let me help get them back on track; on the other hand, they’ve given me a great opportunity to show you how a brand can sabotage a great social media campaign.

Funny, I’d like to call P&G and compliment them. Real Old Spice men don’t get devastated. Or shocked.

Now I’m on a horse

Brands decide on their own how to express thanks. Porsche owners don’t require love tweets to feel gratitude. Gratitude ensues when they blow past people on the road. When their friends envy them. Thanks come in the feeling of accomplishment that swirls inside their soul.

Old Spice men get their thanks when they get a fresh bottle handed to them on Valentine’s Day. Or in the memory they feel when a steam-clouded bathroom takes on the scent of real manhood – the kind that grandpa knew, when he was young.

By Gary’s own admission, he’s not really the Old Spice Man. He is, I guess, the Twitter Man. And that’s ok too. The man has rocked the social media marketing world.

He’s just missed the brand nuance that is purely Old Spice.