At present, ‘Axe brand’ is the most popular male grooming products from Unilever, in the world and is available as deodorant gel, deodorant body spray and shower gel. In the creative marketing and advertising sector, the goods have set excellent track records. Record numbers of advertising awards, including 10 Cannes Lions (Unilever website), prove its brilliant marketing techniques and creative ideas. Shultz, an eminent academician says that McCarthy’s principles of 4Ps of marketing have outgrown their effectiveness in the present age of information technology. In the past, the marketing strategy’s 4Ps (product, price, location and promotion) was highly relevant mainly for the three main reasons. They were lack of variety within the products, people were exposed to limited means of publicity and lastly promotional activities were more localised. The strategy therefore, was viable in the given restrained parameters and yielded results that satisfied both the customers and the retailers of the time (Shultz, 2001).
Unilever had realized early that technological advancements have brought forth an explosion of information that is easily accessible to public through the internet and other media like television, radio, mobile phones etc. The Internet has made it possible for consumers to understand the details of the service, including its availability at competitive prices, which has contributed to the need to create a whole new perspective for a new marketing strategy. One needs to be more open when Shultz say that it is the end-users who now control the markets rather than the marketers. Unilever understood the compulsions of the contemporary times and has adopted innovative and mix market strategy for its Axe products to meet the challenges from its rival companies in the global market.
Tools of Market Strategy
It is true that increased awareness among the customers has put more pressure on the marketers. Although the customer base is increasing, it is becoming difficult not only to attract but also to maintain more customers. So, one need to add something ‘more’ on the existing products to make it more attractive without compromising much on the price. In fact, the more innovative the product and fancier the promotional techniques, the higher are its chances of capturing market space. Thereby, asserting that brands, advertising, and promotional techniques are very important tools of marketing. The Axe products have incorporated this marketing mantra in their strategy and maintained an edge over their rivals, especially in the area of men’s deodorant and gels.
The internet has made dissemination of information a very pertinent aspect of internet marketing. The Axe website facilitates easy access to information that has brightened the scope of retaining the old customers. In reality, “we realized that strategy’s ‘ objects ‘ – such as business units, markets, supply chains, customer relationships, organizational structure, etc. – are kept together by a ‘ glue, ‘ and that glue is essentially information” (Evans, Wurster, 2000). With so much choice in the open market, the website gives the unique advantages of the products and their usefulness to draw in new customers while keeping the old. The customer is always interested in the end result of his purchase so he needs to be shown the extra benefits that he would be getting on the purchase! The feedbacks give the company opportunity to keep up with the constantly changing requirements of the consumers, while at the same time, an updated and informed Axe website becomes an invaluable source of asset for the consumers at large.
Identification of Target Market
Identifying the target customers and anticipating their changing requirements are two of the most important techniques that must be taken into consideration while formulating the strategy. The company has focused on psycho-demographic target for its Axe products primarily because of the fact that the competition within the industry demands a creation of a niche market for Axe products to become a success. Psychographic or lifestyle pattern categorises the market according to which people exhibit a well defined way of living, maintaining a set of standard and displaying a typical purchasing behaviour. Axe deodorants and gels have already a dominant market position in the male grooming products and by applying creative psychology to its advertisement, it has become easier within this particular market segment to differentiate elements in its different Axe products and easily promote them within this group.
Demographic segmentation has further split the market and provided better tool to develop strategies and make significant inroad into the emerging markets in the era of globalization. Targeting common man, within the age group of 16-25 has become the crucial demographic characteristics and Axe has successfully used this strategy through intense media blitz and other market techniques to attract them and make them a committed user and purchaser. The mixed segmentation is hugely popular in the contemporary times and gives a big leverage to the companies to plan its market strategy in a more flexible manner and successfully introduce their products in a new market.
