Axe parodies pandemic pressers in push targeting vaccine-hesitant Gen Zers

Axe parodies pandemic pressers in push targeting vaccine-hesitant Gen Zers

Dive Brief:

  • Unilever's Axe brand of male grooming products is pushing hesitant Gen Z consumers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the dating scene returns, per a news release.

  • As part of the "Get Axeinated" campaign, a spot living across Axe's digital platforms parodies the pandemic press conferences that have grown commonplace over the past year, with a chyron reading, "Being vaccinated is hot." The video pushes viewers to a web link where Axe is offering real-world Axeination Kits that include body spray from its recently revamped product portfolio and an Axeination Certificate emulating COVID-19 vaccine cards.

  • On the ground, Axe is setting up Axeination Stations in Georgia, where vaccination rates are especially low in the U.S. Snapchat activations allow users to digitally visit similar sites and secure Axeination Kits as part of the effort linking tongue-in-cheek messaging to a serious public health cause.

Dive Insight:

Axe is targeting Gen Z vaccine laggards with a campaign that suggests they could fall behind in the resurging dating scene without an inoculation against COVID-19. The concept was inspired in part by STAT-Harris poll data cited by the brand that found more than half of surveyed Gen Z adults report being in no rush to get their jabs.

A digital spot, developed with agency LOLA MullenLowe, riffs on the pandemic press conferences that have grown wearying as the global crisis drags on, though the push generally puts forward optimism and good humor about a return to pre-pandemic rituals.

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The ad features a female public health official stand-in talking about vaccines being "hot" and the presence of "unsolicited vac pics" on dating apps — an apparent riff on a real online harassment trend. She eventually runs to link arms with a sign-language interpreter after he sprays himself with Axe. A scrolling chyron at the bottom of the video calls out stats around what dating profile qualities cause people to "swipe right," or match, with users, with the #vaccinated hashtag securing 74% of the poll to beat out flexing (20%) and holding a fish (6%).

With the campaign, Axe gravitates back toward messaging that implies its products imbue the wearer with irresistible sex appeal, or the "Axe Effect." This is not new territory for the brand, though it did at one point switch to a more solemn positioning that addressed social issues like toxic masculinity in what read to many as a mea culpa for years of ultra-macho marketing. The label earlier this year introduced a refresh of its product portfolio and brought back the "Axe Effect" while putting a larger spotlight on diversity in a bid to win over more open-minded Gen Zers.

Axe is angling to tie the light-hearted approach closer to brand values in educating hesitant young consumers about vaccines and encouraging them to get their jabs. In-person activations hone in on areas of the country where vaccination rates are notably low, while social media elements take the Axeination Station concept to the virtual sphere. The marketer partnered with Snapchat on a 3D body-tracking AR lens application that unlocks the Axeination Station experience, as well as a button for securing Axeination Kits through the video-sharing app.

Axe joins a number of consumer brands that are leveraging their media know-how or the promise of freebies to spur U.S. consumers to get vaccinated. McDonald's recently partnered with the Biden administration to help raise awareness for COVID-19 vaccines, and next month will introduce special McCafé cups and delivery order seal stickers directing customers to