Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Old Spice Body Spray: Smell is Power

In 2012 Old Spice launched the very successful ad campaign ‘Smell is power’. Now you’re probably thinking, “what the hell did I just watch?” but the bizarre content of this advert is a key component to its success.

This is because the oddity, such as flying through the roof of a building, captures your attention and leaves you with a stronger impression of the product. It’s also pretty safe to say that this advert is original, which brings even more attention to the Old Spice brand. Pieters, Warlop and Wedel (2002) found that original adverts draw more attention to brands by increasing brand memory, in particular if the brand was both familiar and original; who hasn’t heard of Old Spice?

This effect is amplified through the use of the contrast principle, which states that when experiencing two similar things in succession, your perception of the second is influenced by the first (Cialdini, 1984).  The advert beings with a slow-paced, everyday-type product, before being hijacked by Terry Crews using the power of Old Spice. The contrast makes the product appear more exciting, funny and powerful, increasing brand memory even more.

Another tool used by this ad is association, transferring the properties of one concept linked to another (Pratkanis, 2007). Throughout the advert, there is a constant link between the product and power; it even goes as far to say “it makes you smell like power”. The association between the product and power increases its appeal to the male audience by playing on hegemonic masculinity. This is essentially the dominant concept of the ideal man; Kimmel (2004) defines it as “a man in power, a man with power, and a man of power” (pp. 184). Makes you think that Old Spice chose their product association carefully huh?
Lastly the ad makes use of celebrity branding to increase its persuasiveness, in particular the ‘product match-up hypothesis’. This hypothesis suggests that the higher the perceived fit between the celebrity’s image and the endorsed brand, the more persuasive the ad will be (Keel & Nataraajan, 2012). I’m sure we can all agree that Terry Crews perfectly fits the ‘smell is power’ brand.
So beneath all the explosions and obscurity, Old Spice managed to make a brilliant ad, which apparently is so powerful that it sells itself in other people’s commercials.

Greg Vail - Blog 1

Cialdini, R. B. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, London.

Keel, A., & Nataraajan, R. (2012), Celebrity Endorsements and Beyond: New Avenues for Celebrity Branding. Psychology and Marketing, 29, 690–703.

Kimmel, M., 2004. Masculinity as homophobia: fear, shame, and silence in the construction of gender identity. In: P. Murphy, ed. Feminism and masculinities. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 182–199.
Pieters, R., Warlop, L., & Wedel, M. (2002). Breaking through the clutter: Benefits of advertisement originality and familiarity for brand attention and memory. Management Science, 48(6), 765-781

Pratkanis, A. (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Psychology Press, New York, NY.


  1. Well done Greg, couldn't have done better myself.

  2. Memorable is the name of the game. Whether it’s funny, disturbing, or sad remembering the product or ad is important. The Old Spice ads use humor and star power, and it makes them memorable to a huge audience. The ads against animal cruelty that feature Sarah McLachlan are just horrible to watch but they certainly make an impact.

    Deon Halstead @ Video Marketing & SEO New York


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