Hello, marketers. Look at your AC Nielsen data. Now back at me. Now back at your data. Now back to me.

Did I ever tell you that I spent much of my formative years neck-deep in AC Nielsen data, judging year-over-year, month-over-month, weekly, SKU-level and key account level sell through data? I did.

It wasn’t the sexy side of my very glamorous job, but it mattered a lot to the key accounts I was working with to list new SKU’s and de-list those of my competitors. We were category captains at just about every major retailer in the country back in those days.

This is why looking at the data – the sales data, the stuff that pays for all the other stuff – is so bloody important.

So marketers can breathe a small sigh of relief now that P&G and SymphonyIRI have released another nugget of evidence in our never ending “did it or didn’t it” Old Spice saga. This, from our friends at Brandchannel:

“But the 7% decline is taken out of context. The full data from SymphonyIRI reveal that the decline came over a 52-week period and that period ended June 13, a year worth of data before the Old Spice ads reached peak popularity and saturation with its recent social media response campaign. In actual fact, Old Spice sales are up. Nielsen reports that sales of the Old Spice Body Wash line climbed by 55% over the last three months. Sales of the brand’sproducts rocketed up 107% in the last month alone. So please, let’s stop with the “Old Spice Guy failed” pieces… for now.”

More data, courtesy of Ad Age:

“… the thing Old Spice, Gillette and Nivea have in common isn’t Mr. Mustafa, but rather multiple national drops of high-value coupons. They included buy-one, get-one-free offers from both P&G brands and up to $4 off a single bottle of Nivea Men from Beiersdorf, reflecting unprecedented levels of promotional intensity in the category.

Consider the four weeks ended June 13, possibly the best month ever for P&G body wash. Old Spice’s sales were up 106% from the prior-year period, jumping 4.8 share points in a category that grew 17.7%. But sales of Gillette body wash, also backed by buy-one-get-one-free coupons and by TV ads (but not Mr. Mustafa), were up a lot more, 277% and 3.9 share points, though it’s by far a smaller brand in the category.”

A few thoughts:

  1. Great news for fans of clever marketing everywhere. The brand – that was down 7% year over year – shows an upward trend over three months and a sharp trend up in the last month. I’m assuming these are versus previous periods. The piece doesn’t say what it’s compared to. How I wish these guys would take it a little more seriously. But my expectations are low.
  2. Brandweek’s contention that the 7% YOY decline “is taken out of context” isn’t a terribly lucid comment. The brand spent 6 months in-market with the campaign. I’d rather see exact time periods, but when this is the only data point you’ve got, and it’s down, it’s relevant.
  3. The data that we’ve been shown here is still terribly incomplete. I’d really like to see things like ACV (all commodity volume – the total volume in the class of trade that the product is in) changes, ACV% on ad, display or TPR, and other channel related factors that would heavily impact purchase. And we probably won’t. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see it, though.

And, based on what we just saw from the Ad Age data, I’d add another thought: you know how I’d hate to rain on good news, but massive trade couponing – and buy-one-get-one offers – seems to be what is driving the sales. This hurts especially when you see that other brands doing the same things are showing even bigger gains.

Look down. Back up. Where are we? We’re talking about managing your campaigns based on what they sold, not on metrics that have little to do with money changing hands. And scanner data trend lines, like the consumers who buy your soap, are notoriously fickle.

Here’s the thing about data. It moves week to week. You can compare it to the previous year, the previous three months or anything else. It depends on stock outs, new listings and a host of other things. It’s a moving target. And you have to move with it.

What’s in your hand? Back at me. It’s another breathless blog post talking about buzz. Buzz plus $3.85 will get you a large latte, no whip. But if you can sell stuff along with all that buzz, the whip magically appears in your hand – not your boss’s.

Here’s what I want to happen. The next time a brand goes stratospherically viral, the first data points I’d like to see are the sell-through numbers – not the fact that the buzz-meter is at 11.

Has Old Spice taught the media – and brands – to focus on this first?

It has.

Will the media – and the brands they cover – listen?

I hope so.

This would bring a lot of credibility back to the business.