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Saturday, 16 August 2014

Strategic analysis of the ‘Axe Call Me’ marketing campaign

Strategic analysis of the ‘Axe Call Me’ marketing campaign
By Juma C.O 

The Axe Call Me campaign is an advertisement campaign that was launched in Asia in 2008 and was based on the theme of attraction between members of the opposite sex. As Chamikutty (2009) observes, the advertisement was designed to play on the ultimate male fantasy which is to be an attraction to women. It targeted young men across Asia using a campaign designed to encourage participation and engagement with the brand. The strategy and impact are the focus of this analytical report.

Axe deodorant is designed for use by young men. The marketing campaign was therefore targeting this market segment. This was defined as the ordinary young man, the ordinary young man, who is projected as having an uncanny ability to attract young women after applying Axe deodorant (Sharma and Kozhikode, 2011).

For effective targeting, the target has to be large enough, have identifiable preferences and lifestyles, and be able to be reached through a customised advertisement (Sasieni, 1989). Effective targeting must also involve a clear understanding of the characteristics of the target market and how such characteristics can be tapped to generate demand (Gal-Or, Gal-Or, May and Spangler, 2006). The Axe Call Me campaign sought to explain the natural fantasy associated with young men in their desire to be attractive to the opposite sex (Ashish, 2014).

The brilliance of the Axe Call Me campaign was in its ability to present the ordinary young man as sexy. This meant that they did not have to strive to be something they are not in order to conform to the brand personality being projected. This made them reachable hence the targeting approach can be said to be well founded.

Engagement and participation were the primary goals of this campaign (Sharma and Kozhikode, 2011). While the ultimate goal of the advertising was to promote the consumption of Axe, the campaign was interactive in nature with no immediate need for the target audience to purchase the product. The implementation process was a highly interactive one where the numbers displayed were actually functional and when called, the callers were engaged in an exciting seductive game that could see some win gifts such as iPads and iPhones (Sharma and Kozhikode, 2011). This was in addition to the Axe wake up service and the offer of Axe ringtones which furthered involvement with the brand (Venkatraman, 2010). This is clear from the execution and focus on engaging the audience in direct communication as discussed in the sections below.  

Like other business objectives, advertising objectives must be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-specific (Doganoglu and Klapper, 2006). The suitability of the objectives for the Axe Call Me campaign can be gauged based on these metrics. The objective was very specific in its target for engagement and participation. Even though this was to help raise revenues, the objective was clear in its focus to create a strong connection with the brand. Measurability is relatively easy to determine as the reaction to a marketing campaign and the impact on sales volume is easy to tell (Doganoglu and Klapper, 2006). No specific targets were put on the level of engagement and consumer participation that was expected hence it would be difficult to gauge whether such an objective was achieved. Nevertheless, the finding that this campaign generated more voice data than any brand has ever done in Asia is a sufficient indicator that the objective was achieved in a quantifiable term (Sharma and Kozhikode, 2011). Being realistic means that it needs to conform to certain norms and are an idea that would be easily adopted by the market albeit after substantial investments (Belch and Belch, 2013). By capitalising on a natural fantasy that is inherent in the target audience, the young men, the objective can be termed as realistic in its quest to turn this fantasy into a viable marketing idea. From these considerations, the Axe Call Me campaign objective can be rated as well founded and very strategic for the organisation.

The idea projected by the advertisements was that using axe makes the young men very attractive to young girls (Ashish, 2014). It would therefore act as the magnet that would get girls to share their contacts with the young men and request to be given a call. The campaign sought to advance the sex-theme that characterises beauty products without being offensive to the Asian culture upheld by the target market (Sayal, 2009). The dating culture in Asia was researched and found to be significantly different from that in Western cultures. While it is acceptable for sensational sexual images to be published in the West, such an approach is frowned upon and even outlawed in some Asian cultures. In Asia, the dating process starts with the exchange of mobile phone numbers where a girl expresses the willingness to be involved further by accepting to share her phone number (Venkatraman, 2010). The objective of this advertisement campaign was to creatively attract young male customers by making them feel more appealing to the opposite sex.

For an advertisement to be effective, it has to have a creative idea that the target audience is likely to find interesting and easy to adopt (El-Murad and West, 2003). The creative concept in this campaign was its ability to turn a natural fantasy into an exciting marketing idea while conforming to the conservative nature of the target audience’s culture. A creative idea is new to the market and unique in the sense that it exploits a concept that is either new or has never been exploited in a similar way before (Walker and Mullins, 2011). The Axe campaign idea was the first of its kind in the Asian region, having exploited an idea that was inherent in the society, but never brought out as sensationally or in a commercial context as Unilever did.

