Old Spice

A new Old Spice


To be a ‘top dog’, you have to be a South African man that lives an unapologetic life. Old Spice understood this, which is why the decision was made to pay tribute to the rich and diverse meaning of being an authentic South African man

Logo Old Spice1

Spicing things up, the South African way

Nearly 68 percent of internet users consider digital content in their local language more reliable than content in English, according to this report. Statistics like these clearly show that people’s home language is a very personal form of communication. Seeing that there are a variety of languages spoken in South Africa, with our country having 11 official languages, many advertising campaigns tend to take the middle (but often bland) road of communication in English – a language that is understood by most. Although this overcomes the challenge of conveying a universal message, it detracts from the personality, uniqueness and richness of our local languages.

For global brands, there is the added challenge of not being immersed in the culture, colloquialisms, and ‘South Africanisms’ that is sometimes difficult to explain. This is why, often, global campaigns that are rolled-out in South Africa can be seen as one-dimensional.

Cookie-cut campaigns won’t cut it

For these reasons, it is imperative that an international marketing strategy isn’t a cookie-cut version of the original campaign. What’s more is that translating an English campaign into local vernacular isn’t sufficient either; an international marketing strategy must go far beyond translating marketing material into different languages. Even in cases where translations into local languages are grammatically correct, it might convey the essence of what makes the language – as well as the people who speak it every day – so unique.

Failure to humanise your brand for different cultures, regions, and geographies is a sure-fire way to lose the trust of your audience, as well as its relevancy. Taking into account the everyday practices and experiences that South Africans go through, as well as the cultural and social nuances that is the make-up of our diversity, is the only road that can lead to successfully localising a global brand.

And this is exactly how Old Spice spiced things up.

A new Old Spice

To be a ‘top dog’, you have to be a South African man that lives an unapologetic life. Old Spice understood this, which is why the decision was made to pay tribute to the rich and diverse meaning of being an authentic South African man. Although Old Spice is internationally known for quirky adverts that feature a lot of muscles and tongue-in-cheek humour, it was understood that the global campaigns were mainly aimed at the stereotypical Western man, dominated by American culture and language. Because of this, South African men saw the brand as a product for old, white men that is neither relevant or cool – the complete opposite of its international image.

This is where cultural vernacular and dialects played an integral role in the South African Old Spice marketing campaign, which was rolled out towards the end of last year. A culturally diverse environment has shaped a new type of South African urban man. A top dog at the peak of his game.

By creating a campaign called Inja Ye Game (Top Dog), Old Spice set out to celebrate what it means to be a local man – and this was done in a local language. This is where the essence of the quirky Old Spice heritage seamlessly blended with a South African old to search for and find the true South African Old Spice Man. The social media-forward campaign paid tribute to everyday men who are, in their own way, at the top of their game – every day. Not only did the consumer-created videos generate over a million views, but doubled product sales as well.

The secret? A campaign that understood that although it is the same product internationally, the messaging must be both integral to the brand and true to its target audience. Brands should not be afraid of breaking the language barrier to gain the trust of its target audience.

Addressing the South African in the room

The lesson here is that brands shouldn’t put all of its products in one basket. Merely translating an existing campaign to the local language won’t necessarily break through that cultural barrier. As information is interpreted differently across cultures, localisation goes way beyond word-to-word translation.

A campaign should aim to make a brand's message resonate in the context of that country’s values.

Brands should search for local interpretation of words, symbols, colours, and the habits of a target audience when communicating to people. Local language is lekker – but only if it is executed in an authentic, relatable way that is true to both the brand and the people.

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