The company has formulated marketing and communication strategy in a way that not only upholds a high standard of corporate ethics but it is able to ensure and exhibit understanding of the cross cultural values and handle issues with sensitivity. Any strategy that is formed needs to be localized to suit the local conditions. The promotional techniques and advertisement of Axe products are exemplary examples of company’s sensitive approach towards cross cultural understanding. As with the traditional markets of malls and local shops, the profile of the company also plays important part in the overall market plan. With the increasing awareness, the expectations of the customers have widened to include the proactive role of the company in the socio-economic development of the community. The growing antagonism towards the multi-national that have been projected as just being profits making bodies without any contribution to the community development, has resulted in the sharp decline of their customer base. The company has made considerable efforts to project a community friendly image and under the banner of Axe products, all the major supermarkets sponsor events for important socially relevant cause/ issues and contribute towards the community welfare schemes.
Brand creation is a major marketing technique that has massive support within and outside the business community and management strategy. In the rapidly advancing technology and changing socio-economic paradigms, the brands have made a niche in the existing and emerging markets. Axe products also need to maintain an edge over their rivals by incorporating the whole system within which the product is marketed. Today, the markets are designed to cater for the system as a whole rather than for the customer alone. The need has risen so as to accommodate the growing demand from the new market segment that has come up with the advent of new technologies. The inter-dependence of the various elements within the system with its inherent capacity to complement each other has helped establish a market that is sustainable as well as mutually satisfying.
The fundamental principle of marketing is to promote a committed clientele through quality goods and services. It is for this purpose that market strategies of big business houses and corporate bodies try to promote their goods and services by creating brands that guarantees the customers of getting high quality goods and services. ‘Brand building is needed because products are the same’ (Kotler, 2005). The brand name ensures that the product maintains a high standard of excellence at a price that a customer is willing to pay for. The brand therefore provides the customer with a quality product that meets its needs, making it one of the main reasons why brands continue to enjoy popularity among their customers while at the same time attracting fresh customers. The ‘Axe Products’ are Unilever’s best known brand that have created a unique positioning in the world market as much coveted men’s deodorant, gels and other products.
Market Strategy Techniques and Paradigms
Shultz has come up with the theory of ‘triad’ comprising of marketers, customers and the employees who must be considered as a unit for a market strategy to succeed. Today the definition of the business has shifted so much that the item ‘ comes ‘ to the consumer instead of the customer going to the ‘ service. ‘ In other words, online markets have made the service even simpler to be accessible with the idea of ‘ home delivery ‘ becoming a reality. It is one of the reasons that Shultz insists on the importance on role of the system than the product as being the only element of market strategy. Axe website is a scintillating example of ecommerce activity that serves multiple purpose of advertising, marketing and selling of Axe products.
Since marketing primarily deals into products and services that benefit people in some way or the other, people become the most important factor in the market strategies. A good marketer always tries to exploit the personal preferences of the persons to influence his behavior as a consumer of goods and services that he wishes to sell. Marketers excel in influencing the self concept and personality traits and behavior by developing market strategies of the products, keeping in mind the prevailing lifestyles of the people. Hence, different market strategy is adopted for different group of people. Advertisements are the most prolific example of segmented marketing where the contents of advertisements are decided by the target group. Axe’s advertising is focused on young men who are adventurous that also sends a subtle message that using it makes them would make them more confident and popular amongst the fairer sex. The highly innovative and segmented advertising has helped Axe products to attain an enviable positioning in the men’s hygiene products.
Another very important feature of the new technology is that it has vastly increased the customer’s base. Though the localized market still has scope but the unlimited potential of the internet market must be tapped in order to remain afloat in the fast growing customer base. The 3 of the 4Ps (product, price and promotion) of the traditional marketing techniques are still very relevant. The brand and its cost must be affordable and the marketing tactics updated to include the Internet’s growing customer base. Coordinated networking of the different elements within the system should ensure smooth and efficient network transactions, as this is the latest and rapidly developing business medium. The wide range of exclusive Axe products has brought it within the reach of common man. The huge product line caters to all categories and has almost attained iconic status amongst the exclusive leading men’s deodorant products.
