The Axe Factor
Unilever's body spray became an instant hit by going where the guys are--and knowing what's always on their minds.
By Robert Levine

(Business 2.0) – When Unilever introduced its Axe deodorant brand in the United States in 2002, it had plenty of reasons to sweat. Not only were buyers unfamiliar with the concept--a body spray that doubles as deodorant and cologne--but the product was also targeting the elusive young-male demographic. Unilever started out allotting roughly 60 percent of its advertising budget to television, but it has since winnowed that down to about 30 percent, pouring more money into offbeat alternatives. "If my guy is spending 12 hours a week playing games and nine hours watching TV, I have to go to videogames," marketing director Kevin George explains. Score one for Unilever: Axe has become the dominant brand in the $2 billion-a-year deodorant market, capturing a 10 percent share in just three years.

Mojo Master, a downloadable videogame in which players seduce a succession of women, epitomizes Axe's strategy: It's sophomoric, savvy, and aimed squarely at 18- to 34-year-olds. There's also a series of short videos on EvanandGareth.com, which follows two regular guys as they try to pick up chicks. Unilever even supplied fraternity houses with Axe-branded marker boards for phone messages. Whatever the medium, the idea is the same. Says George, "Guys think about three things: Girls, girls, and girls." -- R.L.