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Axe wants to give men their own Dove moment in first global brand campaign

Unilever-owned Axe, known as Lynx in the UK, has made a U-turn on its marketing strategy and is looking to emulate the success sister-brand of Dove's Real Beauty Sketches push with its first global brand campaign that promises to inject a bit of honesty into the male grooming category.

Historically, the deodorant brand has told men that it can help them get a girl. Or, as its ads show, several sexy women. Targeting teenagers with this idea has worked well, as sales in Unilever’s personal care category – where Axe sits – grew 6.2 per cent in latest quarter.

However, Axe is looking to widen its target consumer and to do this recognised that it needs to grow up. It began to make the shift with its one-off 'Kiss For Peace' work in 2014, but turned to creative agency 72&Sunny Amsterdam last year to fully comitt to the positioning with a new marketing strategy.

“[Axe] wanted to become the number one male grooming brand in the world, in a category they recognised was changing dramatically from when they’d first entered,” explained Stephanie Feeny, 72&Sunny Amsterdam’s head of strategy. “Ideas of masculinity had changed and it recognised it wasn’t quite keeping pace with culture.”

A survey of over 3,500 men in 10 countries the brand conducted showed that despite social progress, men still feel overwhelming pressure to conform to ‘manly’ stereotypes — and that male confidence is shockingly low.

“We’re living in an era of unprecedented freedom and acceptance — and yet what we’ve seen is that a lot of men still feel huge pressure to look and behave a certain way in order to be seen as attractive,” said Fernando Desouches, global Axe brand director.

Leaning on this insight, the campaign aims to “explode” the idea of masculinity and suggest that individuality is attractive. It apes the tact Dove took with the enormously successful Real Beauty Sketches campaign which highlighted that women are too critical of their appearance and fail to see their true beauty.

Dubbed ‘Find Your Magic’, the new fast-paced ad shows how a variety of men, and even a woman, use its products and drives home the idea that Axe can give people the tools and inspiration they need to work on their original style.

The TV ad (shown above) will run globally, kicking off on 18 January in the US before reaching the UK - where the brand is known as Lynx - in early March, with support from print and outdoor executions.

In a more radical shift in its media plan, Axe also briefed 72&Sunny Amsterdam to create a range of online video tutorials to help it “move to a continuous beat of communication.”

“Search volume in male grooming is up, it overtook searches for women’s hair last year which is indicative of how things are changing," explained Feeney. "But what’s out there in response is bedroom content –really long form – or premium and not that accessible to a mainstream audience. So we’ve started to fill that gap.”

Now, anytime someone Google searches a style or grooming advice, such as “how to do a Mohawk” or “how to tie a tie”, they will be served a 10-second video from Axe. The same films will also run across Instagram.

Finally, in a further effort to cement its refreshed positioning, it has worked with publisher Vice's in-house creative divsion Virtue, to create content celebrating modern male individuality for a series that will launch across the course of 2016.

It builds on the burgeoning relationship between FMCG business and media business that’s already seen them collaborate on the launch of its female-focused title Broadly last year.