On July 13, 2010, the Internet marketing game changed. Some might say  that’s hyperbole, but Old Spice stepped up their game and created a brilliant melding of video, social media, and media relations. Most of us have seen and enjoyed the commercials where buff actor Isaiah Mustafa told us what our men could be like, if only they smelled like Old Spice (He can turn things into diamonds! He can bake you a cake in the kitchen he built with his own two hands!). It was a fun campaign, a great way to revamp the tired Old Spice brand, but nothing revolutionary.

Then came one small tweet from @oldspice : “Today could be just like the other 364 days you log into twitter. Or maybe the Old Spice man shows up.”

People were puzzled, but the meaning soon became clear. The actual Old Spice man did show up, answering actual tweets, Facebook messages, postings from bloggers–all in video form. The Old Spice production crew was spontaneously creating short videos (ranging from about 20 seconds to 1 minute in length) in realtime, all in the same irreverent, cocky style which characterized the original commercials.

Old Spice smartly targeted social media influencers like Digg, reddit,and Ellen Degeneres. They even sent roses to Alyssa Milano! But they didn’t focus their attention purely on the famous: people tweeted questions about their boyfriends, what college Old Spice man went to (Success University, with a minor in bazooka shooting), and every other thing under the sun. Not every video explicitly mentioned Old Spice, but they all served to support the new, young brand identity–and to seriously put Old Spice on the map.

While not every company can afford to do this, it’s still an important reminder to constantly up your game. It’s not enough to just be on social media, and to follow every “10 tips for social media awesomeness”  we see. It is  about challenging ideas, pushing boundaries, and doing the ridiculous. Old Spice man proves  it works.

I’m on a horse.