A joint submission by Ben Soja & Coby Savage
Only a few weeks into the New Year and there’s already a strange scent coming from the deodorant aisle at your local drugstore. That scent seems to be coming from both Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice and Unilever’s Axe, who have reignited their rivalry within the consistently growing male deodorant market. The two industry giants have been in a battle over market share for the better part of a decade and both companies have used their wealth of financial resources to launch comprehensive marketing campaigns in 2014. Historically, Old Spice and Axe have invested heavily in their marketing departments, resulting in ads that are strong, powerful, humorous and sometimes even controversial. Let’s dissect these two leading companies’ brand new marketing campaigns to determine who seems primed for success in 2014.
Axe – “Make Love. Not War.” Analysis
When I think of Axe body spray, I’m reminded of grade nine – the first time I doused my pubescent boy-chest with the product. ‘Why not?’ I thought, as it had become relatively popular among some of the other boys at school; we were all hoping we’d get the same attention from the opposite sex as shown in the commercials. Sadly, it did not have the same effect. Not a single girl climbed over her desk to get to me nor was there the slightest threat of being mauled by females between classes. Ultimately, I was left disappointed and reeking of a ‘sucker’. Foiled by another ad campaign, I shook my fist at the Ad World.
Over the years, Axe has taken their fair share of criticism due to the heavy sexual content in their ad campaigns. At times, they’ve been accused of objectifying and displaying a lack of respect towards women. I’ll admit that I found a few of their ads entertaining and sometimes humorous when I was younger, but when I grew up I became disinterested in the brand, due partly to the fact that their communications seemed childish and immature. Since then, Axe ad content has stayed relatively the same, and I’m an Old Spice man now.
It’s time for Axe to change their recipe – something more than the low-hanging fruit of attractive women all over male Axe users, or predictable sexual innuendos. If you’re still reading this, you’re probably wondering, “What you gettin’ at, Ben”. Well, I’ll tell you.
The most recent ad campaign by Axe is a step in the right direction and a step into adulthood for them. High production value, thoughtful message, and visually pleasing. It’s called ‘Make Love. Not War.’ a message everyone can get behind. I’ll spare you the summary as you can just as easily see the extended spot for yourself.
You probably wouldn’t have guessed it was Axe if I hadn’t told you, right? With a competitor such as Old Spice and their advertising success in the past few years, Axe had to step up their game. And that they have.
This is the first time the brand has been presented using a serious tone and the commercial focuses on the topic of war and oppressive regimes. Throughout the spot, there are scenes alluding to events from Vietnam, North Korea, the Middle East and more. Historically, the brand has positioned itself for young guys trying to impress women, but this ad shows that Axe is taking a more balanced approach when appealing to the sexes.
The ad is scheduled to launch officially at this year’s Super Bowl and is already getting some serious traction on social media. Not only that, Axe has aligned themselves with a charitable organization called “Peace One Day” and included them on several global marketing initiatives. A win for Axe for the publicity/traction they’ve created, a win for the charity organization for getting more exposure, and a win for the recipients from the charity efforts. Now all that needs to be determined is if it’s a sales win for Axe as well. Time will tell.
Either way, I’m glad Axe has changed it’s approach and I might start seeing them as more than a grade 9 boys purchasing mistake.
Old Spice – “Mom Song” Analysis
When I was entering my teen years, Old Spice was considered a deodorant that my grandfather would have used. It was certainly not a desirable scent for a 13-year-old boy hoping to convince girls that he was mature beyond his years. Much like Ben, I was more intrigued by the sex appeal that surrounded Axe, and would frequently shower myself in half a bottle of “Kilo” after gym class. Also like Ben, my newfound manly scent did not attract the opposite sex as had been advertised. In fact, my parents would frequently comment that I smelled toxic and that my presence was burning their nostrils.
After years of offending everyone around me by giving off an unbearably strong odour, I decided it was time for a change. Axe was old news and I wanted a scent that distinguished me from every other teenage boy who smelt like he had spent a weekend on Jersey Shore. I made a life-changing decision and switched to Old Spice, and have been a loyal consumer ever since.
Over the past four years, Old Spice has done a fantastic job engaging customers with their wildly successful “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign, which launched in 2010. Overnight, the brand turned from “your grandfather’s scent” to “how to smell like a man” with barely any change to the product. Welcome to advertising. However, all campaigns have a shelf life, and it was time for a new direction.
Old Spice definitely needed to generate some excitement around their brand, but is this the answer? In my opinion, Old Spice dropped the ball on this one. The commercial, which premiered during the NFL playoffs, is creepy, weird and doesn’t have the same charm that Isaiah Mustafa had when he was riding on a horse.
The video is full of special effects and imposes images of mothers in strange places during romantic encounters between their sons and young women. One of the mothers morphs from a high school janitor, another pops up out of the sand on the beach, and a third appears from under a sofa cushion, then slides along the floor and up onto a couch. To me, all of this crosses the boundary from funny and engaging to weird and creepy. Even the new slogan, “Smellcome to Manhood” seems like they’re trying to target those 13-year-old boys dousing themselves (and everyone around them) in a can of Old Spice and it just doesn’t resonate with the young adult demographic.
In my opinion, the ads Old Spice has released since the 2010 “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign have been increasingly loud, obnoxious and bizarre. Today, they’ve entered the territory of creepy and weird.
Maybe I’m being too hard on Old Spice because I expect so much from the brand. Or maybe this new direction just doesn’t appeal to an adult audience. Regardless, it seems like Old Spice has had it’s time on top and Axe is making its move to dominate the adult demographic more effectively.
The men’s deodorant industry appears primed for a shift in market dominance. Axe seems to have matured and is ready to solidify the position of industry leader, whereas Old Spice may have tried too hard to recreate the success of their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign. In an era where the young adult generation is increasingly concerned about the future and are more socially conscious than ever, it is our opinion that Axe has struck the right balance of promoting peace without trivializing the events referenced in the commercial, while simultaneously increasing perception of the brand.
In 2010, the New York Times reported that Axe had done a better job at enticing the youth market, owning 37% of the market share of spray deodorant vs. only 10% for Old Spice. Conversely, Old Spice doubled Axe’s share of the deodorant and body wash market. But four years later, has Axe done enough to influence the sales of their entire product line, and gain ground in the stick deodorant and body wash market? Will Old Spice’s polarizing new direction be enough to turn away loyal consumers? 2014 will certainly be an interesting year to follow these two brands.
What do you think? Has the Axe ad tastefully blended war with passion? Has Old Spice missed the mark with their new direction? We want to hear from you!