6/17/18

Rant: P&G Takes Shortcuts With Nonsensical 80th Anniversary Old Spice Products


A Sad Joke.

It's pretty galling to think that after eighty years of Old Spice's existence on the world market, the best Proctor & Gamble could do to celebrate its anniversary was a minor tweak of the labels for limited edition deodorants and body washes. On its website, they state:
"[The] 80th Anniversary scent smells like 80 years of crisp, clean awesomeness."
Yeah, ok. Great grammar. Apparently they couldn't even be bothered to check the copy editing on their own site. But more importantly, after eight decades of providing a legendary oriental masculine to millions of wet shavers everywhere, and about fifteen years after switching the cologne and aftershave bottles from Egyptian ceramic to plastic, my question is, that's it? No limited edition Egyptian ceramic commemorative "retro" bottle? No brief return to the classicism that made this scent an icon? Not even an attempt to advertise the anniversary beyond a quiet product list on the site? What the hell is going on over there?

I have a theory as to what happened, and it doesn't bode well for anyone under the age of 35. I'm looking at you, Millennials. It's clear you have invaded American industry. You were born in the late 1980s and 1990s, and you were raised on TV, computers, cell phones, and the Internet. You have a "Swipe Left" mentality about literally everything you encounter. You're soft, you're weak, you're pretty stupid (most of you couldn't find Brazil on a globe), but you grew up entitled. Your parents told you that you were wonderful, that you could do anything you wanted to, that you could change the world, because you are special.

And as you moved through the 2000s, your middle school and high school years, you gradually began permeating American culture. It started sometime after The Matrix, but before Avatar, roughly the time Obama was elected, that you took positions of power in the manufacturing sector, and suddenly everything really started going to shit. Pop music, movies, clothing styles, furniture styles, cars, and fragrances all started looking cheap and undesirable. The Millennial mindset - a short attention span, an unwillingness to read books and learn, a self-esteem fueled binge of crude postmodernist creativity - began rendering everything, even simple things like aftershave, as less than they were before.

I would wager that whoever is in charge of the budget for the North American Old Spice Classic division at P&G is under the age of 35, a Millennial, and I'd also bet that he or she is pretty stupid. This person was likely raised to believe that their decisions are always worthy of praise, and therefore thinks their short-sighted decision to take shortcuts in the eightieth anniversary packaging of Old Spice was no big deal. Why should Old Spice fans expect anything to celebrate over?

I'm here to tell you, whoever you are: you really screwed up. You disappointed millions of loyal consumers who yearn for a return to the glass bottle, even if only for a few short weeks, and you made guys like me, born on the furthest fringe of the 1970s, wonder how his contemporaries could be so dumb. Do you think life is an App? Do you think that it's a great idea to end relationships when they begin to get challenging, when they begin to demand more of you and your precious time? Do you think it's a good thing that almost every other movie that comes out these days is from Marvel Studios, the least edifying movie culture phenomenon in the history of film? Do you look forward to the next Taylor Swift song, because you think pop music is fun?

Congratulations, you're a stupid Millennial, and if you're working at P&G, you probably have no appreciation for vintage Old Spice packaging, or for the long history of traditional celebrations that Old Spice has enjoyed over the last eight decades. That anyone over the age of forty who works for P&G would think that just going on Photoshop and revamping a pre-existing deodorant label was enough is nearly impossible to swallow. More likely some simple-minded moron who graduated from college in 2013 told the design department to just cut a new look on existing plastic, and called it a day.

Of course, I could be wrong about this. Maybe the design department and bean counters are all grizzled old guys in their fifties and sixties who just don't want to be bothered. But that wouldn't make much sense, would it? Guys that age would have more interest in reviving their own memories of a wonderful bygone era, when Old Spice was still popular among young men. A time when quality was looked upon as a source of pride in the manufacturing and commercial sectors, and high-grade materials mattered. They'd be cringing at the reality of their favorite cologne being packaged in plastic, and waiting for the day when they could justifiably break free of that financial constriction, even if only for a few weeks, and offer celebratory revival bottles on the anniversary of the product.

