Let’s Eat Peanut Butter

This morning, I was reading another article on Mashable when I saw this link to a story about the Old Spice marketing people making custom videos to answer fans. With a little help from the Twitterverse, people were tweeting and retweeting about getting the Old Spice guy to say a few words for libraries. Within two hours of my first tweet (and apparently while I was eating lunch), there came a reply with the video linked below.

For lack of a better phrase, there was a plethora of celebratory posts on Twitter.

It’s been fun to watch it bounce from account to account as people pass it along to their friends and followers. It’s been fun to observe how message move through the medium; how parts of a tweet will morph and change over time as the message moves further and further away from the originals. Structure, inclusion or exclusion of user names, and links will appear, move, or disappear from the body of the tweet. (Aside: this is a source of data that linguistic experts could study at the Library of Congress Twitter archive.) It’s really interesting to see how news of this nature evolves on a real time line.

I’ll be honest, I was grinning so hard that I had to take a moment to just let digest that there was a reply. It’s one of the strengths of the marketing campaign: providing a funny, timely response to various inquiries. Pete Bromberg sent me this link to how the Old Spice marketing team is doing all of these videos. It’s a ‘must read’ for those interested in this campaign since lays out how they find people to answer, shoot the spots, and then get them online under a very short timeline. It’s a lesson on hands off management and on the power of social media to get a group of people talking about your product.

I will say that I am finding some of the reactions to this video very odd. These are paraphrased from different sources.

  • “This won’t solve our funding/advocacy problems.”
  • “They don’t actually care about libraries, this is just part of their marketing campaign.”
  • “We are more than just books!”

I think people are reading far too much into the YouTube video. It’s a humorous spot about why libraries are great contributors to society. This was never intended to sway any politician, bureaucrat, or decision maker; but its lack of ambition does not make it without value. Enjoy it for its hilarious appeal.

The caring or lack of caring for libraries is beside the point: there is no such thing as bad publicity. Especially when, out of hundred of thousands of questions and statements looking for a video response, a wildly popular viral video marketing campaign has chosen to focus one video out of only a hundred or so shot in a day on libraries without touching on stereotypes, cheap humor, or other negatives. How exactly does this hurt the image of libraries or librarians? You have people who wouldn’t ordinarily think about the library moving from video to video and seeing what they said in response to different people. Simply put, there aren’t any tangible negatives.

In terms of the common lament for being framed as “just books”, I think that’s just a perception that is slowly dying. While the spot doesn’t mention the other offerings of libraries (e.g. internet access, audio and e-books, Hollywood and informational movies, to name a few), it portrays it as a place where ideas are exchanged through words. If anything, it’s a positive support for how the library encourages and cultivates the expression of ideas. For a thirty second spot, that’s not bad.

videohonorsAt any rate, the video managed to snag over eight thousand views and some YouTube honors. Not a bad thing at all, if I might say. It certainly got passed around library blogosphere, perhaps due to a posting on LISNews and making the front section of the Huffington Post Book Section (as pictured below).


I’ll be interested to see what the Old Spice guys will think of next. I think the biggest takeaway that this campaign embodies is that you can throw yourself out to your community and let them lead the way. Here, one advertiser said, “Hey, toss us a question and we may send you are reply.” Five million views in the course of the day later, they have a series of videos that people are talking about, sharing, and (more importantly) enjoying. There isn’t a rush or need created for people to run out and buy these products; it is the creation of goodwill and a memorable experience that will bring people back, even if the product doesn’t apply to them. No one in the library runs around yelling at people, “Are you going to borrow that or what?” or “You should be checking your email right here and right now.” It’s the creation of a friendly environment, helpful staff, the right tools and materials to meet immediate information needs, and the ability to gather resources and information for deeper or more focuses inquiries that bring people back. This is our advantage over bookstores and the internet; we aren’t interested in making someone buy anything and we can offer the human help that the web browser cannot. This is what differentiates us and creates a niche that the library institution uniquely fills.

I hope people take this video as a fun little tweak at libraries. Let’s embrace this portrayal and run with it, for it really is a humorous gift. I know for the next week or so I’ll be grinning when I say to my wife and friends.

“I’m handsome. You’re pretty. Let’s eat peanut butter. Stop throwing pigeons. Jump onto that giraffe.”

