Wake-up and brand: Axe gets it right

Unilever’s Axe has built an effective, integrated campaign in the US that leverages different media to reach young, hip males with unconventional messaging to promote its grooming products, but it was a recent promotion in Japan that broke through dusty marketing techniques with exceptionally personal reach.

The Axe Wake-Up Service campaign was successful because it did two crucial things: it tapped into the target audience’s existing behavior, and it built upon that by helping people do what they do better.

The behavior? Japan loves cell phones. Axe found that nearly 70% of Japanese consumers use their mobile phones as alarm clocks. To tap into that, Axe launched a service where a consumer could visit Axe online, enter in his mobile number and set a wake-up call time.

A young, attractive woman would make the wake-up call, even appearing by videophone if the customer desired. The campaign, of course, reminded the customer every morning to spray on some Axe and smell great.

As a highly social marketing technique that bridged back to the offline traditional world, the campaign helped create a direct connection to the brand, engaging the young Japanese male population on a personal level. What Axe ultimately did was build on its target audience’s existing behavior by providing value through a useful service. But it didn’t stop there; the campaign made use of today’s digital marketing zeitgeist (embodied in the mantra “help me or entertain me”) by making that useful content entertaining as well. Reaching the target audience on such a personal level creates an emotional connection to the brand, and enables the consumer to identify and associate with that brand.

The Axe brand offers a lesson for marketers everywhere and begs bigger questions of our own campaigns. At what point in our campaigns are we using “show me or sell me” techniques? Have we first engaged our audiences with “help me or entertain me” techniques?

Taking a page out of the Axe playbook is crucial for marketing in an increasingly digital world.

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