To the execs at P&G in charge of Old Spice, whoever you are, read this: your cheap, crappy shortcut approach to your flagship men's fragrance is embarrassing and unacceptable. I know you think it doesn't matter, because reasons, because this apparently forgotten "legacy brand" is just there to make you members of the nouveau rich, and everyone around you thinks you're wonderful anyway. But you're not wonderful, and you're not helping your bottom line, because had you spent a few million dollars and issued glass bottles of cologne and aftershave, you would have seen an incredible return on your investment. As it stands, you're seeing nothing, because you haven't offered this fragrance's faithful users anything at all.

Wise up. The 90th anniversary better be conceptualized by someone with an attention span significantly greater than that of a fruit fly. If you think manufacturing grey stoppers for 1930s styled ceramic bottles is a bad idea, you're a disgrace to the brand, and if I could, I'd fire you immediately. Would someone please create a startup page for an acquisition of P&G? I don't care if it takes you fifteen years to raise the capital; it's worth it. An icon like Old Spice deserves so much better. This nonsense needs to end.



27 comments:

  1. This is one of the few fragrances which I wish jumped on that whole "extreme," "intense" or whatever bandwagon. Release it in glass or ceramic (I'd prefer an atomizer; I always hated the splash, but that's me), like some versions of Brut. Performance should be like Paul Sebastian, which I think smells kind of like Old Spice, except I like the latter more. Capitalize on people who like this scent and want it to perform like an old-school oriental.

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    1. Paul Sebastien is a very good scent, but Old Spice is definitely better. Probably the only oriental I've ever truly loved.

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  2. Being born in 1976 I can wholeheartedly agree with every single word this rant expresses! For people like myself this is simply unfathomable, not only is this sad but downright pathetic.
    I'm quiet certain also that it is indeed courtesy of the Millennial generation, a generation that equates anything made before their lifetime as nothing more than garbage. After-all they have the notion that they do and know everything better.
    The above example with Old Spice is only one of the many mismanagements and incompetencies I have encountered while having to deal with them.
    I can only suggest to brace oneself because evidently this will all eventually snowball into a major catastrophe.

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    1. It's coming, that's for sure. I'm looking forward to the 20s. They won't be roaring. Lotta wimpering gonna happen.

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    2. I wish millennials thought everything before their lifetime was garbage. If they did, there wouldn't be a bunch of "barbershops" giving 75 dollar haircuts by some dude with a beard, a sleeve, and the hairstyle of Phil from Rugrats or a Nazi. Or countless "mixology" bars, featuring a 30 year old with a waxed mustache, vest, bow tie, and a sleeve, causing average cocktail prices, or some bottles of whisk(e)y prices, to skyrocket.

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    3. LOL that is quite a description. It's true, there's been a perversion of the past, an ahistorical attempt to "appropriate" traditions for profit, precious little of which speaks for anyone with a true interest in bygone eras.

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    4. I believe the people you are referring to are "hipsters", they do however transcent generations. They are responsible for capitalizing on "nostalgia".
      They are however merely a minority, had the person responsible for the 80th anniversary of Old Spice been a hipster then we'd be having a full fledged Egyptian ceramic of the original Old Spice with all the possible bells and whistles. They would have been highly collectible, expensive and probably sold out before the average Joe could have laid his hands on one (remember the Nintendo reissues).
      And yes, second hand prices would have been insane...

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    5. Well, you could be right about that. I'm a little more skeptical. In my experience, today's hipsters are more interested in fostering ideals of the future, and tend to look with relative disinterest upon perks of the past. Ever watch Good Mythical Morning? It's hosted by two hipsters. Neither of them have any clue about the past, and in fact have a game show where they try to guess what decade certain outdated meals harken from - they often guess wrong. I also find they tend to be obsessed with contemporary technology, usually opting for more esoteric choices in smart phones, blu-tooth devices, and computers.

      Then again, there's always a contingency in all populations who are the exception to the rule, and among hipsters there are probably a small population of American history devotees. They would be optimally positioned to make a difference in certain markets, but why I'm not seeing their influence anywhere is beyond me.

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    6. I would add, just to sum up, that the "hipster effect" is something I would truly love to see in our culture. Beyond what I've already mentioned, I'm not seeing much of it at work, at least not right now.

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    7. Nowadays, it's just unclear where certain terminologies start and end. There seem to be more subcategories to categories and basically a lot of things are simply not clearly defined anymore (also people are allowed to create subcategories as they will). So you can have hipsters which are inclined to new gadgets and technologies or you have hipsters who are more inclined to stuff from the past (however and as you may have noticed, they lack the proper knowhow one would expect from someone whom specialize in that field of interest). It's style over very little substance. Therefor the term hipster has also grown to have a derogatory conotation (mainly on online "personalities"), they may have a strong following but the things they profess may not be in accordance to the self proclaimed title they give themselves. As such, "fake" is the new black.

