If you ask the average dude on the street about Axe, chances are you'll hear an impression of the brand that reflects much of its marketing over the last decade that's cheekily reinforced the same message over and over. Whether that's one man being swarmed on a beach, Keifer Sutherland's long lost love, the fine art of spherical scrubbing, or being eaten alive, it all boils down to this: Smell good, get the girl. But now, the brand is getting a bit of a marketing makeover.
The new Axe "Find Your Magic" campaign, the first work from agency 72andSunny Amsterdam since it won the account last year, shifts away from chasing skirts to focus more on guys' own self-image. Axe senior marketing director Matthew McCarthy says that despite some discussion in cultural circles about the end of manhood, now is an exciting time for guys primarily because the rigidity of male archetypes is crumbling down in a lot of ways.
"Guys today, particularly young guys, are calling bullshit on those archetypes and saying they won’t be constricted or defined by what it meant to be a guy in past generations," says McCarthy. "What we’ve found is that it’s an incredible time of change for guys, one filled with a lot of opportunities."
McCarthy knows Axe isn't blameless for reinforcing some of these archetypes he mentions, or the stereotypical pressure on guys to "get the girl," but says now the focus is less on defining what a guy's goals should be and instead celebrating whatever his goals are.
"Perhaps in the past, the idea that a guy needs to project a certain outward appearance as being most important, the seismic change lies in the individuality of personal style as key to a guy feeling attractive," says McCarthy. "I think that attractiveness and confidence is still a lot of what this brand is all about, but now what makes this exciting is basically we’re relaunching the brand around this idea of individuality. That’s how we distill the idea and optimism of the brand, the freedom that guys now feel, and want to step into more than ever."
At the outset, 72andSunny executive creative director Carlo Cavallone says that discussions focused primarily on the idea of individuality, and the desire to start a new chapter for the brand.
"The most important thing was to get to an idea that reflected the brand best right now today, and something guys could relate to in a very direct way," says Cavallone. "Authenticity was a big thing, as well as inclusivity. It’s a snapshot of all the aspects of masculinity, individuality and attractiveness, and what that means today."
McCarthy says the message behind "Find Your Magic" is about guys finding what makes them unique. "We all have our own thing—a hobby, a style, a physical attribute, or personality trait—whatever helps us express ourselves and makes us unique," says McCarthy. "What we want to do is celebrate that, so the message going forward is about that, championing how they see their masculinity and how they define it. In the past, we’ve used humor, wit, and hyperbole, but going forward you’ll see we'll have a very personalized, optimistic tone."
Another key aspect of the campaign is that the brand is going well beyond its traditional ads and producing an "Instagroom" video series of grooming tips based on the most frequent questions and searches by guys sourced through Google analytics.
"We looked at analytics, and there’s been a massive increase of guys looking for grooming tips, and there are a lot of this type of content for women, but not for guys," says Cavallone. "The interest is there, so there was an opportunity for us to fill a need. It’s a tool, but it’s also an emotional tool, to convey and inspire confidence in their own individuality. Not long ago, male grooming advice was just 'shave yourself,' but now guys are looking for more."
McCarthy says guys have an interesting relationship with grooming products, in that they want the information, but don’t want to be spoken down to. "Some of the approaches we’ve seen can come across as pedantic and instructional," says McCarthy. "We gleaned a lot of that social search work to see how guys want to be talked to and it needs to be relevant, needs to feel cool, but it also needs to be fast. We’ve produced a whole bunch for the launch, and as the year goes on we’ll be doing more work on the fly based on how guys’ style is changing."