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Grinding the Axe

by Themba Kriger / Images by Neil Kasselman / 09.12.2011

We live in an age where companies have become brands and their products are no longer just physical items but rather emotions, ideals and lifestyles. Coca Cola sells us happiness, Nike an active lifestyle and Axe sells sex to the 16 – 24 year old male demographic. The new AXE Excite, takes this one step further. In their view, sex with women is not enough for The Axe Man. The Axe Man wants to fuck angels! A smart marketing move on their part, because the subsequent controversy their ad caused was enough to boost their publicity, while alienating those outside the target market.

The fallen angel campaign, which was launched in March, centres itself around the idea that even the most innocent can’t withstand the appeal of the new Axe deodorant. To further promote the Axe brand, the marketing team came up with a game changing idea. “A sexy calendar with Axe Angels™? Nice one!” High fives all round. “What about distribution?” an intern probably asked as the echo from high fives faded. FHM obvs! and the high fives start up again. “Um, They have their own sexy calendar” the intern interjects, “Well GQ, then?”
“Brilliant!” shouts the head of marketing, “and we’ll throw an exclusive party to celebrate. We’ll make it so sexy, that the men will wish they were single and the women will feel inadequate!”

At least when it comes to digital marketing, the team seems to be on the ball. The advent of Web 2.0, it has become the most powerful weapon in the ad men’s arsenal. These days no brand is complete without presence in social media. With the wealth of personal information available on Facebook et al, reaching their target demographic has never been easier. They have long exploited the fact that the consumer is willing to trade personal information for exclusive brand access. Facebook just packages this information neatly for them. Run a competition, get free advertising, information on who buys your crap and the right to send them all the latest news about your brand. “Winning!”

At the launch the Axe team went next level by handing out wristbands containing RFID chips, which when swiped over readers located around The Venue, at Melrose Arch, would update your Facebook status as to your activities thanks to a weak form of Magik and an app which you connected to your account upon entry. Big Brother is watching you party. All those unlucky friends of yours who didn’t win tickets get to see how much fun you are having. Want your friends to see you straddling some half-naked nymphets? No problem, just grab an Angel™ or two and swipe at the mobile photo booth. You’re snapped, uploaded and tagged in a matter of seconds. “Wish you were here, next time spray on some Excite and all this will be yours!”

Axe Cloud 9 Party

Thanks to the liberal sprinkling of Angels™ the music was largely ignored. Liquid Deep were excellent as openers, although people only realised who they were listening to when they played “Fairytale” half way through their set. Flash Republic came and went without too much fuss, although it seems that their new tech rider has now been amended to include two floor standing fans for Tamara Dey. The DJs that followed, despite being heavy weights on the local house scene led by Oskido, played predictable and boring sets filled with tracks hardly worth mentioning as you have heard them all year long on 5FM. On the dance floor, between the Angels™, some okes are doing the Jozi Shuffle, which is basically the same as a normal shuffle, except badly executed in a uniform of square-toed shoes and stripey collared shirts.

The Man Cave, with its pole-dancers, Xbox 360 running Forza 4 on three screens and massages was a unique (and classy) touch, tales of which are sure to reach fill the night air in Greenside for days to come. The popularity of the Man Cave on the evening seems to suggest that your average Axe consumer doesn’t mind being called a caveman as long as he gets to see a bit of skin and play a video game. If the Angels™ were removed from the party, which thankfully they were not, it would have been a night at your average club, except with free booze. Luckily, the ratio of ogling, salivating men to angels was favourable. The press had a field day, getting in more shots than at the Royal Wedding, while the lucky winners did their best to keep up. With the machinery of the social media now doing the work for them, the marketing team heads to the bar for shots and more high fives.

Using sex to shift product to the average 16 – 24 year old male is nothing new, ad men have been doing this kind of oversimplified, unattainable and superficial sexual jiu-jitsu forever. It’s just getting easier and more effective thanks to the new tech and the ubiquity of social media. And that does not bode well for those of us who look to culture (of which big brands are now the biggest “patron”) to help create meaning in our lives.

Axe Cloud 9 Party

*All images © Neil Kasselman.

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