There are a lot of hot and stinky people in the world, which is why deo sprays were invented.
India is a little behind on the deo curve - soap and talcum powder have long been the accepted weapons against B.O. (although in crowded Mumbai locals there is often little evidence even of those). But thanks to efforts by brands like Axe, Rexona and Fa, deo is now on the must-have list of a far larger number of people. And young people for sure.
Of these, Axe has created the most interesting advertising by far. Most ads in the toothpaste-shampoo-soap category have a similar theme: Use my product and attract/ impress the girl/ boy of your dreams. Axe goes a bit further by implying that using the product will actually help you get laid.
The reason it works is that the brand does not take itself too seriously. The execution of the ads is therefore crucial. Invariably Axe ads are amusing, yet somewhat sophisticated. And they are risque without being cheap. To pull that off consistently, over a period of time, is quite a feat!
The Axe 'hero' started out as a stud but over time has become more and more of a geek. However, since he's a firang model he'll always be higher on the geek pecking order than his desi counterparts.
The latest series of ads however depicts a bozo who scores an accidental goal which knocks him out on the ground. And yes, a dozen girls come running and fall flat on him as well.
Now it was one thing when the Axe man stood up in a pub and made some silly dance moves which the girls thought was a fundu dance and copied. That was kind of cheeky and kind of smart. But showing the Axe boy as a complete loser? It's amusing but I don't know how far you can stretch this. Make him an even bigger loser next time?
That's dangerous territory.
Meanwhile, the tagline has changed from the "Axe effect" to "Come to Axeland". I'm sure extensive and expensive market research must have concluded it was time for the brand to change from being 'outer directed' to 'inner directed'.
Or, the brand manager just woke up in the middle of the night with this great new line and went "Eureka". Then he woke up his entire ad agency and asked them to get to work straight away.
Creative vs clever
But seriously, if I had to be a brand manager in giant FMCG company in my next life I'd pray to work on a product like Axe. It's one of the few which strives to be fresh and creative.
In the case of the new campaign, a lot of creativity has gone into the website - www.cometoaxeland.com. I particularly liked this image of the island!
Also check out the Axeland 'subway' inspired by the London Undeground. A Brit designer has definitely worked on this. There is some amusing trivia under 'tourist info' such as 'On National White T shirt Day in Axeland, it's rained for the past 25 years.' But I'm afraid not all the humour is what you'd call subtle. Oh, not that come to Axeland is subtle either but take for example...
'National Costume' - "tight tops and not much else"
'National Flag' - "On independence day, panties wave proudly in the air"
'National Bird' - "The booby"
No, I'm not offended and I doubt Ms Brinda Karat or Ms Khushboo would take up cudgels for cartoon characters with blue hair on a website being projected as sex objects. But, you never can tell. The makers of Axe could well get into trouble for 'corrupting India's youth'. Which means a million more of them would go out and buy the blessed deo.
However I think soon enough we'll be back to the "Axe effect". Axeland is a clever idea but doesn't have as much appeal or stretchability. I could be wrong but that's my humble little prediction.
Localising a Global Brand
Indian adaptation of the 'Axe effect' taking off on the Gokulashtmi festival
Of course, even as it constantly attempts to 'push the envelope' the people who design ads for Axe do respect local cultural sentiments. It will be a long while before we see ads like the ones currently aimed at college students on spring break in America. One of which offers "rules of engagement" on co-ed showering.
And it will also be a long while before Indian women get to see something like this. Adage.com reports that an ad for Alen's XtraPine cleanser features an 'online male-striptease video'.
The risque campaign stars a sexy young guy who turns up in an American housewife’s living room - and immediately volunteers to clean the house for her. The hunk strips off his shirt to use as a cleaning rag, and removes his pants when the fascinated housewife spills coffee on them.
In the TV version, the hunk keeps his pants on. In the Web version, he takes them off. This is apparently one of the popular 'viral' ads in America right now. Check their website www.cleaninghunk.com - it's actually pretty cool.
A hunk in the house would be fantasy enough. A hunk who cares about housework? Now that's a fantasy you can live only through advertising!