Sunday, November 4, 2012

To Axe or Not To Axe?

Unilever, What Are You Doing?!

Fun fact for those reading this: I had no idea that Axe and Dove stemmed from the same parent company, Unilever. They also are the parent company of “Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton, TRESemme, Vaseline, Suave, etc” (CollegeFashion). Separate these brands and you can see how successful they are.

As we discussed in class, it seems as though Dove (showing the world “real women”) has a different set of values from its sister brand, Axe (“smells so good that women will forgo everything that they are doing to jump your bones”). People have argued both sides; some say that it is disgraceful for Unilever to show conflicting values in products that represent their company, while some say the Axe campaign is just a humorous joke (not to be taken seriously).

Oh, so the girls in the "Axe" commercials, they're natural, right?!

My Change In Opinion

The truth of the matter is, Unilever owes it to their consumers to have consistency throughout their brand that sends the same message in each and every product. Unilever is placing itself in a bad business risk situation, as many consumers feel frustration from the confliction of values expressed by Dove and Axe.

At first, I thought it was slightly humorous that both brands stem from Unilever. As time passed on, I started to realize how these brand contradictions might frustrate me as a consumer. Although I do not buy Axe (and I have been exposed to it by my guy friends in our middle school years), I am a loyal customer of Dove’s. I use Dove shampoo and conditioner religiously, and occasionally dabble in their body washes. Personally, this conflict of values between Dove and Axe has not made me reconsider my investment within the brand. They have continuously provided me quality products that have outlasted all of my other short-term "shampoo relationships."

Dove, no!

Recent information has suggested that the "real women" in the Dove beauty campaign are actually photoshopped. When I first heard this, as a Dove consumer, I was a little baffled. Not surprised, but a little baffled.

Dangin, a famous retoucher, said when asked about the Dove campaign: "Do you know how much retouching was on that? But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive" (Casnocha).

So, their ads were photoshopped. It happens a lot more often than many are willing to admit, but this is nothing new. My advice for Dove, however, would to be avoid doing this. It may be harder to find models that are more accepting of not being airbrushed, but it is worth the wrinkles. Dove represents two conflicting ideologies by having real women airbrushed.

Which is it?

Now Onto Axe...

With that being said, I can see both sides of the issue with Axe. Yes, it contradicts Dove’s “real beauty” campaign by depicting women as sex-driven (almost primitive) humans. A Unilever spokesperson said, “Each brand talks to its consumers in a way that’s relevant. The Dove campaign aims to give young women more confidence, where the Axe campaign is a spoof, not to be taken seriously" (College Fashion). My first instinct was to laugh off Axe as a silly commercial that does not represent the truth at all. As our guest speaker, Kelly O’Keefe, touched more on the subject, I started to change my mind.

As a marketing major and consumer, I have decided that Axe (albeit “jokingly”) too strongly contradicts Dove’s campaign. When a branding professional such as Mr. O’Keefe has qualms about a brand not being consistent within its values, it must be time for a change. The Axe ads are degrading as well as flat out nonsensical, and it is time to move on. The campaign for Axe has not changed since I can remember (before middle school) and it has deeply offended consumers enough that Unilever needs to pull its current campaign. The people have spoken.

Axe The "Axe" Campaign

Why have I decided that I would pull the plug on Axe’s campaign? It’s old, many find it offensive, and it is time to move on. One of my favorite quotes on this topic is one that I found on College Fashion:

“Unilever spends $809 million on advertising: it markets Dove, which encourages women to love their bodies, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, in which you can drown your sorrows if you don’t love your body, and Slim-Fast to make your body thin enough to love”
This is the perfect explanation of issues that this parent brand seems to be having. They own so many diverse brands that represent different values that it seems to be difficult for Unilever to tie them all together.

The inconsistency has finally caught up to Unilever, and the best thing to do is to apologize to consumers and try to attempt a different way to go about advertising Axe. Someone also mentioned in class that although the commercials portray men in their late teens/early twenties using the brand, this is not the case. Their target market, whether they know it or not, is boys from around eleven to fourteen years old.

Each brand screams different values.

The Video That Convinced Me

"Talk to your daughter before Unilever does." 

Harsh? A little. To avoid this backlash, it is time to reinvent Axe.



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