The Tale of Two Body Sprays: Why Axe Thrived, and Tag Died

axe anarchy graphic novel

Axe Is a Cultural Phenomenon


Axe (or Lynx as the brand is known in the UK) commercials are a bit of a cultural phenomenon. Research has led them to create some interesting commercials, and as a matter of fact the initial campaigns that they ran were so successful that it ended up selling too well to their target demographic. I discussed those details in my podcast Love, Lust and Sex.

There’s no doubt that Axe does a great job of connecting with their target market, young males that are in need of help with dating young women. A lot of their commercials seem so obvious. It’s a bunch of women chasing a man after he’s sprayed himself with Axe or used some sort of Axe product such as their shampoo.

Many men don’t make a big whoop about their commercials, after all it doesn’t seem to be anything original. But you have to keep in mind that most ads that were selling sex appeal, weren’t doing it in a raw primal instinctive way. Most ads and commercials combined sex with high fashion such as the use of Mark Walhberg with Calvin Klein underwear.

Being the First in your Brand Category Does Matter

Axe was brilliant in that they were first to break branding ground for their category, similar to what the Sex and City series did for TV. There really hasn’t been a show that’s connected women across multiple generations the way the show did, and if one did come out with a similar theme, it just wouldn’t have the same impact.

When distribution of ads, and budget are all equal, and when two companies have the same branding, the brand that makes the first move, and can consistently keep that brand message in the public’s mind, is the winner.

I still remember when I was going through university and watching commercials that were made by Tag body spray. When I first watched them my first impression was, “Oh it must be another Axe commercial?” I discovered it wasn’t, and what seemed to be the only difference between the commercials, was that there was a warning at the end of Tag commercials.

Even the bottles looked quite similar due to the fact that both were black colour themed.

Brand Differentiation is Vital to Survival

The Tag commercials didn’t do enough to differentiate itself from Axe. Axe was the leading brand of body spray during its first year in the North American market with a huge lead over the second best selling brand, Tag.

Now that almost ten years have passed, what happened to both body sprays and brands?

Axe, which is owned by Unilever, continued with their product extensions and moved into shower gels, deodorant sticks, shampoos and hair stylers.

Tag, which was owned by Proctor and Gamble, did a 180 turnaround with their brand relaunched, trying to relauch with celebrity endorsements to try recapture the young teen market in 2009 with endorsements by rapper Ludacris, skateboarder Rob Drydek, and basketball start Anthony Carmello. The bottle was redesigned to give it a different look from Axe. It moved away from black and started using more metallic surfaces with a white spray head.

Tag, along with Proctor and Gamble, sponsored the record label TAG Records with rapper/producer Jermaine Dupri in 2009. It can be understandable why TAG made that decision, but in my opinion I don’t see how body sprays and sponsoring a record company make good partners. Eventually in 2010, the Tag brand came to a halt and efforts were then refocused on P&G’s Old Spice brand, which was able to connect with youth more with their, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaigns.

This is why creating a brand that differentiates from others is so important.

What Happened with Axe after Tag Died

Axe continues to be the number one selling brand in it’s category, which is followed by Old Spice.

Since then Axe has created a women’s spray known as Anarchy. Their comic book marketing campaign for the both him/her body spray, Anarchy, has won several advertising awards, and Anarchy has had some great positive sentiment online by female bloggers in the young women/teen demographic.

The Anarchy Campaign was a True Social Experience:

I’m a bit of a comic geek myself, so when I heard that Axe was creating a comic based on suggestions from people on Twitter and Facebook, I was interested to see how the experiment turned out. For all the details, watch this video that was presented to the One, it details what was accomplished over a four month period.

Not all Axe commercials focus on sexy women chasing after a man. This is a great commercial that was done for the romantic guys that didn’t want to have lots of women chase after him, it was for the romantic guys that just wanted the one woman in their life.

This commercial was done for Axe Indonesia.

Here is a commercial for the TAG body spray, before they did their rebranding.

And here is Axe’s infamous commercial Billions.

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Written by Vincent NG

I’m a social media marketer, particularly for Pinterest, It all started back in 2010 when Pinterest was in beta. It was the fastest independent website to get 10 million unique visitors in the U.S. This really struck a chord with me, and it was then that I knew that Pinterest was going to be a powerhouse in the world of digital and social media marketing.