Axe, or Lynx as the Anglo-Saxons know it, is a brand that truly interests me, and not because it was born in France. As an international marketer and a marketing lecturer, I am often coming back to this case study to illustrate how a brand can own a territory, an idea, and yet always find a way to reinvent itself and to surprise its audience again and again.
Launched in 1983 in France, it is now available in 60 markets where it dominates the male hygiene aisle in supermarkets. The reason of its international success is indeed based on the Unilever brand's ability to innovate whilst remaining loyal to its vision and values. That is true for its product strategy, and that is true for its communication. The advertising campaigns created by London's agency BBH have been hailed around the world and captured quite a few awards along the way.
Consistency through diversity.
The foundation of this brand story is a universal consumer insight: a man who smells is repulsive. But instead of providing a functional answer, Axe has decided to have an emotional approach of the situation. And off they were to own the seduction idea.
At first, it was quite a literal approach of that idea, and let's face it nowhere near creative. The first ads were about the hunk who gets the weak, defenseless lady as she inadvertently smells the "Axed" torso of
the airline pilot after dropping her pen...
It was an immediate commercial success, but the product was adopted by the younger consumers who were finding in this deodorant an affordable substitute to too-expensive perfumes. However the image projected by the ad hero and the real consumer were disconnected, and the brand had to readjust its communication strategy whilst remaining true to its core values. So they kept on dealing with the seduction theme, but casted away the stereotypical hunk and Hollywood-like scenarios. Back to reality, to the random Joe, to the everyday life. Sounds boring?
Well, what followed was just pure brilliance. And an exercise of style on the theme seduction that has lasted for over two decades. Here is my personal selection of the best TV adverts:
- The victory of Random Joe over the hunk:
- Seduction is about poetry:
- Seduction is epic, spectacular and over the top:
- Seduction is a daily stunt that discards the side glances:
A divine creative exercise
Let's face it, it is not easy to be engaging and inspiring when talking about transpiration... But Axe has managed to. And here is its latest production:
For the people in the know, there is a nice little twist in this execution: the soundtrack. Not sure if it is intentional, but the music of this advert is a remix of French electro band Air's "Sexy Boy". A way to refer to the brand's origin?
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