Dakarai Turner

Cause & The AXE Effect: How the AXE Brand Achieved Success Through Understanding Their Audience

November 21, 2017

AXE – The brand that evokes feelings of both triumph and disgust, depending on who you ask. The male grooming brand is one that has solidified its place in boys change rooms and college dorms, and this wasn’t by fluke. Whether you agree with what the brand stands for or not, their ability to connect with their audience has been stellar since launching in North America in 2002.

So where does it start?

Understanding your target and your positioning is key. AXE sold the fantasy of women to young men. There was this belief that if you were using the product, it would translate into receiving more attention from females and being “the man”. I mean, all you had to do was walk by a middle/high-school male change room and you’d get a whiff of the excessive AXE smell. The Uniliver owned brand represents being bold, unique, and irresistible.

Let’s define their audience. Surprisingly, the biggest audience for AXE isn’t teenage men. It’s actually men between 20-25. College kids, in a nutshell that typically stay with the brand for an average of 5 years. Through research the brand was able to cater their messaging towards the needs and wants of the consumer. The AXE marketing team capitalized on an interesting insight in 2002 when the brand first entered the U.S: Guys and girls tend to hang out in different social groups. This prompted Axe to stage a viral video in 2002 that shows a cheerleader attacking a football player with the messaging at the end stating, “The AXE Effect”. The brand was born.

“The proposition of Axe is it helps guys be attractive to women,” said David Rubin in 2015, a VP of marketing at Unilever. What AXE did well is execute based on the insights they found. They broke down the average male into 6 target groups and went after the one they dubbed “The Insecure Novice”. This was a guy that tends to be involved in awkward situations and doesn’t really know what he’s doing. Targeting this group in their early days allowed the brand to be the #1 male antiperspirant/deodorant brand in America.

I mean who can forget such gems as the irresistible AXE Dark Temptation ad from 2008? What more do women love than chocolate and the smell of AXE on a man, am I right?

So did the brand just have a bunch of commercials with the same premise over the years? Not at all. The brand also leveraged digital, experiential, and promotional tactics.


AXE sponsors a club in the Hampton’s for an entire summer. Complete with AXE branding everywhere, and free body spray in the men’s washrooms. As lame as it sounds today, it attracted the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Fabolous, Drake, and many other celebrities.


AXE launches a mock infomercial, “Clean Your Balls”, starring Jamie Pressley.


AXE let’s Tunisian men change their Facebook relationship status to reflect a relationship with more than one woman.


So what does AXE advertising look like now? The brand has changed with the times and has shifted to a more progressive approach with their “Find Your Magic” campaign in 2016. It’s centred around finding the confidence within no matter how you look or what you do. It goes without saying that AXE has come a long way. The true AXE effect.



Dakarai is an ambitious professional with a passion for advertising and marketing, and is currently employed as an account coordinator for an ad agency in Toronto. When he’s not at the office, he’s most likely trying out a new restaurant, browsing AdWeek, or binge watching something on Netflix. Dakarai, but you can call him Dak. Follow him on TwitterInstagram, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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