I’m grinning right now just typing it.


(As for the product itself, I have used Old Spice before these ads came out and I’ll use it again in the future. For me, the cologne reminds me of my grandfather; he used to wear it and it’s one of the strongest sensory memories of him that I have. I started to wear it after he passed away because it was comforting. My reasons for using Old Spice go a long way beyond social media, marketing people, and the viral videos that have been produced. I connect with the brand and the product at a deeper, more sentimental level. There is no ad campaign in the world that can replicate that. –Andy)

32 thoughts on “Let’s Eat Peanut Butter

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Let’s Eat Peanut Butter « Agnostic, Maybe -- Topsy.com

  2. It was certainly a lot of fun, and when anybody that is not a close, personal friend of yours acknowledges your presence on the Web it’s a big deal worth feeling celebratory over. My only concern is: who helped out who more? Did this marketing campaign help out libraries more, or did it help out the brand their trying to sell?

    Think about this: most people who are not deeply connected to libraries–those who are not staff, years-long patrons, trustees, advocates, etc.–will probably watch this video, chuckle, and then move on to the next video in the YouTube channel. After watching several videos, they’ve all but forgotten about the good things Isaiah Mustafa said about libraries (and I must say, he did say some good things, even if they were presented under layers upon layers of humor). They’re more focused on images of him cleaning sharks’ teeth and sitting astride a lion on a jewel-encrusted saddle, which fall in line with the theme of the ad campaign in general: this character as an alpha male promoting a product for alpha males.

    So, did Old Spice get people thinking about libraries, or was the library video merely their connection point to this character and, by extension, the brand?

    Of course, if librarians could find an equatable marketing campaign–their own character to make libraries appeal to the masses–good things would no doubt happen.

  3. Pingback: Old Spice, Libraries, and Marketing. « Hi Miss Julie!

  4. Oh, Jesus. We’ll find ways to crap on everything, won’t we? No, Mr Old Spice Man didn’t just save NJ libraries singlechestedly. But isn’t it still freaking awesome?

    On the whole I think our profession might crave attention and validation too much (see the three million ‘librarians in tv and movies!’ lists), but I think this is more than that. It’s not even necessarily positive PR for libraries so much as it is just plain fun. Though, someone does need to make a READ poster with him in a towel and the caption ‘Books: The non-pictures that convey anything to other minds.’ I’d buy the hell out of that.

  5. UGH! I can’t believe people found a way to be negative about this! Seriously?! I love my profession (LOVE) but please please please, can we collectively get a sense of humor…like now?

    Sidenote: Andy, you are a rockstar, sir! Thanks for continuing to bring libraries front and center in popular culture. That is priceless.

  6. “It portrays it as a place where ideas are exchanged through words.” YES!! Brilliant. Thank you for writing this!

    Going to eat some peanut butter and jump on that giraffe now.

  7. I think you hit the nail on the head here, Andy, with what’s important about the video and why we should be applying that same kind of marketing spirit to our work in libraries. I was a little surprised by some of the reactions on Twitter as well — I guess some people just got a bee in their bonnets about it. Even if you think this video does nothing FOR libraries, isn’t it at least amusing to hear this guy TALK about them? I’ve watched it about 25 times and it still makes me smile — and in these tough times, we librarians can always benefit from a good laugh.

  8. I’m so glad I read your blog post about this video. I’d watched the video and thought how creative it was (and my husband Sean like to work, when he can, on making creative library videos). Outside the fact that it deals with libraries and is funny, I think it gets to the heart of libraries and what they are all about in a new way that I haven’t seen anyone do yet. I think it stands alone as a great library video, even though it is “just” one of the Old Spice series.

    But I hadn’t read your post because I figured it just talked about you asking and getting the video. But somehow I followed misc links that led me here and I am glad they did. You had some interesting and insightful observations, especially on the permutations it takes as it moves around. A lot could be discovered just by following its path, as you said. Good stuff and food for thought, thanks!

    And the scent of original Old Spice reminds me more than anything else does, of my dad, who just died last fall. Sean won’t wear it (the original scent) because of that 🙂 But it is a very comforting smell to me and one I remember from childhood.


