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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.

Weekly Recap

Weekly Recap (March 31 – April 7): Pepsi Edition

April 7, 2017

This is it. A number of you had messaged us about what we were going to say about the infamous Pepsi ad that came out this week-and now we’re here to talk. Because this spot sparked some of the biggest discussions in advertising, we decided to dedicate this weekly recap to talk solely about Pepsi’s extremely controversial advertisement that the brand has now officially pulled. Here are our thoughts. If you have yet to see the actual video, have a look first.


M: Is this the worst advertisement ever? I’m just going to dive right into this. It’s hard to pin point where this went wrong. Was it when they chose to trivialize actual social issues? Was it when they chose Kendall Jenner to be the hero? Was it when they decided that Pepsi heals all wounds? I don’t know, but these factors combined definitely make this one of the worst advertisements I’ve ever seen. As someone who works in advertising, I know that coming up with a creative concept to sell through usually takes multiple versions, with revisions, etc. An initial idea or concept rarely ever gets client approval right on the spot. So it makes me wonder what the process of approval was for this spot?

Me watching the spot

I find it incredibly hard to believe (especially considering the immense amount of backlash) that not one person on that marketing board had stood up and said “hey guys, don’t you see how this could go very, very…very bad?”.  With a company as big as Pepsi, and the logistics behind all of it, how did no one see that this was a horrible idea from the start? Pepsi will ultimately have to regroup on their advertising and marketing processes after this. It truly starts within.

D: Ladies and gentleman, this..this is why you have advertising agencies. This spot was created by PepsiCo’s internal team, and not to say this is the reason it failed, but this shouldn’t go unnoticed. Brands as big as Pepsi need that outside voice that is able to say “No” in a meeting. My guess? There were a few junior members of the PepsiCo team that knew this was not the proper way to “reach millennials”, but didn’t have a say in the matter. Pepsi is a brand that has done a great job in the past connecting to the culture by using figures such as Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, and Beyonce. However, to quote the brand itself, they “missed the mark” with this one.

If I’m being honest, moments like these excite me. Crisis management is such an important skill and also opportunity for a brand. Not to say you should aim for a crisis, but this is truly going to test the strength of Pepsi as a brand. I wouldn’t put it past Coca-Cola to capitalize on this soon either. Now the one thing Pepsi did well is unite the Internet. Check out a couple of our favourite tweets below:


That is our recap of the week! We believe it was important to talk about Pepsi from an advertising perspective. This was an ad that truly upset a huge amount of people and that cannot go unnoticed. It will be interesting to watch if people still care in a couple of weeks. By then, who knows what mistake a brand will make next. As always, be sure to follow The MAD Mix on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.