The marketing campaign was preceded by a good public relations campaigns which brought to life ‘Numberitis’, a fictional disease associated with the need for young men to get girls to share their phone contacts with them. This was after a research was conducted on young girls who intimated that they’d be willing to exchange their contacts on their first meeting with a guy if they found him attractive. The exchange of numbers here would signify that the young men had been found attractive and the girls were interested in them.

The PR exercise was followed by the launch of the advertisements which was done through television, outdoor advertisement, and online video and posters (Sayal, 2009). The campaign was consistent in its message of girls giving out numbers asking to be called by young men they’d found attractive after applying Axe deodorants. This was given under different circumstances: ketchup inside a loaf and the being blown on a window among other ways. The number given was 09987333333; which customers would call and be greeted sexy voices of girls dubbed Axe angels (Venkatraman, 2010). In one of the TV adverts, a young man would be cited making an order from an attractive waitress who is taken in by the fragrance of his Axe deodorant (Twnmba888, 2008). She’d then use tomato source to scribble her name on the ketchup ordered and ask him to call her later.

When the number was called, the typical conversation would start as follows: “Hi, My name is Tanya. If I think you have the Axe effect you could win some great prizes like an iPod or, hey, even the latest iPhone” (Venkatraman, 2010). The girl Tanya would then proceed with a few naughty questions which the callers would respond to in a bid to seduce her. This direct interaction campaign would extend to an Axe wake up service in which the girls would offer free wake-up services at a predetermined time for about a week (Venkatraman, 2010). The aim of this was to solidify the connection between the target audience and the brand. This was enhanced by the provision of Axe ringtones which were available for free download over the internet.

Good execution of an advertising campaign must be flawless and designed in a manner to ensure that there is synergy where one aspect of implementation reinforces the others. This simulates the building process where every activity or implementation stage acts as the foundation for the next with the overall success being dependent on the success of the cumulative steps. The execution of the Axe Call Me campaign started with a PR exercise that introduced the dating process in a new way. This turned the topic of ‘Numberitis’ into a hot topic detailing how the ability of a young man to attract women was manifested in their willingness to share their numbers (Ashish, 2014). It was then followed by the advertising campaign involving advertisements on television, radio, print media, outdoor advertisements and the internet (Bhatnaturally, 2009). This was followed by an interactive phase involving calling, wakeup call services, and provision of Axe ringtones to the customers. The execution was systematic and deliberate with an aim of ensuring that engagement and participation are as high as possible.

Media channel design is the process of selecting the means through which marketing communications can be relayed effectively to the target audience (Gudonavičienė and Alijošienė, 2008). Different media channels attract specific audiences and also impact them differently. By coming up with a marketing channel mix, the organisation is able to increase visibility and appeal to the target audience in different ways (Castaldo, Grosso and Premazzi, 2013). An important consideration in media planning is the fact that the target audience assimilates a message when they encounter it more times. Where the target audience consumes more than one media at a time, a multi-channel approach is used. The Axe Call Me campaign was designed to ensure that the target audience encounters the message wherever they are, and where possible; many times in a day.

The advertisements were done on television, radio, print media, and outdoor advertisements (Ashish, 2014). The subsequent success of the campaign was an indication that the Asian market is a multichannel market where effectiveness is achieved by ensuring that a campaign is covered across many channels. Media planning must also factor in the objectives of the advertisement campaign (Van Bruggen et al, 2010; Shaw, 2012). Advertisements on television, radio, print media, and outdoor advertisements involve a passive audience. Since this campaign targeted engagement and participation, use of telephone calls in the interactive phase was necessary. This is the phase that marked the success of the campaign by encouraging engagement and creating a bond between the audience and the brand.

In spite of the campaign’s effectiveness, the media channel design can be faulted for failing to execute a social media strategy in the advertisement. The target audience comprised of young men who are likely to be highly attracted to the internet (Hill, 2013). The company concentrated on offline approaches to communication with the internet only serving the purpose of access to the Axe ringtones which the company was offering the audience.

The success of a marketing campaign is gauged on its rate of achieving the objectives set out. In this campaign, the objective was to build the brand through a campaign that drives engagement and participation. While it involved advertisements on mass media, it is the interactive phase that was most central to the campaign’s objectives. The results indicate that objective was achieved. The campaign generated over 4.4million calls with 40% of the callers making multiple calls hence becoming the highest generator of voice data in Asia by a single brand (Spikes Asia, 2009). In terms of revenue, the campaign is credited for an increase of revenues by 40%. The popularity of the ringtones was also remarkable with 40,000 ringtones being downloaded in the duration of the Axe Call Me campaign and over 700,000 Axe wake up calls being made (Bhatnaturally, 2009). The company’s shares are also believed to have grown by 3.2% as a result of the campaign (Drypen, 2010). The campaign can therefore be rated as being highly effective in terms of achieving the goals set and creating and implementing a creative idea. Nevertheless, the popularity of the internet among young people leads to the assumption that a greater buzz would have been generated by implementing an effective social media strategy.

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