      Nowadays a lot of people are complaining about a narcissist billionaire tv personality being POTUS but let me tell you now that, it's only a matter of time before one of those influencers or net personalities step into the oval office. Without wanting to sound like a prophet of doom but we have reached a point in time where we can wonder; how long before democratic vote will no longer be a viable means for elections?

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    8. It's true, definitions have become unnervingly vague. Really the primary issue in regards to "quality of life" is that people aren't really concerned with a generational yawn that is currently taking place. People between the ages of 23 and 32 are basically Millennials, although there are some who claim people aged 36 are also Millennials (I reject that). My definition doesn't help to un-muddy the waters, but realistically speaking, if you're old enough to remember watching original seasons of Duck Tales on Saturday morning television, you're not a friggin Millennial.

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  3. I dunno... I confess I'm wary of intergenerational rants because my own generation X (I was born in '71) was the target of not a few NY Times Op-eds. calling us 'junk' compared to our Boomer forebears... until we proved to be the journeymen of the dot-com boom, that is. Maybe give it some time. As someone who works with the younger generation (my background is in college and high school teaching), I will say that they have my sympathy for being the most massaged, manipulated and technologically mediated generation ever...Not a fate they chose as children, to be sure, and now it's all, 'too big to fail...'

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand: the cheapening of legacies. I agree that this is something that needs questioning. I think that Old Spice has faced some confusion in how to market itself. I mean, the irony is cute (that stuff about how if your grandpa hadn't worn it, you wouldn't have existed), but, teaching at a boarding school, I get a look at a lot of what the kids reach for in terms of grooming products, and I've yet to see a bottle of the classic Old Spice (yes to some of the variations, usually as deodorant, but not as aftershave nor as eau de cologne), so it can't be working all that well on the kids. My oldest son, 23, has worn the stuff because he IS interested in its heritage (some of his other favourites are vintage bottles of YSL Opium and Aramis), but he's certainly not buying it for the irony. I would expect that any young guy buying Old Spice now is not buying it for the irony, but because it reminds him of someone he cared about, or it reminds someone he cares about of someone they cared about.

    But I think the reason why you won't see a fancy anniversary bottle of Old Spice is because of its history as a democratic, drugstore, Joe-sixpack kind of fragrance. It has no serious upper-class-aspirational, 'new money' props to play out in the same way that status-conscious legacy reboots have so successfully done (examples: Burberry, Belstaff, Gucci, Saint Laurent, etc.) That Egyptian glass bottle you love so much is an anomaly because it speaks to everyday quality at the middle-class price point, not high-end exclusivity... And the vanishing of middle-class quality and stability is, in my opinion, the real reason for your wrath, alas, not something for which we can lay the blame on the younger generation.

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    1. I love the last paragraph. That's something I notice with all sorts of products. For instance, an inexpensive vintage pair of shoes from the 50's will likely have been made from decent leather, stitched soles with a welt, and be on par with today's J&M Aristocrafts, or maybe even not too far below Allen Edmonds. Goodyear welting was considered the cheap and economical construction. Now, shoemakers brag about having a goodyear welt (AE, Loding, Loake, Alden etc), and even some higher end shoemakers, like Ballys, use cemented construction. It's a shame.

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    2. John, you're more a diplomat than I.

      Your generation, Gen X, had its faults, true. And yes, it took a while for Boomers to recognize the wellspring of gifts your gen had to offer the world. But gifts you had, and offered. Did Gen Xers succumb to intellectual laziness in music, and stoop to cranking out generic Katy Perry garbage, a "different" identical tune appearing every other day? Did Gen Xers lose interest in plot, narrative, character development, and allow modern cinema to devolve into the high art of comic books? Did Gen Xers develop an overbearing sensitivity to "micro-aggressions" and proceed to turn our political landscape into a seething pillow of unending butt-hurt over a democratically elected Republican president? Do we constantly have to cater to every whining, coddled, perennially bored prat who, without offering alternatives, wants his or her way in virtually every endeavor? The crushing tide of privilege, incompetence, and culturally appropriated postmodern Neo-Marxism is witnessed in the ugly face of Millennials, and their milquetoast attitudes toward history and its many superior standards is only outmatched by a universal desire to focus with unyielding gusto on the many ills of society that have slowly been eroded away since the Civil War, things like slavery and injustices for women and the LGBTQ community, etc.

