Why The Most Interesting Man in the World Moves More Units Than Old Spice Guy

The experienced actor behind Dos Equis' viral ad campaign on popularity, influence, and saving endangered Siberian tigers.

Consider for a moment the manly purr of Old Spice spokesman Isaiah Mustafa's "Hello, Ladies" salutation. It's seduced the country social media-style: 94 million views on YouTube, 630,0000 Facebook fans, and an estimated 1 billion aggregate impressions in just one week. But wait. It appears consumers may have been too distracted by his glorious swan dives and monocle smiles to remember the actual product he was hawking. Sales of Red Zone body wash have actually declined 7% according to a report by SymphonyIRI. (UPDATE: A spokesman for Old Spice claims Brandweek took SymphonyIRI's stat out of context. Citing Nielsen figures, the rep says OS body wash sales have actually increased 11% in the last 12 months.) And the towel-clad and deep-voiced Mustafa may have not even contributed to Old Spice's overall sales growth, which Ad Age chalks up to a high-value coupon campaign by the company. Both Nivea and Gillette saw similar if not higher growth during that period, and neither had the help of Mustafa—just coupons.

So did Mustafa's unprecedented popularity fail to translate into influence? Is there perhaps another equally viral ad campaign, one with a frontman who rivals Mustafa's dash and flair, that has helped move units?

Unfortunately for The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, there is: The Most Interesting Man in the World. Since he joined forces with Dos Equis in 2006, sales have shot up significantly every year, leaping 26% since January alone, Dos Equis brand manager Ryan V. Thompson recently told me. "We're now the fastest growing beer import in the country," he says.

Adding insult to injury, there's no question who would win a staring contest. 

"The Most Interesting Man is well proven," explains Thompson. "He once went four days straight staring at himself in his own staring contest—he wins every time."

I decided to track down The Most Interesting Man in the World and speak with him about viral advertising for our chronicle of the social graph, The Influence Project. Why has The Most Interesting Man succeeded where Mustafa has failed? 

"He's a man that has had life experience, and has been there, and done that, and beyond," says the also-pretty-damn interesting man who plays The Most Interesting Man in the World, Jonathan Goldsmith, deservedly in the third-person. "It's not just a slickness, but experience that means something."

According to Goldsmith, it is this infinite life experience that has given his character a depth, which is universally intriguing. "People ask me all the time for tips. How would you entertain? What advice would you have for meeting women? What does your home look like?" he says, pulling off the pitch-perfect hyperbole that only The World's Most Interesting Man could get away with. "If you're not interested, you will not be interesting. If you don't experience life, you won't be a participant—you'll just be a voyeur; you'll watch it go by like a parade you're not involved in."

Is there anything The Most Interesting Man in the World could learn, then, from The Man Your Man Could Smell Like? Would he ever try Old Spice Red Zone Body Wash After Hours?

"No, I don't think so," he says. "After tasting Old Spice, there are limitations [compared with Dos Equis]. I wish [Mustafa] well, and I thank him very much for following my training regime. He's looking very well as a physical specimen."

Breaking character for a moment, Goldsmith explains, "I think the campaign is so successful, because every man, including me, would like to be like him." He also credits the brilliant writers behind his clever lines and the company itself for keeping up the character. And this is a guy who knows characters. His credits read like a greatest hits collection of '70s and '80s television, with guest-starring roles in everything from Hawaii Five-O to Eight is Enough, CHiPs to Partners in Crime, St. Elsewhere to Trapper John M.D., Charlie's Angels to Highway to Heaven.... You get the picture. "Dos Equis is very wise to keep the mystique going," he says. "The Most Interesting Man is not just a talking head—he's not a conventional spokesman." Goldsmith even admitted that he was surprised Old Spice's campaign hadn't translated into sales.

There is one difference between him and the character he plays that he'd like to make clear, though. While The Most Interesting Man in the World uses his joie de vivre to sling beer, Goldsmith says he uses his celebrity now "to draw attention to [his] charities" which are of "vital importance" to him. He's heavily involved in several, including Free Arts for Abused Children, Stella Link (a socially conscious entertainment group), and the Sabre Foundation, an organization focused on saving endangered Siberian tigers. Seriously.

