Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Can You Say What Your Strategy Is + Bringing Science to Strategy

Jim Stengel, the Global Marketing Officer of Proctor & Gamble (P&G) from 2001-2008[1] was faced with an issue of P&G’s oldest brands, Old Spice, in 2006.[2] With the increasing popularity of Axe and other competitor grooming products, Old Spice was facing decreasing market share in men’s deodorant.[3] From contemplating a pressing issue he then faced a serious choice with how to reposition Old Spice.

There were many strategic options and at one point, Jim Stengel said in a Cincinatti talk that they were even “chasing Axe”.[4] He stated that Axe was “a very sexy brand, a very provocative brand, and Old Spice was kind of trying to mimic that.” [5] According to Lafley et al in “Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy” inside-out questions are important to answer in generating strategic possibilities.[6] Inside-out questions are defined as what a company does well that is valuable and sets them apart in the market.[7] In reinvigorating the Old Spice brand, P&G realized that instead of mimicking the Axe Brand, they should leverage the grandfatherly, historic brand of Axe.

This is how Old Spice found their strategic sweet spot.  In the article “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?” by Collins and Rukstad, a strategic sweet spot is defined as the intersection where a company meets its customer’s needs and where competitors are not competing in.[8] While other brands smelled and looked like it was made for young men and tweens, P&G leveraged the mature, historic brand of Old Spice to reposition it as a brand for teenagers and twenty somethings who wanted to be more like men and not young men – a sweet spot that P&G could reposition Old Spice in. P&G used marketing taglines such as “ If your grandfather hadn't worn it, you wouldn't exist”, “smell like a man, man,” and others.[9]  Having been perceived for a brand for dads and grandpas they strategically spun a disadvantageous position into an advantageous position.

P&G launched their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign online a day before the Superbowl to test the receptiveness of their new target market of teens and 20 somethings. The online campaign was successful with over 65 million YouTube views.[10] The ad campaign went on to air on television a day after the Superbowl and 75% of the men’s deodorant product category attention was attributed to the Old Spice campaign.[11] Subsequently they have launched other media campaigns with similar success.

Similar to their success with Olay as illustrated in the Lafley article, Proctor and Gamble was faced with declining market share and faced serious decisions on how to move forward strategically. I believe their ultimate choices with Olay and Old Spice were well conceived and were subsequently met with success.

[1] "Jim Stengel." Washington Speakers Bureau. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
[2]Neff, Jack. "The Battle of the Brands: Old Spice Vs. Axe." Advertising Age News RSS. 17 Nov. 2008. Web. 20 Apr. 2016. <>.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Lafley, A G. Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy: leaders rarely succeed in marrying empirical rigor and creative thinking. Here's how they could do better. Harvard business review 90.9 01 Sep 2012: 56. Harvard Business School Publishing. 20 Apr 2016.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Collins, David J, Rukstad, Michael G. “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is? Harvard Business Review. April 2008, Vol. 86 Issue 4, p82-90. Harvard Business School Publishing. 20 Apr 2016.
[9] Young, Antony. "Axe vs. Old Spice: Whose Media Plan Came Up Smelling Best?" Advertising Age Media RSS. 31 Mar. 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2016. <>.

[10]Case Study: Old Spice Response Campaign.” D&AD. Web. 20 Apr 2016. <

[11] Ibid.

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