I can imagine that some of you are sighing ‘finally’ at the news that Axe’s famous branding has been dropped: for while it was perfect fare for the laddy 90s, The Axe Effect, and the notion that spraying yourself with deodorant will turn you into a babe magnet, feels both sexist and out of step with contemporary notions of masculinity.
It is the latter question that ad agency 72andSunny Amsterdam aims to tackle with the updated advertising and branding, which launches in the US next week and promotes a new range of grooming products for men. The packaging of the range, designed by PB Creative, reflects a better quality product than may have previously been associated with Axe, while the new ad campaign hopes to encourage men to be more confident and comfortable with who they are (via a little bit of enhancement from Axe, natch).
The new positioning came out of research conducted by the brand that found not only do women overwhelmingly find men more appealing when they are “being themselves” but also that only 15% of men in most countries would define themselves as attractive. In order to try and work on this figure, Axe’s new campaign – and tagline ‘Find Your Magic’ – wants to encourage young men to be confident in their individuality, whatever form it may come in.
“Masculinity has changed,” says Stephanie Feeney, director of strategy at 72andSunny Amsterdam. “In 2013, male searches on hair tips eclipsed female in volume. Men are curious about experimenting and trying different things and are spending more time in front of the mirror. It’s much more acceptable. You see it in football culture, and the way that footballers are expressing themselves through grooming on the pitch as well as through playing the game.
“Where we’re trying to move the brand is towards a celebration of individuality … whatever your thing is, as long as it’s true to you, then be confident in it, express it, and work it.”
It’s not quite empowerment advertising in the way that Like A Girl is for young women – 72andSunny and Axe recognise the importance of keeping the sense of humour that is associated with the brand – but the ads do reflect a broader vision of masculinity and show that a wide range of looks can be attractive.
The team hopes they will raise a conversation about attractiveness and masculinity and what it means to ‘be a man’ today, but without straying into earnestness. “There hasn’t been a revolution with masculinity in terms of saying ‘be who you are, show your emotion, be confident in yourself’, so how can we, on a social level, explore and celebrate that?,” says 72andSunny Amsterdam managing director Nic Owen. “But we’re still Axe, and we still want to have some fun. We’re still around attraction as well, it’s just actually you can be more attractive by not following a stereotype and attraction is beyond a spray-and-get-laid advertising conceit, it’s about building bigger relationships with women or men. It’s about being a more rounded individual with everyone you interact with.”
Alongside the main film, Axe has also released a series of ‘Instagroom’ video tutorials that answer real grooming questions that young men ask Google. Snappy and stylishly shot, the subjects range from concerns around baldness to how to style a mohawk, as well as guides on how to put on a tie and how to iron a shirt. A selection of these are shown below.
The new approach from Axe might not be as hilarious as The Axe Effect was in its heyday, but it is refreshing in its avoidance of laddy clichés, of both men and also women. And a more complex, emotional vision of youthful masculinity – delivered with a light touch – can only be a good thing. It will be interesting to see where Axe and 72andSunny take this new direction in the future.
Agency: 72andSunny Amsterdam
ECD: Carlo Cavallone, Stuart Harkness
Managing director: Nic Owen
Directors of strategy: Stephanie Feeney, Danny Feeney
Strategist: Paul Chauvin
Creative directors: Laura Visco, Emiliano Trierveiler
Head of design: Richard Harrington
Senior designer: Mario Guay
Lead writer (Instagroom films): Jorge Brandao
Lead designer (Instagroom films): Pauline Sall
Junior designer (Instagroom films): Jake Catterall
Production company (main ad): Division
Director: François Rousselet
Editor: Final Cut
Production company (Instagroom films): Pulse Films
Director: Matt Houghton
Post: Pulse Films, 72 Studio
Print production company: Rosco Production
Photographer: Brendan Freeman
Music: Supervision: Big Sync Music
Song: Diamond Hoo Ha Man by Supergrass