      I wouldn't even mind the Millennial malaise so much if the signs of its effect on culture weren't so clear. People nowadays have no attention spans, have little interest in considering the implications of their actions and/or inactions, and according to several surveys, aren't even interested in making simple meals like cereal and peanut butter and jelly. Some of my coworkers buy these pre-packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the frozen section of their grocery stores. Like, really? They can't be bothered to save themselves the money and just buy the constituent parts of a PB&J sandwich, and make it themselves? They can't be bothered to buy cereal, because they have to MAKE THE CEREAL???? As in pour the cereal in a bowl, and then pour in a little milk? This is the Millennial generation. This is why things suck so much.

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    3. Jer N, the idea that P&G doesn't want to make Old Spice bottles in glass for a commemorative edition, which John was addressing, goes beyond missing the forest for the trees. True, Old Spice is just the scent of the hoi polloi, and yeah, it was never anything materially "great." But that to me only leans into the argument that we should expect an occasional nod to the past, and not get too complacent with just more of the same. A simple two or three week offering of OS in its original ceramic bottle with grey stopper would have been perfectly adequate, with no fanfare. To just pretend that a slight redesign of the shampoo label was enough misses the point of what makes Old Spice so lovable. It's that very capacity for simplicity in form that makes a return to it so easy, and a failure to go there so agregious.

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  4. You should buy one share of Proctor & Gamble, then go to their shareholders meeting in Cincinnati, and read this.

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    1. Galen, I should. I definitely should. I may need to buy more than one share, but if I could afford to quality for the meeting, I would make it my next stop.

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  5. O Mr Ross......I don't know.
    I think if millennials were responsible for this Old Spice Anniversary screw-up they'd have made it pink with sparkles and a unicorn or a mermaid stuck on there somewhere. If hipsters did it they'd put sriracha sauce & bacon in it.
    To put it bluntly, I don't think OS suits millennial tastes. You'd have to put a hefty dose of ethyl maltol and make it smell like a Jolly Rancher or some fake fruity vanilla-fied kid's cereal.
    I can tell you that Indian millennials are just as incredibly lazy, willfully ignorant, painfully entitled, and embarrassingly naive as their American counterparts. Not only are they unwilling to read they won't listen either. (I am aware that youngsters are not the greatest listeners as I was one once myself.) BUT I can't even finish a sentence without being interrupted when trying to talk to one of these brats. Then I end up repeating myself 3-4 times because brat couldn't be bothered to listen the first time. They have the emotional maturity of a 2 yr old paired with the attention span of a gnat. They wish to be perpetually entertained, constantly mollycoddled, and won't believe anything unless they saw it on YouTube or whatever social media they are currently obsessed with. Expect toddler-like tantrums to ensue.

    I am a 50 yr old GenXer, a latchkey child who made my own PBJ's & yes I am cynical & disaffected. However, despite all the accusations of slacking, I have to say my midlife peers & myself are happy, active, & have achieved an optimal work-life balance. Most of us GenXers turned out to be quite entrepreneurial also.

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  6. Bibi, (sorry this isn't an official "reply" to your comment, for some reason the "reply" button isn't working at the moment)

    I've been watching Burt Reynolds movies this week. It occurred to me while watching that Reynolds used to be considered a B-list, borderline A-list movie star whose main claim to fame was Smoky and the Bandit. Back in his day, Reynolds was considered a sign of a dissolving culture, where stories and dialogue were reduced to car chases, misogynistic leering, and relatively simplistic, four word conversations.

    Fast forward to 2018. Suddenly, Burt Reynolds, and his movies, are looking like high art. The stories are actually engaging. The dialogue is clever, and where it's deficient, supplemented with more than competent movie acting (subtle facial expressions that are equivalent to a dozen words). Better yet, they're human. The special effects are old-school, and therefore satisfying. Explosions are real. Car crashes (and car speed), all real. Blanks are fired. Stunt doubles are used. In-camera effects are everywhere. And it's not even about those things. The stories in Reynolds movies are about the characters, around which all the fluff revolves. Economy of narrative was a thing in the '70s and '80s.

