Monday, November 29, 2010

Boring, babes, and a boy on a horse.

(Thanks to Demetrios for leading me to this discussion.)

Hello ladies. Look at the Old Spice data. Now look at Axe data. Now look at Old Spice data. We don't have privileged access to all the data, but the info below gives us a snapshot of what is going on in the male deodorant/body wash category.

I'm going to make a pretty reasonable assumption: for most men, the male deodorant /body wash category is pretty mundane and the the use of it is very functional. It is the "Give me something so that I don't stink after a workout" kind of mentality. In order to make purchasing more interesting, however, Unilever's Axe launched a more emotive campaign. It came up with tongue-in-cheek and sexually-overt (many would argue trashy) claims to draw young males to its brand. The Axe value proposition is simple. Axe helps you get girls- and lots of them.

Of course when Unilever chizzled out a large niche with its branding, P&G had to get a bigger piece of the action. P&G tried rehabilitating its Old Spice brand using the suave Isaiah Mustafa. The "perfect man" riding on horseback was a lot more experienced, sensitive and mature than any of the Axe characters. Very quickly, the Old Spice ads became a pop culture sensation and total YouTube downloads of the Mustafa ads exceed 120,000,000 views. But who's the biggest winner in the sales category- Old Spice or Axe?

The numbers above suggest neither. The real winner seems to be the Gillette brand. Here lies a simplified and powerful finding. When more attention is drawn to a blase, boring, and base category, the winner can be the category leader. In this case, P&G's portfolio (Gillette and Old Spice) won the most.

But, when there is a winner, there has to be a loser and in this case, Axe took the hit. I'm not going to delve deeper into this topic, but I thought I would leave the last word with Axe.


  1. Guessing there's a demographic element not visible in those numbers. From what I've seen on TV the other brands seem to be targetting older men (30+) and have possibly succeeded in growing the category. Note that Axe is up 5% in volume for the year but down in share - i.e., share of product category not necessarily in share of its target segment. Makes sense to go after older men who may be tired of clumpy wet soap bars but don't relate to the "buy this and somehow instantly get laid by hot drunk 20-year-olds.". The Nivea ads show dads...

  2. I like how the word "man" changes the meaning. "Smell like a man, man" works a lot better than "Smell like a man".

  3. Hilarious!!! Excellent blog!!!

  4. Nice post Bob! I am just wondering how other changes concerning the P&G (Old Spice and Gillette) marketing mix portfolio may have lead to these results. I remembered this summer buying Old Spice since it was in promotion + I like the ad.