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Associated Press
Ex-football player Isaiah Mustafa became the focus of Old Spice advertisements in 2010.

A new audience for Old Spice

Products gain in popularity among women

“Helloooo, ladies!”

That’s the come-on intoned by the buff actor in Procter & Gamble Co.’s Old Spice commercials, imploring women to stock up on the men’s grooming products for their significant others. It turns out, though, that some are stocking up for themselves.

Young women are embracing Old Spice – long known as the brand dad kept in the medicine cabinet – even as P&G’s marketing continues to focus on their male peers. Sarah Olivieri, who started an “Old Spice for Women” Facebook page, said she came to the product for health reasons after searching for a deodorant that wasn’t an antiperspirant. Its relatively low price and newer scents also appeal to Old Spice’s fans.

“There’s a lot of women out there, who, for different reasons, like to use Old Spice,” said Olivieri, 33, who runs a media company in Rifton, N.Y.

The brand’s female inroads represent a small positive for P&G’s struggling beauty division, which accounts for about 23 percent of the Cincinnati-based company’s revenue. The unit’s sales declined 2 percent in the six months that ended Dec. 31 from the year-earlier period.

The whole industry is contending with sluggish growth over the next four years, underscoring the need to find new buyers for its wares. Sales of home-care products are forecast to rise just 2.4 percent a year until 2018, according to Euromonitor International.

Cultivating unintended audiences is a delicate process. While pushing a brand’s boundaries can fuel growth, the risk is alienating the existing market. The newfound customers also might not want to be courted directly, said Delia Passi, founder of Medelia, a firm in Hollywood, Fla., that advises corporations on selling to women.

While P&G declined to comment, the company isn’t discouraging its new audience. At one point, P&G posted a link to Olivieri’s site on its brand page.

Old Spice’s trip to the female market began after an image makeover. Long associated with middle-aged men, Old Spice began a new campaign in 2010 starring actor Isaiah Mustafa as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” The first spot, where Mustafa advises that “anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady,” has drawn 48 million YouTube views. The campaign also has ad pitches “Smellcome to Manhood” and “Old Spice Made a Man of My Son,” a commercial featuring moms spying on their kids during dates.

Emmi Casulli, 16, of Havertown, Pa., shrugs off the male-oriented marketing. She and her travel soccer team have adopted the brand’s Fiji deodorant, which has a softer scent than the classic version.

“It works better than females’ deodorant, and it smells like a woman’s deodorant,” Casulli said. “So no one can really tell the difference.”

Old Spice’s first product, introduced in 1937, was actually a fragrance for women.

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