I was in university when Axe body spray came out. I think they gave it away at some party. We kept it on a table and sprayed it to annoy each other. I always thought it smelled like ass. I just read an interesting article about their marketing strategy, which seems to be a bit more sophisticated than sex sells. It may, however, have oversold itself.
Even when it came out, Axe had a reputation for being used by douchebags. Apparently that was their target market.
Unilever accompanied roughly 100 males (identical studies were later carried out across other European countries, North America, and Latin America) ages 15 to 50 to the pubs until three or four in the morning and (soberly, while secretly taking copious notes) watched them in action. After poring over their pages and pages of notes, via a process known in the industry as “segmentation,” the Unilever team isolated six psychological pro?les of the male animal — and the potential Axe user: the Predator, the Natural Talent, the Marriage-Material Guy, Always the Friend, the Insecure Novice, and the Enthusiastic Novice.
Ultimately, they decided the most obvious choice would be the Insecure Novice, followed by the Enthusiastic Novice. (Can a Commercial Be Too Sexy For Its Own Good? Ask Axe)
The title of this great article by Martin Lindstrom, however, refers to the fact that this strategy may have backfired, in the US at least.
Geeks and dorks everywhere were now buying Axe by the caseload, and it was hurting the brand’s image. Eventually (in the United States, at least), to most high-school and college-age males, Axe had essentially become the brand for pathetic losers and, not surprisingly, sales took a huge hit.
The only thing he may have missed in his analysis is that there are still tons of smelly boys left in India, for example, and Axe seems to be selling there. I haven’t been to India in a while, I’m going by Star World. It’s full of ads for Axe, and competitors like Wildstone, Zatak, etc, all selling essentially the same thing. Smell better, attract multiple women for stringless sex.
According to a 2010 Business Standard article the deo market went from scratch in 1999 to 500 crore (5,000,000,000?) in 2009, growing at 40% per year. Men’s deodorant penetration is like 2-3%, as you can generally tell. So, while the Axe Effect may be wearing off in the west, it still has room to grow in the east.