I stepped in it again over the long holiday weekend. When the three-year-old wondered why he wasn’t heading off to school on Monday, I responded, “Because it’s Memorial
Day.” He thought about it for a second, then asked the natural follow-up question (“What’s Memorial Day?”). When I failed to answer that one to his satisfaction
(“it’s a day where we remember, um, the people who, you know, did things that we should remember them for doing… the things”), a bunch of others ensued. By the time the
conversation concluded six minutes later, I’d somehow managed to bring up and incomprehensibly mangle words and notions like soldier, warfare, sacrifice, patriotism, memory, honor, baseball
matinees, barbecue, bank holidays, the absence of postal service therewith and the appropriateness of tying automobile sales drives thereto.
In short, it’s been a rough week on the explaining-things front. So you’ll forgive me if, for today’s exercise, I feast on the fruit so low-hanging that it’s practically subterranean and babble onceanew about the world’s easiest brand to unpack, Axe. Before I even click on “New Axe Matte Effect Styling,” the company’s most recent offering to the Gods and Goddesses of mindless virality, I know exactly what I’m going to get. Fumes! Genial crassness that borders uneasily on misogyny! Winks at the audience so overt that they might as well be accompanied by actual winking!
I’m pleased to announce that the brand’s profoundly sophomoric esprit de marketing has survived and even thrived without compromising its… Wait, what? “There’s a new kind of man”? “He’s always understated. Never overdone”? I’m missing something here. What is this maturity and confidence crap? Where are the octuple-entendres?
Apparently Axe has done gone and got all grown-up-like on us while we were off watching absurdist tequila videos. The brand has launched a line of White Label products - which come in the variants/flavors of “Night,” “Forest,” “Island,” “Air” and “Turtle,” only one of which I am making up - and is attempting to better reflect the modern male mindset in its marketing, or something. I’m not sure if the “New Axe Matte Effect Styling” clip falls under this particular branding umbrella - but if it does, the people responsible for Axe’s past glories need to plot a C-suite coup, stat.
The “Matte Effect” clip starts with what passes as a call to arms: the on-screen imposition of “there’s a new kind of man,” followed by images of a helicopter, US and British (?) flags and a dude who’s obviously never played a guitar - you can always tell by the way somebody holds the pick - idly strumming a guitar. Need I mention that said dude belongs to the anthropological species of well-groomed being dressed and styled to look not-well-groomed? I need not.
From there, it’s all smiling model dudes with tousled locks and interestingly manicured facial hair doing the types of things that, for reasons I’ll never understand, marketers believe to be aspirational. They cavort. They pantomime playing guitar. They rock out on curiously unobstructed dance floors. The camera captures them for posterity in ever-edgy black and white - because if there’s something that today’s style-conscious 20-somethings really hate, it’s the chromatic spectrum. Screw you, green! Eat lead, orange!
Say what you want about the way Axe usually goes about its business - and if you’re of the mind that the brand’s marketing is infantile and demeaning to women, I’m certainly not going to argue with you. But at least the previous Axe brand videos had something resembling a personality. This? This is as dull as it is derivative. Right down to the hipster standby of playing vinyl records on a meticulously restored turntable - “sure, inconvenience is great and all, but overpaying for it is what really turns me on” - “New Axe Matte Effect Styling” is the worst kind of vacuous hodgepodge. Bring back the him-bos, please.