  9. Right: this has done far more for Old Spice than for libraries. I was faced with a shelf full of deodorants last Saturday, none of which I particularly wanted, and I got the Old Spice because I liked their most recent commercial. It turns out it’s actually the kind I like, and so that combined with this probably means I’m buying OS exclusively in the near future.

    But is that a bad thing? I mean, I’m going to buy SOME brand of deodorant (or at least my coworkers hope I will). I don’t care about the fragrance or any of that, and so it comes down to either random choices or a decision made on non-product criteria.

    The entire point of ‘social media marketing,’ however you want to describe it, is that you need to appear honest both about your liking of the product and your desire to interact with its users (I just applied for an Emerging Tech librarian at NCCC — can you tell?). So if we want to turn this into a discussion about what libraries will gain from this, it’s the interaction and humor. The end result was trying to get people to buy Old Spice, but it worked because it was done in a way that made that seem almost their secondary goal.

    Old Spice has Isaiah Mustafa. Sony has Kevin Butler. Allow me to humbly propose the fake mascot of the UB library school my friend came up with, Bookie the Book.

  10. Pingback: Librarified » Libraries as seen by non-librarians

  11. it was a great video — I tweeted it to my non-librarian colleagues and I’m sure they got a big kick out of it.

    re: old spice, the actual point of this, it’s great branding — their message is: “this isn’t your father/grandfather’s Old Spice.”My dad was an Old Spice guy, and this is definitely not aimed at him or his (greatest) generation.

    to me, it’s win-win, AND we got some great laughs out of it. what’s not to like?!

  12. Pingback: Marketing brilliance « Impromptu Librarian

  13. I got behind our twitter mobilization to get their attention because I thought it would be fun. I knew, given the quick turnaround times and the shying away from many topics, that he wasn’t going to suddenly be Old Spice Library Advocacy Man. Is the video response to you going to result in amazing PR for libraries? I doubt it. But as others have said, we can all learn from this type of marketing and try to make it work for libraries.

    And it turned out to be a lot of fun. Can’t ask for more than that.

    • InfoJennifer should get lots of props for pointing out that they were doing it again (eg. recording videos) yesterday. I wouldn’t have thought to tweet at them without her prompting.

  14. Andy,

    I think it’s great. And I love watching who gets linked first, etc. (Glad to see I’m not the only geek who keeps tabs on stuff like that.) You really are a mover and a shaker.

    And as for “saving us,” what did we learn in marketing (if we took it?) Keep your name/brand out there. And that is what this video did. It reminded people of two things: Old Spice and Libraries.

    And, sir, that’s not bad, that’s GOOD. Off to eat some peanut butter and find a giraffe.

    Suzi W.

    • I can imagine taking a regular reference question, turning it into a dramatic interpretation (with hints of overacting), and posting it as a video response to a person.

      Hmm. Someone should consider stealing this idea.

  15. While I did mention the no-just-books shortcoming, I also mentioned the lack of chest hair as a shortcoming… so I hope my comment was taken with a light heart.

    Crunchy, not creamy!

    • Fair enough. Some people did not include the lack of chest hair in their critique, so don’t lump yourself in there.

  16. I must be old-school. I use libraries almost solely for books and journal articles. I think there’s nothing more soothing than poring over the stacks and finding new things to read.

    It’s quiet, it’s calm, and best of all, you feel rich walking away with a giant stack of books for free. (Yes, I know taxes support libraries, but you pay the same whether you use the service or not, so it’s still kinda free.)

  17. Exactly! Great job on your part in getting the library “brand” noticed. And great commentary here. Yes, there are those in our profession (and just people in general) that will always find the gloom. Thanks for not being one of them!

  18. Pingback: Rasierwasser und Bibliotheken - Librarian in Residence – Goethe-Institut New York

  19. Pingback: 213 of 365 is a pentaptych about the spice guy’s #library tweet #Inkscape | 365 sketches

  20. Pingback: On Andy Woodworth and the Old Spice Guy discussing Libraries « Library Garden

  21. Thanks for asking the question and describing the experience. If my kids send me a library link I know it has to be reaching beyond our normal audience. The Old Spice Guy is hip and cool and by extension so are libraries. (Even if I have never had a chance to ride a giraffe)

  22. Pingback: Librarianship on Twitter | LibraryTechTalk

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