Shoppers who flock to the elevator leading to the Pyramid Megastore at Crossroads, Mumbai, wouldn't really mind the sight of the elevator doors closing on them even as they approach the doors. Which is pretty unnatural. But in this case, the sight of the closing doors actually elicits a smile - or a startled jaw drop - in people.
Picture this. As the open doors of the elevator begin closing, the life-size images of a man and a woman with their backs to one another come into view - the man on the left-hand door, the woman on the right-hand one. As the doors come together, one notices that the woman's hand is strategically positioned… to fit snugly over the man's (ahem!) posterior. A graphic of a can of Axe, with the line 'The Axe Effect', adorn the bottom of the doors.
"Axe has always been supported by advertising that has been completely out of the box and witty," says a spokesperson for Lowe Lintas, the agency handling the Axe account. "Axe advertising is innovative, with a lot of tactical work and timely surprises that the brand has sprung on its core target group."
"'Successful Seduction' is the core promise of the brand," she continues. "In the sense that 'women just can't help getting carried away by men using Axe.' The communication objective has been the fact that the fragrance of Axe mesmerizes women in such a way that they end up doing things to men that they wouldn't dream of doing in the normal course of their lives."
With exaggeration an essential element of Axe's communication, quite a lot of innovative work has come to be associated with the brand. For instance, the recent 'missing women' campaign, where one hoarding showed the Manhattan skyline, minus the Statue of Liberty. Courtesy Axe, of course. Another example is the ad that Axe ran on last year's Valentine's Day, in the 'love messages' section in The Times of India. Amidst all the predictably saccharine ads, Axe's black-and-white ad stood out with its message, 'Don't use Axe today, give the other guys a break.'
"This style of advertising has appealed to the Indian youth, and has helped boost the imagery of the brand," says the spokesperson. Speaking about the 'elevator' innovation, she said, "Lintas had approached Crossroads sometime ago to explore advertising opportunities there. Crossroads is a popular hangout for the youth, and it was an opportunity we didn't want to miss. When the question of where in Crossroads to showcase Axe arose, we were told about the elevator and how no one had ever explored that medium. We jumped at the offer."
Apparently, the creative team working on the account came up with the "brainwave of an idea". As the idea revolved around the theme of seduction, and was visually a traffic-stopper, the agency and the client (HLL) went ahead with it. "Crossroads had tied up with 3M processors for this innovation, hence the production took place via 3M," the spokesperson reveals. "The entire process of shooting the models to the printing of the vinyl was done in a record time of five days."
The total deodorant market in India is estimated to be at close to 1,300 tonnes, and has been growing at a rate of almost 100 per cent per annum (in 1997, it was estimated at 308 tonnes, and by 1998, the figure had touched 616 tonnes). HLL literally lords over the aerosol can segment of this market, with its flagship unisex deo brand, Rexona, being the undisputed market leader. Apart from Axe and Rexona, the other deo brands from the HLL stable are Denim (for men) and Pond's (for women).
HLL apart, the deo market has quite a few players, including J.K. Helene Curtis (Premium and Park Avenue), CavinKare (Spinz), Cussons (Graphite), Baccarose (Copper and Onyx), Sara Lee (Eva) and Henkel (Fa). Of course, the deo market, as a whole, is pretty much swamped by the grey market, with the likes of Adidas, Polo and Faberge jostling for mindspace.
Axe, which was launched in India in November 1999, has apparently garnered "an outstanding 21-per cent market share within the first year of its launch", according to the Lintas spokesperson. Also, it turns out that this is the first time that an Axe launch in any country has met with such a response.
A good part of Axe's success can be attributed to communication that has found bull's-eye. The elevator, for instance. "The initial feedback from Crossroads very clearly indicates that the idea has taken people by surprise, and people have actually been caught staring at the lift. Comments such as 'Very Axe' and 'Cool stuff' has been heard at Crossroads," the Lintas spokesperson says. She also revealed that a plan is being worked out to take this elevator to other cities as well. "It would happen in the near future," she assures.
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