Topic 2.4: Spreadability

In order to get started thinking through this area, when reading, please consider:

  1. What made the Old Spice campaign so effective?  What risks were there to the Old Spice brand in embracing participatory culture in the hands of a marketing team?
  2. What does a ‘spreadable’ media actually mean? Does the vast array of options mean that ‘going viral’ is the only way to compete with ‘mainstream’ media, or does that distinction no longer make sense?
  3. Have you ever participated in a conversation about spreadable media? If so, how did you participate? (For example, have you ever forwarded a funny email or shared a link at an hilarious ad or other video?)

The Old Spice campaign was so effective for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it appealed to both genders for a variety of reasons – men wanted to be like Isaiah, Women just wanted him. His smooth talking and intimate gestures, while still being a touch deprecating also endeared him to both genders and this worked well with a product that is normally used by men, but purchased by women. Another reason for its appeal is the way it captured social media in a very ‘now’ moment. Ask a question and it will be answered. Just like winning the lottery, every person thought they were in with a chance of receiving a reply and also (no doubt incorrectly) assumed that people who were no importance would have as much standing and credence as someone who is a celebrity. It made the consumers feel they were all on a level playing field with celebrities. Because this type of advertising had not been done before, the marketing team were really stretching boundaries and exploring new horizons with social media. This ‘newness’ assisted in making it viral and is unlikely to ever be as effective again. This leads to further risks of not being able to outdo itself – Old Spice has set a benchmark for creative and engaging advertising… anything less now will only damage the brand.

I believe that viral marketing is often ‘created’ by marketing gurus, in that they actually purchase enough hits, enough twitter accounts etc to make something go viral. So I do believe there is very little difference between something ‘going viral’ and something ‘being made to go viral’. So spreadability is the ability for something to spread that engages the viewer. This could just as easily be mainstream media. Lost went viral. It was predominantly on mainstream media.

I have occasionally forwarded on a funny email but I tend to avoid spamming people via email. I’m far more comfortable spamming people on Twitter and Facebook where this type of spam is more readily accepted. I generally like to spam on topics or links that I find particularly engaging and interesting. It can be real, fake, relate to current affairs or be off topic entirely. I am also spammed by other people on Twitter and Facebook with links, thoughts, videos, photos etc. Perhaps the most annoying spam on my twitter was reading about how much the user’s child went to the toilet – I very nearly stopped following them after that. Ewwwwwww. NOT FUNNY.

Core Reading

Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (2010)

Study like a Scholar, Scholar (2010)

Sesame Street: Smell Like A Monster (2010)

Leaver, T. (2010a, July 14). Old Spice 2.0! Tama Leaver dot Net. Retrieved January 6, 2011, from

Leaver, T. (2010b, July 15). Old Spice 2.0 – Day 2. Tama Leaver dot Net. Retrieved January 6, 2011, from

Henry Jenkins, Xiaochang Li,  Ana Domb Krauskopf  & Joshua Green, If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead: Creating Value in a Spreadable Marketplace, Convergence Culture Consortium, 2009, PDF at (or it can be read in 8 parts, blogged, with more clips and examples, here: (1) Media Viruses and Memes; (2) Sticky and Spreadable — Two Paradigms; (3) The Gift Economy and Commodity Culture; (4) Thinking Through The Gift Economy; (5) Communities of Users; (6) Spreadable Content; (7) Aesthetic and Structural Strategies; and (8) The Value of Spreadable Media).

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