A trip down Axe lane

I was lucky enough to work on Axe  in 2006/07 whilst at BBH New York and I haven’t looked back at the work I was part of for a long time. Was excited to see that some of those old ads are still getting loads of views on YouTube.

An amazing time in my career working with guys  like Tommy Cashin, Johnny Bauer and Will Gelner. Am happy to have played a small part in the brand, especially naming Axe Bullet and Axe Dry Sharp Focus.



Lynx ‘Angels’ create Augmented Reality stunt

Quite a cool initiative from Lynx in the UK. To promote Lynx Excite antiperspirant they’ve come up with an ‘Angels’ theme and brought it to life via an Augmented reality stunt at Victoria station. People were asked to ‘Look up’ (at the digital billboard)  whereby they interacted with an AR  ‘Angel’ via an interactive billboard.

Very cool use of AR to generate a great simple experience worth talking about.

Lynx Wingman Academy

I was lucky enough to work on Axe/Lynx at BBH New York in 2006 and 2007,so I love seeing where the brand is being taken to creatively. Look,  it’s no ‘I’m on a horse’, but I like the ‘Wingman Academy’. It’s off a mating game truth around the ‘wingman’ and its brought to life in typical irreverent Lynx fashion. Reminds me of Gamekillers a fair bit. Wingman Academy  is a series of webisodes running on the Lynx UK Facebook fan page. Bit of fun.

Create Culture or go home.

CULTURE CREATION is the key output of any successful youth brand.

Creating an amazing product or experience is essential, but the best brands do much more than that. They create culture and spark interesting and fresh conversations. They create stories.  Why do they do this? Well, for starters, youth today are über curious and love discovering new experiences which help define their identity and give them platforms for self expressions. They’re constantly searching for ‘cultural capital’ (interesting new stuff to talk about) and they’re chameleon like in behaviour in that they are always looking to dip in and out of different subcultures and try new stuff. They are fluid like in the way in which they live, they expect the same from brands. Back to how this relates to culture creation.

The best brands in the world are always one step ahead, they CREATE stuff constantly for youth, whether that be events, content, marketing embedded into products or brand utility or even new ways for youth to connect and socialise.  They define, they lead, they jam culture, they smash the status quo. They never ever ‘mimic’ or piggy back onto a current trend. If they collaborate with other brands, they create something new and fresh, redefining the rules as opposed to just sponsoring a property and plastering. It’s more than just integrating your brand into a cultural object, it’s about bringing real value to that consumer experience, creating something worth talking about which is flexible. It’s being social in nature bringing people together to connect and create conversations.  Most brand ideas are disposable, around one day, gone the next, when you create culture, you stand above this.

So, which brands are best at Culture creation?

Me at RB Hangar 7 beside Felix Baumgartners famous 'wiing' suit used to cross the English Channel

Me at RB Hangar 7 beside Felix Baumgartners famous 'wiing' suit used to cross the English Channel

Well, first to mind is Red Bull. They are the kings of culture creation. They are a content creator, not just an energy drink manufacturer. They don’t ‘sponsor’, they constantly create events and re-invent experiences which cover the cross section of youth lifestyle. The world of Red Bull is shaped by creativity and adventure, by courage and a maxed out lust for life, populated by their athletes/ambassadors. They create culture in every foray into youth culture they attempt…from their music academies, to the Red Bull Air Race, to Felix Baumgartner BASE jumping and ‘wiing’ suiting across the English Channel, to Red Bull X fighters , to free style football competitions, to Flug Tag, to Art of the Can, to the X Alps event, to extreme freestyle snowboarding.  They continually re-invent and create stories for their fans, giving youth cultural objects to relate and aspire to.

Nike in ’08 did a great job of creating culture, their Nike Bootcamp cross digital training program helping youth ‘train like a pro’ delivered amazing utility, but what it really did was create a cultural phenomenon whereby the football community was completely interconnected and competing on an unprecedented level. Their culture creation was about connecting and inspiring the young football community.

Burger King USA continually create culture be redefining ways in which their brand fans can show their LOVE of the Whopper. Culture Creation is as much about inspiring your brand fans, giving them a platform to show their love and letting them take your idea and run with it, as it is about you doing all the work and creating properties where you do all the work. Culture creation is conversational by nature and inclusive.

Axe/Lynx creates culture by redefining and inspiring young men in the mating game. Whether that be, coming out with loofers for blokes, digital tools like the ‘Get in there’ or chocolate scented body spray, they constantly push themselves to work out how they can give young guys the edge in the mating game.

Culture Creation is a journey not a one off event your brand creates. Think about how your brand  can spark ongoing conversations, it’s not about one off campaigns that live big then are forgotten, only to be remembered as a ‘great ad’ back in ’09. You have to have a FAIL FORWARD approach, do 10 things, if 5 things work out that’s awesome. Youth will give you credit for having a go, putting yourself out there, as long as you are authentic and stay true to who you are.

Axe Double Pits to Chesty- straying from the brand idea

I loved working on Axe at BBH, learnt alot there and met some great people. That’s why it pains me to say that I’m not a huge fan of the relatively new ‘Double pits to chesty’ campaign.

