Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Engage:Men on Sept. 8, 2014.
There is nothing like a good, hot Indian summer to put the focus on deodorants.
2014 has seen the battle between Axe and Old Spice take on an unpredicted turn. While Axe aspired to the noble and cinematic, Old Spice seemingly borrowed from Axe’s playbook to portray itself as guys’ best wingman. The difference is that the Old Spice “guys” this year are looking like hunted momma’s boys or wretched, barely functional androids.
Axe started the year by presenting us with a bold message for peace. According to their Super Bowl blockbuster: “In a world filled with war, the greatest weapon is love. Make love, not war with new Axe Peace.” Perhaps not what the world was expecting from the brand that brought us “Premature Perspiration” and the multi-functional “ball scrubber.”
Axe Peace was followed up in May by another movie-styled commercial “Soul Mates” which followed a young man’s failed attempts to get his girl. Travelling through the Ice Age, Pompeii, Titanic, WW2 and Vietnam War protests finally Axe arrives on drugstore shelves and we are back on familiar territory. After a deft bit of in-store body spraying, girl is magnetically attracted to boy, and they wander together into the happier future after barely avoiding an exploding gas station.
"Don't rely on fate," says the screen copy. And why would you when you have Axe?
Old Spice kicked its way into the new one with Wieden + Kennedy channeling Kathy Bates.
In “Smellcome to Manhood,” the new Old Spice premise was a quick squirt makes you smell like a man, which makes nice young ladies treat you like a man. Sadly, it also turns mothers into creeping horror flick psycho moms tragically haunting their sons as they blossom into man-spray induced manhood.
Moving on from the irrepressibly smug Isaiah Mustafa as “the man your man could smell like” the latest Old Spice hero has dropped off the smug spectrum completely and devolved into a hapless android. Self-sabotaging on his route to love Old Spice yet again makes up for any deficiencies. The bungling robot hero turn out to be infallible in love.
While Axe’s strategy was perhaps more audacious, Old Spice’s tongue-in-cheek approach appears to have paid more dividends.
Old Spice’s Index score, YouGov BrandIndex’s overall brand health measure, has out-paced Axe among 18-34 year old men throughout 2014 so far. Old Spice and Axe are showing a 35 and 14 point Index score respectively as of early September.
Ad awareness scores, however, were much closer, with Axe particularly strong in the first quarter when Axe Peace was running. However, higher ad awareness did not translate into higher purchase consideration scores for Axe. The brand enjoyed a brief moment of supremacy in early March but has been consistently trailing Old Spice during the rest of the year. Current purchase consideration scores are at 41% for Old Spice and 29% for Axe.
Apparently, when a young man presses that body spray button it is unlikely to be world peace that is on his mind.
Old Spice and Axe were measured with three of YouGov BrandIndex’s proprietary measures. Index score is the research firm’s flagship measurement of brand health. The Index score is an average of six of the company’s prime scores, which include quality, satisfaction, reputation, value, general impression, and willingness to recommend. Results were filtered for men aged 18-34 years old.
Index measurement scores range from 100 to -100 and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.
YouGov BrandIndex’s Consideration score, asks respondents: "When you are in the market next to purchase consumer goods, from which of the following brands would you consider purchasing?” YouGov BrandIndex’s Ad Awareness score is calculated by asking respondents “Which of these brands have you seen an advertisement for in the past two weeks?” Both Consideration and Ad Awareness scores can range from 0-100%.