| January 09, 2009
Axe (or Lynx as it is known in the U.K.) is a leading deodorant brand in many countries around the world. The well-known "Axe Effect" portrayed in the brand's advertising, which causes women to go to extremes to get close to men who have sprayed themselves with Axe, has helped establish the brand's appeal, particularly with younger males. But this week we have learned the shocking truth. What had seemed like traditional advertising hyperbole may actually have some basis in fact.
In the unlikely event that you have not been exposed to any of the Axe TV advertising, here's a classic example that has been used in many countries.
This week Advertising Age
reports the results of research conducted in the U.K. by Craig Rober
ts, a University of Liverpool professor who focuses on the role of scent in mate choice among humans and mice. Professor Roberts found that men who used Axe were seen as more attractive by females than men who used a "placebo" deodorant with no fragrance.
While this overall finding sounds pretty amazing – and might have one wondering what pheromones Unilever was adding to the product – the real reason for the difference is even more intriguing. Apparently the men who used Axe simply projected higher self-esteem than those who did not.
For those who do not have access to AdAge, Jack Neff's article summarizes the research and results as follows:
About 17 men were given an unmarked can of Lynx fragranced spray deodorant, and a further 17 got an unmarked can of spray deodorant with no fragrance. All the men were asked not to bathe for 48 hours, after which they each made a 15-second video describing themselves. Women were asked to watch the videos and rate the men's attractiveness.
"The research indicates a statistically significant proportion of the women did find Lynx-wearing men more attractive than their non-deodorized peers... The fragranced men got an average rating of 4.2 on a 7-point scale, 0.4 points higher than the 3.8 recorded for the wearers of placebo deodorant."
"In an effort to control for the innate attractiveness of the men, the women also rated photos taken of the men. The fragranced men's attractiveness rating was 27% higher in the videos taken after they used the deodorant than in their photos."
"Men also graded their self-confidence before and after the 48-hour trial. Those in the unfragranced group showed a slight and gradual decrease in their self esteem, according to Unilever, while those in the fragranced group had a slight boost in their confidence."
Of course, the confidence effect is not limited to young men or deodorant. The multi-billion dollar fragrance industry would not exist if both men and women did not feel in some way more attractive as a result of splashing perfume on themselves. The luxury sports car market would be much less valuable if people did not feel that driving a fancy car made them more impressive. The Axe research simply confirms that brands are a key means through which many people project personality, identity and status.
One thing is for sure. The Axe effect has helped the brand appeal to young men around the world irrespective of country and culture. By tapping into youth's preoccupation with "The Mating Game" through engaging advertising, the brand has become one of the few that have succeeded at forging bonds with consumers that transcend countries and cultures. Among thousands of brands, Axe ranked number 16 on the Global Power Score ranking created for The Global Brand, achieving a strong relationship with consumers in nearly 90 percent of the countries in which it was measured.
One note for all you guys now thinking of trying Axe. The research also found that: "Women rated the fragranced men as more attractive when the sound on the videos was off, but had no statistically significant preference when the sound was on." In other words, the confidence boost was actually so weak that it was confounded by how well the guys described themselves. So an alternative conclusion from this research might be that if you are not silver-tongued it is better to act the strong, silent type.
Come to think of it, even if you are the silver-tongued type, maybe you should think carefully before you open your mouth. Women may be looking for something other than what you think. Apparently Axe's research into male fantasies, as reported at the ESOMAR Annual Congress in September 2006, finds that while men and women share the ultimate goal of passing on their genes to the next generation, they look for very different things in prospective partners. Generally men look for youth (signifies fertility) and good looks (signifies health), and are also open to variety (in order to maximize the chances of reproduction). (These values are surprisingly well represented in the "Billions" commercial embedded above.) Generally women look for resource (demonstrates a capacity to invest), status (capacity to manipulate), and health (a cue to longevity). So maybe the safest strategy is spray on some Axe deodorant and then act the strong, wealthy and silent type.
Over to you. What do you think about the Axe research findings? How come academia gets away with using such small base sizes? Do you think that the stereotypical view of what men and women look for in a partner is accurate or not?