 The strategy here is pretty simple, as the brand grows older, every few years they have to educate a new generation of pubescent teens on how to use body spray, so this is an education job. They’ve used a whole series of  sports (tandem diving, skating, moto x, juggling) to bring this idea to life.The Axe brand has and always will be about giving guys the edge in the mating game. Unfortunately, apart from a token end shot with a hot chick, this ad (or the others) doesn”t hit the mark. The problem for me is that although the product is central to the ad, the role of the product giving guys the edge in the mating game is incidental. This feels generic and dare I say it, won’t start much conversation amongst youth. There are loads more interesting moto x /extreme sports clips on youtube right now.  I can name at least 20 youth brands (let alone the leader of extreme sports Red Bull) who have created real content in this vein that’s far more engaging and spreadable for youth. 90% of the work on Axe stays true to the emotional core of ‘attraction’ and giving guys the edge in the mating game, in my opinion this feels like a weird place for Axe to be.. Expecting a bashing from my old workmates now, but I’ve got to keep it real.

Youth want tribal ideas – tips on how to create a movement around your brand

The fundamental emotional need of youth is and always will be BELONGING. It’s hardwired from birth, a primal need to belong to a community, to a tribe. It’s a fundamental form of self expression that is at the core of the human psyche. The growth of social media has turbo charged young peoples ability to connect and be part of global tribes.

The best youth brands understand that youth are desperate to connect with each other, so youth marketing is not about pushing messages onto a target audience of disparate individuals, it’s about inspiring the TRIBE, so they connect with each other. It’s about talking to the WE, not necessarily the ME.

 Tribal marketing in 2009 is about leading and connecting Gen C ‘The Connected Collective’ with ideas and each other, it’s about finding something worth changing and mobilizing a group of likeminded people around it.

Think the Red Bull energy tribe, Apple’s creative tribe, Nike + running tribe, Zoo York’s mischievous skater tribe, Lego’s imagination tribe, Axe’s player tribe,  Roxy’s chic surfer tribe, Wii’s playful tribe,  Threadless’ design tribe – just a few examples of brands that have inspired people to come together and form a tribe around their brand, a community with shared passions, interests.

So, how do you create a tribe around your brand? Here are a handful of thoughts

1. You have to have the balls to create ideas that polarize, ideally AGITATING and DISRUPTING the  STATUS QUO. You have to be a little subversive and not scared to create CHANGE. Unless you spark an interesting conversation, you won’t spark a movement. The biggest mistake youth brands make is trying to appeal to everyone, they end up standing for nothing and falling for everything. Think less about your proposition, and more about your brand point of view or your call to arms.

 2. Gen C are the ‘CONNECTED COLLECTIVE‘, they join tribes for the CONNECTIONS.  They’re dying to mobilize around something interesting.   Think about how you’re letting them connect via web 2.0 platforms and how they can work together around a cause/idea. It’s all about making it easy for youth to find each other and connect. Music festivals have been tapping into these shared ‘connections’ for the last decade and now the gaming world is doing the same with MMORPG’s. 

 3. It’s about leveraging PEOPLE POWER.  Done successfully, the collective becomes your most powerful asset, they’re empowered to spread your idea, to create the movement. Your job is to help facilitate the interactions amongst the tribe and give them something worth talking about, something worth changing, something worth believing in. Politicians and activists have been doing it well the past few years, think Obama, think Al Gore, think One Young World.

 4. Find your brands TRUE BELIEVERS, listen to them then, create utility for them, provide value in the experience and your brand will become magnetic. You only need a 1,000 or so, look at T-Mobile with their flash mobs. Virgin are the kings of seeking out their true believers and always giving them utility, no matter what category then enter.

 5. LEAD THEM, all the great tribes have great charismatic leaders, you create your own brand charisma by showing leadership attitude and staying true to a belief system, committing to a cause. People mobilize around strong people/brands who believe. Red Bull, Nike are the archetype leaders in their respective youth cultures, always appealing to the fringes, but not alienating the masses.

 6. CREATE CULTURE for the tribe. Create something that matters to youth, don’t try and mimic what’s happening now, give them a lens into something new. Create a new sport, create a new way of doing something, EXPERIMENT and don’t be afraid to fail. You’ll get credit for having a go.

 7. TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION is important, you have to create a way of knowing if you’re in or out. Whether it’s badging yourself or an internal point of association, it’s extremely important as tribal brands have followers, not customers. I witnessed this first hand in Austria last week, with Austrian teens plastering their bedrooms with the stickers of their favourite brands, Aussie kids brand their mobiles with stickers of their favourite surf brands.

 8. CONSTANT CONTENT CREATION  – This takes ingenuity and effort over pure big scale production budgets.  Youth brands have to think of their marketing calendars not in quarterly installments, but as an ONGOING STORYTELLING PLATFORM.  It’s less about discrete uniform evolutions of ad campaigns, but about creating interesting narratives youth can follow – think youtube channels that are constantly update with new content, whether that be experiential type stuff or raw stuff. The surf brands are the kings of this, as they see themselves as media businesses, not just surfwear sellers.

Remember tribes exist, your job as a marketer is to help organize and connect these people. Find something worth changing, then create an interesting point of view on it, something fresh, something worth believing in that they’ll want to talk about and belong to.. See, easy?