Cosmetic Brand Review - Old Spice

Many people who follow this website have expressed an interest in starting their own line.  In fact, most cosmetic chemists that I know secretly wish they could make their own line.  It seems so easy when you already know how to formulate products.  But there is more to creating a successful cosmetic line than simply creating excellent formulations.  To create a successful cosmetic product you need to create a cosmetic brand.  old spice brand

Cosmetic brand review

In this series we’ll go through different cosmetic brands and examine different elements that make the brand unique.  This will include a look at the packaging, positioning, claims, products and the formulas.  Hopefully, this kind of review will inspire you to create your own unique cosmetic brand.  And be sure to see our free report if you want to start your own cosmetic line.  Incidentally, this kind of exercise is inherently subjective and if someone else did it they might come to different conclusions.

Brand overview - Old Spice

I picked Old Spice because I recently heard that they were launching a new hair care line so they were top of mind.  They also have a pretty specific brand message and target audience so it is easier to do.

When I first got into the cosmetic industry, Old Spice was pretty much a dead brand.  Launched first in 1937, it was perceived as being something for “old people.”  It was the kind of brand my dad would use.  There was nothing cool about it at all.  We had this same problem when I was working on the VO5 shampoo brand.  But the marketing wizzes at P&G made some significant changes around 2008 and they were able to transform the stodgy old brand into a hip, cool brand.  They were help a lot by embracing online social media and getting some funny commercials to go viral.

Old Spice brand position

Old Spice is a brand of personal care products that is targeted to men in age range from 25 - 45.  They skew a little older than Axe (another man-focused brand) and have taken a significantly different advertising strategy.  Instead of appealing to young men who seem solely interested in attracting women, Old Spice goes for a more aspirational strategy presenting a cool man that other men might want to emulate.  This has the added advantage of having advertising that appeals to women who make most of the purchasing decisions in households anyway.  Pretty smart move by P&G.  One of their tag lines is even directed towards women “The man your man could smell like.”

Old Spice brand elements

The thing that comes to mind when people hear the words “Old Spice” is the color red.  It is a color that has been associated with the brand since it was first introduced.  If you are trying to launch your own brand focused on the men’s market, choosing red as your color is probably not a good idea.  Old Spice pretty much has this color taken, at least for body washes and after shower sprays.  Old Spice used to prominently feature ships and sailing but that has pretty much disappeared except for a tiny piece of their logo.  The marketers probably figured it didn’t resonate with the consumers they were trying to reach.

Old Spice products

This brand has a number of products including body wash, anti-perspirant, deodorant, body spray, bar soap, hair care, shaving gel, shaving equipment, and fragrance.  What amazes me most about P&G products is how amazingly standard their formulations are.  Look at this body wash ingredient list…

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Disodium EDTA, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Yellow 5, Green 3

It doesn’t get more simple than that!

And the Old Spice shampoo formula?

Water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycol Distearate, Dimethicone, Sodium Citrate, Cocamide MEA, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Fragrance, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Polyquaternium 76, Sodium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone

That’s essentially the same formula used for Pantene and Herbalessences.  A good formula, no doubt, but there is not anything unique about it.

It looks like P&G took formulas from their other successful lines (Pantene, Herbalessences), changed the color, the fragrance and packaging and called them Old Spice.  This demonstrates just how dependent the success of any cosmetic is on the marketing of the brand.  And with them using essentially the same formulas they can increase leverage over suppliers to get huge discounts on raw materials.  Another smart move.

Old Spice Claims

Old Spice is all about image so the claims are pretty generic and easy to support.  For the shampoo they claim the product…

“Leaves your hair heroically clean and ready for ladyfingers.  Starts with a rich and creamy lather.  Finishes with impeccably clean hair.”

Which simply boils down to the claim “this shampoo cleans your hair.”  Not too tough to support that one!

And the body wash is not much different.

“Old Spice High Endurance body wash has a clean rinse feel that leaves your body feeling refreshed, clean crisp scents that leave your body smelling great, and clean refreshing lather that slams away dirt and odor.”

Old Spice Overall

From a cosmetic chemists standpoint, Old Spice products use fairly standard formulations.  If you were working at P&G and were responsible for creating these new products, you would no doubt have been directed to the best in-house formulas.  Your biggest challenge would be getting the right color and ensuring that the fragrance was stable.  Not a particularly intellectually stimulating challenge.  However, what Old Spice does demonstrate is that having good formulas is important, but having excellent branding and marketing is even more important when creating a unique brand.

If you are looking to start your own line, focus your efforts on figuring out what makes your story different rather than what makes your formula different.  Pick a good target audience (e.g. males 25-45), pick an ownable look (e.g. the color red) and do some top notch online marketing.  You’ll increase your chances of success immensely.


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How to Become a Cosmetic Chemist

The job of a cosmetic chemist, or as they call it in the UK a cosmetic scientist, requires you to do a wide variety of things both in and out of the lab. Your main responsibility will be that of a formulator. This means you mix raw materials together to create cosmetic products like lipstick, nail polish, skin lotions, shampoos, toothpaste and any other type of personal care product.

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