AXE Deodorants Axe Call Me Campaign and strategic communication challenges

Brand Name: Axe Deodorants
Campaign Title: Axe Call Me
Strategic communications challenge?
Have you ever been attacked by your own clone?

Imagine, one day you reach your home to realize that your clones are standing in front of your wife and she is perfectly fine with them because she cannot tell the difference between you and them. That’s the exact strategy competitors of Axe have used to grow in the market. They have aped Axe in each and every aspect. Be it packaging, pricing or advertising. All of them have made it look the same. Deodorant category is still at its nascent stage and Axe has been playing the role of growing the category by operating in the space of mating game fantasy. Other brands started gaining momentum at an alarming rate by operating in the same space and diminishing Axe’s distinctiveness. Axe could feel the heat and it was matter of time before it started losing shares drastically.


Drive differentiation for Axe and make it the definitive brand in the male mating game fantasy through consumer engagement.


The primary objective was “Engagement & Participation” with the brand – with the initial, ambitious goal of bettering the previous best engagement score by 50% (Axe Academy had achieved consumer participation of 4,16,000)

What was the big idea?

A disease called ‘Numberitis’ causes girls to uncontrollably give out their phone numbers to guys – offering tangible proof of the Axe promise!

How did we arrive at the big idea?

Men fantasize about multiple girls – that’s a universal truth. However, in India – especially small town India, even getting to talk to a girl is a big fantasy. If we could make this fantasy real, then Axe would surely own the definitive edge in the male fantasy proposition.

A recurring story in small town research was that a signal of potential romance is when a girl ‘carelessly’ throws crumpled paper near a guy – a seeming piece of trash that actually contains gold – her carefully penned mobile number. Access to this private line of communication allowed the guy to have suggestive and flirtatious conversations not possible to have in public. Hence getting a girl’s number is a huge affirmation of attraction. A girl offering her number on her own makes the ultimate fantasy even more intense!

To draw a parallel, in the Western fantasy a kiss is the first base to a home run – in the Indian context, getting the girl’s mobile number is the first base! And Axe gave consumers an opportunity to engage in this reality. Put simply, the mating game is a numbers game – this insight led to the campaign idea of ‘Numberitis’.

Bringing the idea to life

Mobile number on center stage: To beat the competitors hollow, we actually made the guy experience his fantasy – a flirtatious and sexy engagement with a girl. The mobile phone was made the center stage – it is a media channel that has enjoys very high penetration within our target group, and offers a private way to communicate.

Axe Angels on mobile phone: We gave an opportunity to the average Joe to talk to a hot Axe Angel over the phone. And also gave him an experience of waking up every morning to the sexy voice of a hot Axe Angel.

The integrated marketing campaign encouraged guys to call a number and talk to an Axe Angel. To appeal to the sense of this audience we put together many small creative blocks to completely captivate and engage him.

Seed Phase: Provocative headlines showcased research findings specific to the city on how women give out their phone numbers to guys, and the role of mobile phones in interacting with guys. This built curiosity and set the stage for the phase 2.

Numberitis Phase: A fictional disease called numberitis (where girls gave out numbers to guys with the Axe effect) was created and brought to life in print. PR was used to sensationalize the research findings and made exchanging mobile number a burning, topical issue.

Launch Phase: We went big on launch with TV, outdoor & collaterals breaking simultaneously. The creative brought the brand idea to life by showing how a gorgeous girl was uncontrollably compelled to give a guy her number after smelling Axe on him. It also popularized the mobile number which hosted the brand experience.

Engage Phase: Once people called the number they were greeted by a sexy voice of an ‘Axe Angel’ who flirted with them. (Yes, we took sufficient care to ensure a cool, flirtatious conversation and not a cheap sex chat).

Re-Engage Phase: To make the experience even more memorable the sexy Axe Angel offered a free wake-up call service, where the guy would be woken up by the Axe Angel for a week. By doing this we ensured that our guys woke up listening to Axe branding in a completely uncluttered environment.

Besides this Axe ringtones were given free, along with a chance to win free I-pods and I-phones.
The interaction of all these elements of the campaign is a testament to how regionally and locally created creative work can come together to truly engage with consumers.


How do you know it worked?

a) ‘Engagement & Participation’
• Out of a universe size of 28 million (age group 15-25-Source IRS), we received more than 4 million calls. This was a whooping 981% jump, higher than our previous engagement figures with the consumers.

• Call volumes grew from 3,000 a day on the first day that the ad launched to a high of 150,000 a day two months into the campaign (Source: internal Unilever, call volume data – confidential)

• 1 million wake-up calls: Consumers not only liked the experience but also opted to stay in touch with us by subscribing for the wake-up service. (Source: internal Unilever, call volume data – confidential)

• 40% of callers chose to even call the number again (Source: internal Unilever, call volume data – confidential)

The IVR system also provide us with the scalable engagement model we needed to cater to both metro guys and small town guys. Non-metro users were responsible for 76% of the calls to the IVR platform. A participation rate that would be impossible to replicate on-ground. (Source: internal Unilever, call volume data – confidential)

b) Share growth

The above translated into very positive business results:

• The campaign period showed a share gain of 3.2% (March to June’09 vs/ March to June’08)
(Source: internal Unilever, market share data – confidential)

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