Axe | Lynx: Brand Profile

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Axe is the name for Unilever's hugely successful male toiletries brand, now marketed in more than 60 countries worldwide. It has established itself as one of the company's most high-profile brands, initially with eye-catching and prolific marketing which offered an often absurdly exaggerated view of the product's effect on women. It has also steadily expanded its range from the original deodorant spray into body wash and most recently haircare products. In just three markets - the UK, Ireland and Australia - Axe is still known under the alternative name Lynx. It is the world's best-selling male grooming product, and the #2 deodorant worldwide behind Unilever's lead brand in that sector, Rexona/Degree/Sure. Its main rivals, especially in North America, are P&G's Old Spice and Gillette toiletries.

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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd May 2017: Ads of the Week: "Is It OK for Guys...?" The latest campaign from 72andSunny Amsterdam for Unilever's Axe/Lynx digs even deeper into the self-esteem concept already mined so effectively by Unilever stablemate Dove. The agency's debut campaign for Axe acknowledged for the first time that the product isn't just for straight guys; it goes even further here. The basic message is of course, "be anything you want, just be yourself". That's highly commendable. Better still would be if the the ad didn't just ask "Is it ok...?" but also answered "Yes it is..."

Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Jan 2016: Ads of the Week: "Find Your Magic". The first big campaign for Unilever's Axe brand from 72andSunny Amsterdam takes the brand in a new direction, ditching the babe-magnet sexy stuff, and offering instead - well, perhaps a male equivalent to Dove's woman-empowering approach. (But without the vague aura of sadness that somehow always hangs over those campaigns). Guys, says this ad, just be yourself, make the most of what you're born with, but give it a final polish with a squirt of Axe. Oh yeah, and you don't have to be straight to use Axe either. That's definitely a new angle.

Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Sep 2013: Ads of the Week: "La Donna e Mobile" by Ponce Buenos Aires. Argentinean boutique Ponce Buenos Aires has created some of the most memorable ads for Unilever's global Axe franchise and this is another classic, to launch new release Random. Using that name as a cue, Ponce has crafted a fine spot that celebrates the changing nature of woman and her many moods, with an adaptation of La Donna e Mobile, the celebrated aria from Verdi's opera Rigoletto. "Woman is unpredictable, like a feather in the wind, changing her mind and her moods. Always lovable, her beautiful face, whether crying or laughing, is misleading..." Sorry ladies, it's truer than you might like to think. And it's why we love you!

Adbrands Weekly Update 13th Dec 2012: Ads of the Week: "Beauty" by Ponce Buenos Aires. The new Axe deodorant ad from Argentinean creative hothouse Ponce Buenos Aires is extraordinary. Visually startling but also deeply disturbing, and just a little bit subversive. Guys, you might get nightmares after this!

Adbrands Weekly Update 19th Jul 2012: Ads of the Week "Susan Glenn" by BBH New York. BBH New York adopts a more sophisticated, even poetic approach in the new campaign for Axe. The Unilever-owned grooming range would have allowed even the otherwise fearless Jack Bauer to summon up the courage to talk to college goddess Susan Glenn.


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Background

Free for all users: Unilever's first venture into the men's toiletries market came in the mid-1960s when its South African subsidiary launched one of the first ever deodorants for men as an extension to soap brand Shield. In 1970, Bristol Myers-Squibb introduced the first perfumed deodorant spray in Scandinavia as an extension to its Mum brand. This piqued the interest of Unilever's development team in South Africa, who quickly developed their own version and launched it locally as Impulse, a perfumed deodorant body spray for women. Although the concept was quite unfamiliar to consumers, it caught on fast and was gradually rolled out with great success in other markets.

Meanwhile, Unilever had also begun experimenting in the men's market, launching a mass-market fragrance brand in the UK under the name Denim ("For the man who doesn't have to try too hard," claimed the marketing) to counter the success of Brut by Faberge (subsequently acquired by Unilever). In France, Unilever even launched a cheap disposable razor under the Denim name. Later, Unilever's French subsidiary began adapting the Impulse body spray concept for the men's market and eventually launched it in 1983 under the name Axe.

The product was launched in the UK and Germany in 1985. The Axe name was considered too aggressive for English-speaking markets (and in fact had been trademarked by another company). Instead the company selected the name Lynx for the UK and later Australia, while South Africa launched the product as Ego. In other European markets it was launched as Axe. Modestly successful to begin with, the brand's growth had tailed off by the mid-1990s, despite a series of extensions into aftershave (1989) and roll-on deodorant (1991). In 1996 a new marketing campaign re-established the product, especially in the UK, as an icon for the revitalised young men's market. The brand was extended still further in 2000 with a range of body sprays, shower gels, shaving gels and razors. Unilever experimented even more ambitiously with a small chain of Lynx barber shops, but this idea was later abandoned. In 2002, the group rebranded its South African deodorant Ego as Axe, leaving the UK and Australia as the only territories not to conform to the global brand umbrella.

In 2007, Unilever launched an elaborate hoax to promote the Axe brand in India, with the help of the local arm of MTV. For several weeks in Autumn 2007, MTV India featured the music video for what was purportedly a new Bollywood singer, Silky Kumar, and his record Scent of Desire. MTV named Kumar as its artist of the month, despite the fact that the singer was obviously seriously lacking in both talent and looks. Nevertheless, his video showed him surrounded by flocks of beautiful girls while he performed an excruciatingly inept dance routine. Indian viewers and media commentators were mystified by the hype surrounding the previously unknown Kumar, until the airing of a fake documentary which claimed to reveal his secret - which was that he had supposedly stolen the secret formula for the new Axe fragrance and was using it to transform himself from a regular nerd into a Bollywood star.

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