While young men have gotten used to the wacky approach haircare brands use to woo the "bro"-therhood, Old Spice is trying a new tactic to win them over: an old-school barbershop. Leif Edgar, brand director for the Old Spice Hair Team, tells Marketing Daily why this experience-driven approach is important now, and what Procter & Gamble hopes to learn by doing hair in Columbus, Ohio.
Marketing Daily: You're opening the first barbershop next month, and the company is describing it as "Old Spice Hairtopia." What exactly will it do?
Leif Edgar: A lot is going on in there. One aspect is a celebrity barber residency program, with clients that include actors, athletes and musicians. It's also got a fully functioning content studio, which will produce real-time social and digital content, and make it shareable beyond Ohio.
And then we've got lots of fun Easter eggs. The front desk is an actual wooden boat chopped in half, for example. We're thinking of it as a learning lab [on] creating better products faster than ever before.
MD: Why now? And Why Columbus?
Edgar: We know young guys are more involved than ever in haircare. They have a high bar in terms of who they trust and who is a credible source.
To us, there is no more credible source than a barber. We've been thinking about this for more than three years, and we've done plenty of pop-up experiences.
And COVID-19 threw us for a loop. But we figured out how to open this safely. It's a way to plant our flag as the No. 1 brand in male haircare. Adding one-on-one experiences to see, feel, smell and interact with the brand is important.
We chose Columbus because we're targeting major urban college towns. And given Ohio State University's strong sports presence and the brand's long history with athletes, it made sense.
MD: Consumers are used to finding your brand in retailers. How will this change things?
Edgar: We involve [retailers]. We hope companies like Walmart, Target and Amazon can use this location, and the studio, to make contact that expands the single barbershop's reach. It allows us to produce content for them at a moment's notice. The retailers we work with seem pretty excited about this. This is the future of brand-building.
MD: Many brands have long marketed to hair professionals, but this is new for Old Spice. What's it like?
Edgar: Barbershop culture is its entire universe. And these guys are an incredible source of authority. We've used barbers as brand ambassadors. But this is different: providing services one-on-one, not selling necessarily, but advocating on behalf of the brand.
MD: Old Spice marketing, thanks to all those great Wieden+Kennedyads, has always struck me as wonderfully stupid. Will that continue?
Edgar: Well, we consider it smartly ridiculous. But yes, this won't feel like another hair-cutting place. People will feel almost like they entered an Old Spice museum or hall of fame. Murals, some that look like Renaissance paintings, show off the famous characters. We hope that's part of the draw.
MD: Do you see this expanding to other cities, either as a pop-up or something permanent?
Edgar: Columbus isn't temporary. We've signed a lease and are committed. And we're already scouting additional markets. So if and when we expand, we already have a few markets in mind. Again, college towns with a significant sports presence.
MD: How are you marketing it?
Edgar: We're using Old Spice as the mothership, but it is hyper-local. Our goal is to reach 80% of guys in the Columbus market in a COVID-friendly way, with stunts and interactions. We'll film some. And we'll tap into the OSU community. We want it to feel ingrained in the campus's fabric and not like some big corporate entity. We want students to want to hang out there.
MD: How will you know if this is successful?
Edgar: If we have 50,000 interactions with guys in year one. That will include services, events and digital. And we're paying close attention to the content we create there -- can we drive buzz beyond Columbus? We know that with COVID, it will be a slower start than we first planned. But we're already doing cuts for friends and family, and we’re very optimistic.