Smells Like Teen Marketing

Phoenix, Kilo, Tsunami, Orion, Apollo and Voodoo may sound like characters from Wrestlemania, writes Robin Givhan in today’s Washington Post, but they’re actually scents of Axe brand deodorant. This is the impossible-to-ignore fragrance by Unilever that’s wafting through high-school locker rooms across the country.

Although it has been on store shelves in Europe since the 1980s, it didn’t assault nostrils and sensibilities on this side of the pond until three years ago. Since then, Axe has shaken up deodorant’s old guard — Right Guard and Old Spice — by targeting young men with a $100-million marketing campaign that has all the subtley of a laddie magazine. This is no mere deodorant, the suggestive ads imply. This is spray-on mojo. Why stop at the underarm? Axe takes men’s deodorant where it’s never been before: your entire body. And since boys will be boys, they’re buying it. Axe has become the No. 2 seller, and inspired a shower gel and equally pungent imitators.

The risk, of course, is over-promising. If the much-touted Axe Effect is that girls hold their noses instead of handing over their digits, boys may decide that Axe is the pits.