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  • Timmy

    I am honestly horrified by 98% of beer commercials. Public disservice announcements.. This, guy, however, is mesmerizing. The lighting, everything.

  • Steve Lipson

    I don,t think it's fair to base more successful ad campaigns between something as far apart as deodorant and beer. It's almost like comparing Marlboro with Tampax.

  • larry fahey

    It seems obvious to me that Dos Equis would have an easier time moving the needle. It's a much less visible brand than Old Spice and has done little if any television advertising prior the The Most Intersting Man campaign. There's a lot of low-hanging fruit for DE.

  • dparks

    1. The product names themselves help define and attract/detract potential customers;
    They can try to re-direct the product through a catchy name like "Red~Zone", but the brand is still recognized as "Old" Spice - and regardless if pitchman, who in their right mind wants to smell like "old spice"?

    "Dos Equis" OTOH - exotic, foreign, Spanish, etc. You get the idea.

    2. The Old Spice guy, as "cool" as some may think he is, comes across as smarmy and arrogant - "No, I don't want to smell or look like you, thank you very much."
    The Most Interesting Man in the World? There's no misinterpretation of his calmness, coolness, experience; now that's something any man (and woman) can appreciate.

    Now if jou will excuse me, I must go.

  • Todd Strickland

    I would be interested in seeing stats on the proliferation of “authentic” Mexican restaurants and the increased availability of Dos Equis (or growth in national distributors) over the past several years before I could give the Most Interesting Man in the World all the credit. I can remember having Dos Equis in Mexico years before it showed up in my grocery store.

  • John Eyre

    This article doesn't seem to say anything. The numbers they toss out are useless. I think they took the wrong approach in the article. I think the more important questions are; whether the masculinity theme is an effective marketing strategy right now and whether the masculinity theme marketing strategy is more effective on men or women. Think back to the popularity of Joe Namath and the Noxema shaving cream commercials. Neither of the two ads would stand a chance against a masculinity-themed ad that targeted both men and women. Furthermore, the popularity of the viral video ad does not necessarily equate to sales since the target audience may not be the audience that is watching YouTube videos. Commercial media exposure (TV/Radio) is more effective for older target audience. I see a lot more of The Most Interesting Man advertisements than Mustafa.

    The writers of this article needed to compare sales within the same period that the advertisements were offered, pick the stats for the first 6 months that the Dos Equis ad aired and compare with the first 6 months of when the Old Spice ad aired.

    The writers toss in a nice chart comparing Old Spice sales to its competitors. Great, but that is not what the article is about.

    No mention that beer sales tend to increase during economic downturns (beer in cans sell better than bottles during economic downturn, go figure?)

    Other posters on this forum are correct, they are comparing ads that target different audiences with buying patterns. Dos Equis is targeting male (most beer drinkers are male) and Old Spice is targeting females (buy this for your boyfriend/husband). I somewhat disagree with posts that Old Spice is fighting the Grandpa issue. My teenage son and many of his friends use Old Spice bodywash (I am not an Old Spice user). Instead of targeting middle-aged women, maybe Old Spice should be targeting teenagers and users in their 20's.

  • David Aron

    You raise some great points here John... we're not just comparing apples to oranges, we're comparing beer to hygiene products. The idea of who is being targeted is an interesting one. No question that Dos Equis is going after men. I'd say that Old Spice is too. Mustafa seems like he's talking to women, but clearly the young men are listening and trying to be like the man women want.

  • krishna

    Well, I think what we are looking to sell are products for Men. Now Men would most likely want to be as flamboyant personality as The Most Interesting Man in the World rather than the saying Hello Ladies. There would hardly be any one who in real life would want to say that. What all the Men really want is to Girls grab them then they chaseing them.

  • J GM

    I get the feeling that The Most Interesting Man in the World actually smells kind of bad.

    As far as Old Spice goes, Mustafa probably makes both men and women think about the scent issue in general, but from there the thought process *still* probably moves to "Old Spice smells like Grandpa", thus negating the brand-specific attempt.

  • Libby

    Are you serious? You quote people not knowing what the promoted product is as a negative influence on sales? Ask someone who the guy is in the ads. They might not know his name, but they definitely know him as the "Old Spice Guy."

