During the Indian Premier League, television anchors Sameer Kochhar and Archana Vijaya finish discussing a match and announce a commercial break. Kochhar calls to make-up for a touch-up and sprays on some Axe deodorant the make-up artist brings with him. Vijaya, who’s calling in from the field, gets a whiff and is promptly turned on. An embarrassed Kochhar looks down at the can in his hand and then checks hurriedly with the production team that the cameras are off: “Are we rolling?” This video is a new favourite with Dhruv Bajaj and his friend Aditya Banerjee, both 18-year old students at a suburban Mumbai college. “It’s hilarious. We log on to YouTube all the time to see Axe ads,” says Bajaj. Others share their interest in the ads: since it was uploaded in end-May, the Kochhar-Vijaya video (it’s deliberately not listed as an ad) has already got over 100,000 hits.
That, then, is the real Axe effect: if you’re male and under 45, you’ve heard of the brand and been intrigued. Sure, virtually no one who talks about the deodorant mentions its fragrance or whether it is effective in its prime purpose, of masking body odour. But when a brand promise hinges on getting you the girl — or rather, the girls — of your dreams, does all that really matter?
When Hindustan Unilever (HUL) launched the brand in India in 1997, the deodorant category was virtually non-existent in the country. Since then, it’s grown to ₹1,300 crore and Axe do