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Axe Takes a Cut at Marketing to Women
By: Rosann Fisher
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According to The New York Times, Unilever is releasing a new body spray called Axe Anarchy with hopes of targeting both male and female youths. The brand, which up until this point has strictly been the dousing fragrance of choice for 15–25-year-old males aspiring to “magnetize” the opposite sex, is now branching out after hearing requests from female fans to create a love potion of their own.

The goal of the new product launch is to level the playing field and allow females to partake in the sexual objectification game. The ads, scheduled to air nationally on January 29 and launched on Axe’s Facebook 1/9/12, are said to highlight the sexual tension and absolute chaos created when both parties use Axe body spray. But this begs the question of whether the same portrayal of somewhat controversial carnal attraction the Axe brand is so well known for will work for women.

With most American girls wearing makeup before they are even considered a ‘tween,’ the concept of a beauty regime is either very familiar or already a part of their daily lives. Using body spray is just a part of an otherwise lengthy process that may include shaving, plucking, straightening, and padding, among other things set forth by social pressures. Traditionally, the male-geared Axe ads have suggested the exact opposite — with just one spray, females will fawn over the user with no additional grooming work required. Add to that the fact that the male ad leads are typically significantly less attractive than their female counterparts, and Axe seems to be a fragrance fix-all. According to creative director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty in London, David Kolbusz, the new advertising conveys “equilibrium between the sexes” both in terms of appearance and attraction, with the female leads having just a slight edge in the looks department. However, the notion of sprint-worthy chemistry portrayed in the teaser ad on YouTube seems a little farfetched for even the most daydream-prone females.

Still, Unilever is being smart about their approach. Masked as a limited-edition fragrance, the success of the new body spray will determine if it has a permanent place in the Axe family, or if its existence is as short-lived as a teenage crush. And, they’ve made the campaign extremely engaging, with plans to have participants become a part of their graphic novel, which will evolve based on real-time, user-generated ideas. With 47% of the American female population using body spray, compared to only 17% of males, the Axe brand certainly has an opportunity to expand its user base. What do you think? Is Unilever on to something or have they completely missed the mark?

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About the Author
Rosann Fisher is an Integrated Marketing Manager. She enjoys running and doodling (when appropriate). Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter@rosann.
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