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Numbers or Impact? What Old Spice Teaches Us

Last week, Dan Zarrella of HubSpot presented a webinar called The Science of Presentations with slides drawn from an ebook that was subtitled How to Give Contagious Talks. Therein lies the problem. Is “contagious” a useful measure of a presentation’s success? Is a successful presentation one that generates many live tweets with the appropriate hash tag?

Whatever happened to meaningful content? What if the primary purpose of the presentation is to influence a single decision maker, or a small group? When did the science of presentations become limited to viral?

Call me crazy, but I define a successful presentation as one that drives appropriate action by the intended target. Before I consider retweets, I’d rather consider objectives and persuasiveness.

To be fair, Dan’s overly-broad title obscures the fact that his intent was limited to an examination of what drives tweets and blogs about a presentation. And although any decent researcher would question the quality of his data (self-selected panelists), he provides actionable conclusions – if your primary objective is to be viral. His presentation was proof of itself, as he successful drove a high number of tweets and retweets through a variety of techniques – asking for them, interspersing 140 character summary slides, scheduling easy-to-RT tweets to broadcast during the presentation, etc. Heck, I issued a couple of live tweets  (which did not get retweeted, darn!).

But is viral a valid end in itself? Last month I wrote that traditional metrics such as closed sales are not a reasonable metric for the effectiveness of social media campaigns. But the flip side is also true. Social media metrics are not reasonable measures for the effectiveness of a presentation. They can be as empty as the celebrities on E! The only exception is if the objective of the presentation is to stimulate engagement  in a social media campaign to builds relationship with its intended target.

Otherwise, I gotta ask: So your presentation went viral? Congratulations. Did it build your business?

I write this while considering an intriguing bit of data about Old Spice, whispered to me recently by an industry insider. We all know about the Old Spice campaign. Brilliant creative. The new benchmark for a viral campaign. Tweets, blogs, articles, awareness, awards, parodies, videos, etc etc etc.

My source tells me that Old Spice Body Wash has lost share since the campaign began.

Is it premature to judge? Maybe. As discussed in my previously-mentioned blog, social media should not be judged by short term metrics. But still. When you get unprecedented awareness of and engagement in a campaign, you certainly expect to see a sales spike.

Now, my informant may have been wrong. Perhaps Old Spice sales skyrocketed. It doesn’t disprove my argument, which is that the success of a presentation – or any activity – must be evaluated against its objectives, not necessarily with something as facile as RTs.

Dan, I suggest you re-title your presentation and ebook.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

ADDENDUM: after posting this, I confirmed from multiple sources that Old Spice did in fact lose share behind the initial viral campaign. However, the fact that they have continued the campaign with new executions suggests they are seeing other positive benefits. Net, it all depends on your strategy and what you’re trying to accomplish. Social/viral campaigns, like any tactic, must start with strategy and metrics. Woe be to any marketer who thinks social media is a strategy – it’s just another tactic.

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2 Responses to “Numbers or Impact? What Old Spice Teaches Us”

  1. As you mentioned, it all comes down to objectives. What are the desired outcomes of any presentation, campaign, meeting…etc? To build awareness? Reach new customers? Drive new sales leads? Not all presentations will go viral and to set the objective to have a preso go massively viral is kind of absurd. I like your statement: “Went viral? Congrats. Now what?”

    Brian Hansford

    p.s. Say hello to Boulder for me!

    • mpfriedman says:

      Brian – thanks for joining the discussion! As you say, it’s absurd. And yet there seems to be a whole generation of self-anointed social media gurus for whom this tactic – using the excitement of a viral campaign – is an end in itself. They don’t differentiate tactics from strategies, and too often fail to consider the entire ecosystem that their brand inhabits. This is not sustainable. Marketing will return to its disciplined roots eventually. Social marketing now has a permanent seat at the table – but its only one seat, and rarely should be at the head.

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