Marketing to the Maxim Set

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Taking Derek Thompson's reminder, this was a really cool piece on how Axe managed to turn young male insecurity into a marketing strategy, and how that strategy worked too well:


Unilever accompanied roughly 100 males (identical studies were later carried out across other European countries, North America, and Latin America) ages 15 to 50 to the pubs until three or four in the morning and (soberly, while secretly taking copious notes) watched them in action. After poring over their pages and pages of notes, via a process known in the industry as "segmentation," the Unilever team isolated six psychological profiles of the male animal -- and the potential Axe user: the Predator, the Natural Talent, the Marriage-Material Guy, Always the Friend, the Insecure Novice, and the Enthusiastic Novice. 

 Ultimately, they decided the most obvious choice would be the Insecure Novice, followed by the Enthusiastic Novice, followed by the Natural Talent. Why? Well, the first two segments, the marketers reasoned, with their lack of self-esteem and experience, could be easily persuaded that Axe would be the key to enhanced success with women -- they would spray it on to ramp up their self-confidence. The Natural Talent guys could probably be convinced to use Axe as a finishing touch before going out for a night on the town...

However, the brand's early success soon began to backfire. The problem was, the ads had worked too well in persuading the Insecure Novices and Enthusiastic Novices to buy the product. Geeks and dorks everywhere were now buying Axe by the caseload, and it was hurting the brand's image. Eventually (in the United States, at least), to most high-school and college-age males, Axe had essentially become the brand for pathetic losers and, not surprisingly, sales took a huge hit. 

 Then Axe faced another big problem. Insecure high-school students had been so convincingly persuaded that Axe would make them sexually appealing that they began completely dousing themselves in it. According to CBC News, "Some boys have been dousing themselves in Axe, apparently believing commercials that show a young man applying the deodorant and being immediately hit on by beautiful women." It got to the point where the students were reeking so heavily of it that it was becoming a distraction at school. So much so that in Minnesota, school- district officials attempted to ban it, claiming that "the man spray has been abused, and the aerosol stench is a hazard for students and faculty."

Reminds me of eight grade year. Our entire hallway smelled like Drakkar Noir.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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