Thursday, July 19, 2007

Axe : The Axe Effect

Brand : Axe
Company : HUL
Agency: Lowe Lintas

Brand Count : 252

I was delaying writing about this brand for the reason that I doubted whether I will be able to do justice to my favorite brand. An Icon for sure Axe is a success story that is so difficult to emulate. One can only marvel and enjoy.
Axe has got every thing perfect for its success, It got its segments correct, the targeting was exemplary and Positioning : something to drool for. And more over Luck was on its side.

Axe was born in France in the Year 1983. 24 years later, this brand is Unilever's Best selling brand worldwide. It has an iconic status in whichever market it has entered. It is also one of the rare brands which can boast of replicating its entire marketing mix across geographical boundaries. The campaigns that you see in India is what the entire world is watching. For those who propound Glocalisation , AXE is an exception.
Axe deo was launched in India during 1999. The brand launch was very quiet and theoretically the brand was having the strategy of Slow Skimming i.e High Price Low Promotion. Axe at that time was the leading men's deo brand in Europe and was popular in India in the Grey market ( available in duty paid shops) .HLL may have launched this brand inspired by the volume of Axe sold in the Grey market. At that time, the deo market was a nascent one with an estimated market size of Rs 72 crore. HLL had the brands Denim and Rexona and was ruling the market. Axe was priced at a premium above the Denim brand which was positioned as a male deo brand.
Axe initially was launched in the fragrance Java, Alaska and Atlantic. HLL did not bother to fine tune its Promotional mix to Indian market but just imported the promotions .... meaning, the company just ran the ads which was popular in the Europe and other markets. At that time , the product was also imported from Europe. And IT CLICKED.... rest as they say is History...
Axe in 2002 was having a market share of over 35% and soon HLL phased out Denim brand to concentrate on this Star.

Axe is the naughtiest brand in the Indian market. The brand is targeted at male aged 16-25 . Internationally this brand targets male aged 15-25. I personally feel that it targets all 'Young at heart" naughty guys. The brand has its brand values of Cool, Fashionable and Stylish. And world over, the brand sticks to its core values. The biggest strength of this brand is the underlying message or the DNA which is that the brand users are High on Confidence and always for the Axe users, Girls Makes The First Move. I think the biggest competitive advantage of this brand is its complete monopoly over this brand proposition. All its campaigns revolve round this central theme of Seduction where Girl makes the first move.
I think it has lot of subliminal implications. The brand assumes that Men wants( Likes) to be Seduced . That feeling ( of being seduced) gives a big boost of self confidence to a man. Although many brands take this proposition, Axe just made it perfect.

I have seen lot of ads where girls are seen drooling over Hunks in Motorcycle or in Readymades, or even in Innerwears, but in most of the Axe ads, there are no Hunks, only very ordinary or even skinny kind of people getting assaulted by beautiful girls. That makes the brand more approachable. Had Axe used a Hunk, the promotions couldn't have been so effective. The brand managers were so wise that when they used a celebrity like Ben Affleck, They ensured that the brand is made approachable
See the TVC here : My Favorite Axe ad
Having said that, The males seen in Axe commercials are not Losers: the ads are careful to show them as confident ( in one way or other) or a better term will be self assured. That is ultimate execution.
The power of this Big Idea has ensured that Indian consumers lap up the foreign commercials without any hitch. I don't remember any India centric ad for Axe especially in Television. And Indian consumers are not complaining either.

Along with these , the brand also ensured that customers are constantly engaged with new fragrances and campaigns. In 2005, Axe had a high profile launch of its new fragrance CLICK and before that there was Axe Land campaign and followed by Axe-Academy then Axe Voodoo and the latest one Phenomenon. I have tried most of the fragrances and not all of them are good, but I try it because I like the brand. That is the power of brand.
Axe is one of the rare brands that has embraced new media to the maximum extent. The brand has started its Internet based marketing initiative in India with Axe Land which involved a virtual trip to the Axe world. Globally also this brand has lot of online initiatives which are almost always naughty.In UK the Axe is marketed as LYNX.Checkout the cool web initiatives of this brand :
Axe- feather
Axe Effect
Axe Phenomenon
and also a blog called Evan and Gareth

Not only the brand uses TVC's to its advantage, the print ads of Axe won several accolades in various ad events. The creatives run amok with the kind of flexibility that they get from the positioning.Besides Print, the brand also uses outdoors to its maximum impact. Axe is a classic example of 360 degree branding effort. Now Axe has a common message in over 70 countries where Unilever sells this brand. Iconic in a real sense.

One of the reports term the marketing strategy of Axe as " Adventurous Marketing" .That is true because its risky because the brand deals with Girls & Seduction. Not always every one may like the theme or the campaigns. In India especially there are self styled Cultural Policemen/Women who cries foul for anything and everything. It is really surprising that so far, Axe has escaped their AXE. That also shows that the ad agency is also careful about the concepts put across the Indian media.
While in a more liberal markets, Axe tests new levels of " Adventures" , here the brand plays really safe. It also ensures the campaigns run in Indian media is accepted because most often its the entire family who watches the TV.
I know I just have touched the tip of Marketing Iceberg called Axe.

For the axe fans, check out a blog dedicated to Axe at
Axeads