Ananya Pathak

Axe ditches seduction game; re-looks masculinity in 'woke' video

Spray the deo, get the girl - after creating this advertising code for the deo segment, Axe examines masculinity in a music video that's more content, less advert.

Of late, many brands like Titan Raga, Dabur Vatika Hair Oil, Fab Alley etc. have taken it upon themselves to redefine femininity and bust stereotypes that get in the way of doing so. And brands targeting men are catching up quickly. After Gillette and Ford, the latest aboard the bandwagon is HUL's deo brand Axe that rubbishes stereotypes that pressure men into behaving, looking and feeling a certain way.

Axe ditches seduction game; re-looks masculinity in 'woke' video

Axe's #AbTeriBaari music video

In a 'woke' spot (we don't have a better adjective) titled 'Ab teri baari', Axe slays unrealistic, societal expectations that men have been struggling with and gives them permission to be themselves. The spot is interesting for two reasons: firstly, it is more content, less advert and doesn't underscore product benefits.

Secondly, and this is perhaps the elephant in the room, it doesn't tell men to spray the deo and wait for gorgeous women to fall from the sky (the actual storyline of an old Axe ad), instead, it attempts to rescue men from regressive definitions of masculinity.

Entertainment content platform Arré and media agency Mindshare created the ad.

Axe ditches seduction game; re-looks masculinity in 'woke' video

Axe ad along the lines of seduction

That this is a video for Axe - as opposed to just a random men's brand - is what makes it so noteworthy. Axe is the deo brand that set advertising category codes along the lines of seduction. Many brands like Wild Stone, Engage etc. followed suit.

The 3-minute-19-second musical video features young men from the world of showbiz, digital content and sports. It includes Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri, dancer Dharmesh Yelande, YouTube Sensation ''BeYouNick'' and actor Shashank Arora (Made In Heaven). Bollywood star Ayushmann Khurrana and rapper Naezy also teamed up with the deodorant brand for the video.

Axe ditches seduction game; re-looks masculinity in 'woke' video

Nippun Aneja

Axe ditches seduction game; re-looks masculinity in 'woke' video

Ajay Mehta

About the concept, Nippun Aneja, GM - Deodorants and Men's Grooming, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), explained in a press release, "Many boys in India still feel an overwhelming pressure to conform to masculine stereotypes. There are many said and unsaid rules on how to ''Be a Man'' - the way you look, the way you act and interact with your peers; even your career choices and hobbies are being judged through the lens of being 'masculine enough.'"

The video will be out across Arré's social media platforms and partner networks.

Commenting on the choice of media, Ajay Mehta, VP, Content+, Mindshare, tells afaqs!, "Arré, as a partner, has covered the journey with the team, understood the brand's need and the brief and beautifully crafted the brand narrative through this music video. The video shall be shared across digital, including Arré's multiple social platforms to provide the much-desired reach." He adds, "Arré has done a lot of work with pop-culture at the heart of it and, therefore, were apt partners for this piece. It's a perfect fit for both tonality and audience for the brand."

In India, the deo market comprises of ‘Bina Gas Wala Body-spray’ – Fogg Deodorant; ‘Get Ready Get Close’ – Cinthol Deodorant; ‘It starts with you’- Nivea Men Deodorants; ‘Just Do It’ – Nike Deodorant; ‘Love Has An All New Language’ – Engage Deodorant; ‘Very Very Sexy’ – Set Wet Deodrant; ‘What Do You Want To Be Tonight?’ – Kamasutra Deodorant; ‘Wild By Nature’ – Wild Stone Deodorant and many more.

Industry speak

Axe ditches seduction game; re-looks masculinity in 'woke' video

Sita Lakshmi Narayan Swamy

Sita Lakshmi Narayan Swamy, brand and consumer expert, feels that in a society where gender stereotyping is rampant, HUL's idea of Axe - '#Makeyourownrules' is a progressive message. However, the music video can't help but remind one of P&G's historic and phenomenal 'Always #Likeagirl' campaign, which also challenges gender stereotyping.

She says, "Axe has, hitherto, positioned itself as a 'chick magnet', which is pretty typical for a male deodorant brand. So, this music video is a radical departure from that code, albeit a welcome one. However, HUL's Fair & Lovely did the same rather successfully, over a decade ago. It repositioned itself from being a woman's ticket to a husband to becoming an aid to her confidence in a new world of achievements."

She adds, "I can't really tell if this is just a video or intended to be an advertisement because the lines between the two are getting rather blurred these days. In any case, the viewer does not distinguish between the two. What I do hope, however, is that the brand team stays consistent with this positioning, if indeed, it is the new direction for Axe. Because if not, they may end up confusing the audience and falling between two contradictory stools."

Axe ditches seduction game; re-looks masculinity in 'woke' video

Mythili Chandrasekar

Mythili Chandrasekar, consumer behaviour and brand strategy enthusiast, says, "The core idea of "follow your own rules" is not new anymore. Yes, there is still steam left in the idea for large parts of India, and the video does a decent job of making the point. Given that the category and brand code of seduction has been taken away by other brands, and how moving to a point of view on masculinity is fine. But coming as it does much after "apna time" and the like, the video could have done more. An opportunity to reignite the magic of some of Axe's earlier creative history, beyond the now-cliche of dance instead of steady job and so on. Perhaps some rules could have been broken, given that's what the brand is asking you to do."

Axe ditches seduction game; re-looks masculinity in 'woke' video

Vani Gupta

Vani Gupta Dandia (ex PepsiCo), growth expert and partner CherryPeachPlum Growth Partners, says, "This video does not say anything compelling about the product. It is a content piece. The brand ofcourse would be hoping that it goes viral. But the fundamental issue that I see with this is that the product itself in the video is not clear. One doesn't know if this is indeed a deodorant brand communicating."

She adds, "In the treatment of the product, Axe is losing the international premium feel. The number one competition of the brand currently is Fogg. Fogg has made its value proposition very clear to the consumer, which somehow Axe is failing to do. Axe seems to be lost and looking for an identity. At one point of time it was clear with its positioning but now it seems to be loosing it's confidence with the other noise in the category."

"As a marketer, I am not sure if this initiative is going to sell the product. The market is flooding with products which have compelling functional benefits, catering directly to the needs of the consumer. In a scenario like such, will Axe make the cut, remains questionable", she signs off.

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