The compulsions of the emerging new dynamics in the global businesses have necessitated for people-centric policies and plans that would meet the challenges of the changing social patterns and its changing demands. While product is of vital importance and pricing makes it a salable item, maintaining a good database of customers is intrinsic part of market strategy which helps one to know the changing preferences of the customers in the rapidly changing times. Prices may not be very important part of the strategy with the old customers but competitive pricing helps to bring in new clients. Whenever new products are to be launched, it is important that trend in the customers’ needs and requirements are studied in advance so that appropriate strategy could be developed. The promotional techniques of Axe products have constantly been designed to suit the local conditions. While the Axe advertisements in Paris are more sexplicit, those very advertisements have been toned down in India so that the family as a whole can enjoy the advertisement!
Importance of Effective Communication
According to an article ‘Perceiving emotion in the buyer-seller interchange: the moderated impact on performance’ in Journal of Personal Selling and Sales management, the authors had conducted a study that emphatically showed that the ability of salesman to perceive the emotional response of the customer, significantly influences the outcome performance of the sales initiatives (Kidwell et al, 2007). Axe products have committed customers mainly because the company believes in keeping with the time and changes its products’ fragrances and specification to suit the changing times and tastes of the consumers.
Effective communication is important tool to overcome the barrier of socio-psychological paradigms that is increasingly becoming a major factor in the sales and market strategy. The rapid globalization has created a pluralistic society which has diverse needs and requirement. It is therefore, important that market strategy must make efforts to understand the wider implications of the emerging multicultural society and improvise techniques and skills to encompass traits and behavioral pattern that facilitates better perception and understanding of people. The Axe advertisements have succeeded because men are portrayed as approachable entities with whom the common man can easily identify with. Axe brand has been created in a manner that goes beyond and reaches people coming from different race, color or nationality.
One can therefore conclude that Axe has used ‘mixed marketing’ with success and has made committed consumers of the people coming from different culture, race and religion. The key factors that are involved in the market segmentation are the age group of the people and the socio cultural background that dictates the consumer buying decisions. The company has also strengthened its consumer base through effective and informative website. E-commerce is an economic solvent according to an article. It dissolves old business models and changes the cost structure, and rearranges links among buyers, sellers, and everyone in between. The effect of e-commerce occurs in stages” (Kalakota, Robinson, 2002). The major objective of any partnership must be to gain exposure to global environment and establish its brand and credibility in the highly competitive global business setting. Axe products have become iconic not because they are unique but because they have unique way of selling themselves. Unilever has promoted Axe products as a major element of man-woman relationship. Seduction has remained a strong bonding element of gender relationship and Unilever has expertly exploited the inherent sense of romance and seduction of man and woman in the advertisement of its Axe products.
- Evans, Philip & Wurster, Thomas S. (2000). Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy. HBS Press.
- Kalakota R., Robinson M (2002) E-business: Roadmap for Success 2.0. Addison-Wesley.
- Kidwell, B., McFarland, R.G. & Avila, R.A.(2007, Spring). Perceiving emotion in the buyer-seller interchange: The moderated impact on performance. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 27(2), 119-132.
- Kotler, Philip. (2005). Toward Stronger Marketing. unpublished presentation to the ARF, “Future of Advertising” Conference, Chicago, 10.24.05.
- Porter, Michael, E.(June 1, 1980). Competitive Strategy: Techniques for analyzing industries and competitors. NY: Free Press 1998.
- Shultz, Don E. Bid Farewell Strategy based on old 4Ps. Marketing news; Feb 12, 2001; 35,4; ABI/INFORM Global. p 7.
- Unilever. Available from: <http://www.unilever.com/ourbrands/personalcare/Axe.asp> [Accessible 19 November 2008].