  • acarr

    Thanks for the response, Libby. Of course, I absolutely agree with you that the character has had an amazing impact on Old Spice's brand awareness--I didn't intend to imply otherwise.

    What's interesting to me is how such a successful and viral marketing campaign hasn't had the impact on sales that many (including the Most Interesting Man in the World) might have expected.

  • Ben Thoma

    I think it's not really a fair comparison in a couple ways:
    - Dos Equis has run a campaign for four years and they're going to compare that to something that has run 6 months?
    - The categories are rather different & probably don't have similar consumer behaviors.

    Just because the two campaigns have similar "spokespeople", doesn't make it a fair comparison.

    By the way, Old Spice does a nice job of "Geico"ing their work, whereas Mustafa is not the only subject in their ads. Recall the ads with armpits, the guys flying through the air with, the odor-blocker dude… and it really goes back to the Bruce Campbell spot.

    On top of that, they're claiming that Old Spice's growth can be attributed to coupons. You mean to say offering $2 off your product will boost sales in six months? Amazing! (Read: sarcasm)

    Show me awareness & consideration numbers and I'll be interested.

  • acarr

    Ben, I appreciate your comments. And I agree, the comparison isn't exactly apples to apples.

    But I don't feel it's apples to oranges either. Sure, Dos Equis has run a longer campaign than Old Spice's. Yet isn't that another sign of how successful the Most Interesting Man in the World ads have been? The beer company introduced him in 2006-2007, and he's increased Dos Equis sales ever since--even after several years, he's still helping boost sales by upwards of 26%. That's extremely impressive retention, especially in an industry that seems to pride itself on one-off or throw-away characters (see: Bud Light).

    It'll be really interesting to see how Old Spice does going forward. I mean, those commercials are freakin' hilarious--I can only hope sales increase so they'll keep shooting more!

  • m3kw

    I think you are looking too narrowly at sales figures at the moment to gauge success, the big picture is by creating brand awareness, future sales will increase and make customers switch brands to them slowly as the ad runs. Is just 6 months, don't expect home runs. Sure, the video is popular, I'd say people look at the video because it is on top of ppls lists as funny or cool, and a great watch, but it also slowly ingrains into ppl's heads the brand "Old Spice". Be patient.

  • Rick

    Waaay too early for such a comparison. I buy beer much more frequently than I buy body wash. Beer purchase lasts a weekend. Body wash a few months. Two brilliant things about this campaign that few are saying:

    1. Mustafah made me care about a product that I never even thought about before
    2. In many households, the wife/girlfriend is the one buying body care products for men. This campaign made THEM care about a men's product.

  • Isabella Vanderstarr

    Wow - I was surprised to read this: Sales of Red Zone body wash have actually declined 7%

    I thought it was a great marketing campaign, but yes, perhaps TOO distracting!

  • Mark Frisk

    I agree that it's too early to talk about the impact Old Spice's campaign has had in driving sales.

    But here's another angle:

    What kind of legs does the Old Spice campaign have? The near real-time social/viral videos are brilliant, but what do you do for an encore? Another round of live filming in response to social input? No doubt the sharp minds at W+K will come up with something, but I'm not sure this particular concept is sustainable over the longer term.

    The Most Interesting Man has a depth to him that I believe fosters a greater sense of emotional connection. Not to mention more fruitful terrain for an ongoing, engaging storyline.

    BTW, I also agree that Old Spice has a "bigger mountain of negativity" to surmount, but I would differ a bit in that Dos Equis has next to no negativity to overcome, at least in my mind.

    Before either of these campaigns were glimmers in a creative director's eye, I for one thought that Dos Equis was a quality, "cool" product. Old Spice? Not so much.

  • Peter Sharma III

    Trending will continue to show that the TWMIM has far greater staying power than Mr. Mustafa, if only because TWMIM is more about substance than style. TWMIM appeals to women and men alike, whereas Mr. Mustafa has offended women and men alike while generating plenty of YouTube giggles from the immature. Even in the ads, TWMIM is an eco-activist and a positive role model while Mustafa is just a piece of meat in a towel. May as well compare James Bond to Spencer Aimes...I do not think we'll see another Kutcher Spy anytime soon whereas Bond will likely continue ad infinitum.