    Not so much anymore. If it isn't exploding, loaded with CGI effects, and so fast-paced that you don't even have a chance to figure out wtf you're watching, audiences tune out. We need more computer generated effects. We need more stone-faced, stilted acting from actors who haven't seen a single movie made before they were born. We need more colors, more noises, more 4K unnecessary clarity and tens of thousands of unnecessary close-up shots of people's faces, in lieu of scene structure and composition. We need more blah storylines about superheroes that are essentially identical to each other. Our culture is apparently too edifying. We need to dumb it down so the kids can watch something, too.

    Except nowadays the kids are in their 30s. I work with a 32 yr old who wears a ninja turtles backpack and Sega t-shirts. He loves to talk about toys and spends money he doesn't have on pinball machines that he can't afford, sometimes to the tune of $1500. Then, while crying about being broke (without any sense of irony or embarrassment), he proceeds to talk about how he must get a new car, and it must be a Lexus, because the Lexus his parents passed down to him years ago "spoiled him." And he then spends $16K on a 2008 Lexus with 35K miles on it and a very limited warranty. While crying about never having any money.

    These are the people I'm surrounded by. My generation (and those orbiting it) is completely hopeless.

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    1. Funny you should mention Burt Reynolds, Bryan. It was rumored that Alred Hitchcock went to the theater over thirty times to see "Smokey and the Bandit". When asked why he would see such a silly, audience picture that many times, Hitchock replied: "Becuse I spent half of the time laughing at the comedic genius of Jackie Gleason and the other half trying to figure out how they did all those car stunts and tricks." If Smokey were done today, Sir Alfred would have been sitting there stone-faced at a third rate "comedic" actor while being bombarded by never ending CGI.

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    2. Movies were rarely boring in those days. It wasn't until the late 1990s that in-camera effects and stunt effects began to peter out, to be replaced by CGI. It has gotten to the point where studios don't even bother with red corn syrup anymore; blood effects are done on a computer, and never look even remotely realistic.

      I fear the same lack of interest has been injected into the fragrance world. What would it take to briefly reissue Old Spice in its original ceramic bottle? A year of planning and a few million dollars, along with someone to actually crunch the numbers and figure out if it's worth it. If I felt they had done the last part and concluded it wasn't, I'd be fine with it. But I can't believe they even bothered. They took the CGI way out, literally, and left the tangible changes out.

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    3. Everything you've said is spot on. I'm 28 and I act like I'm 50. At the risk of sounding stupid, I don't identify as a Millennial.

      And P&G did dropped the ball. Big time. Especially with that 80th Anniversary deodorant. I thought "Oh, look. Another scent I won't be wearing from Old Spice." But they did release two new pump spray fragrances. "Flagship" and "Pinnacle." And they both kinda suck. They smell like cheap, crappy cologne. But "Pinnacle" is definitely the better of the two. "Flagship" smells like something a High school douchebag would wear. My generation will be responsible for the downfall of everything great. There's a "just download an app for it" attitude that will be the nail in out collective coffin.

      About that CGI garbage in movies.. hell yes. I saw one of The Expendables movies in theaters. Sly and Jason Statham are walking away from a helicopter and blow it up without flinching. Because it was completely computer generated. My jaw hit the floor. A CG explosion. In a Stallone movie. It breaks my heart. Charles Bronson is spinning in his grave. And yet... I'll watch a crappy low budget action movie that features on-location explosions. Makes ya think, doesn't it?

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    4. Millennials lack the depth to infuse subtle imagery into films. Millennial directors watch something like the original Jurassic Park (1993) and think, "Oh wow, look at the dinosaurs." They miss the metaphor for two female dinosaurs "finding a way" when Grant ties the seat belts together in the helicopter. That level of symbolism that was so easily conveyed twenty+ years ago is totally impossible these days.

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  7. Before you condemn the millennials, have you ever seen the Frank Zappa interview where he rips the new (for the times) record execs?

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    1. I have seen it actually, it's not that new (obviously), but the problem is, record execs now aren't even authoritarian. They used to be like Gods, quietly lurking in the sky to nix even the most sweated after projects at the last minute, or to grant eternal life to some random sonic experiment. Today they're sneakered kids with daddy's money who just "follow a formula."

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  8. Easily your best article todate. I feel exactly like you ...and I was born in 59.

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    1. Isn't it maddening? They take products that were cheap to begin with and cheapen them further, for no good reason.

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