Axe is a brand with a variety of products like deodorant, shower gel and aftershave with different fragrances, targeted at young man. The good reputation of Axe in Holland has helped the introduction of its new shower scrub (Van der Aa 2005, pers. comm., 22 April).
The Axe shower gel target group consists of young males, from approximately 15-35 years old. For the introduction of Axe Snake Peel, Icemedia also targeted influencers in this group. These influencers are found in the company’s database of opinion leaders that are traced through online questionnaires with questions like: “How many people do you have in your mobile phone?” (Van der Aa 2005, pers. comm., 22 April).
The campaign consisted of a special micro site www.axe.nl/snakepeel where a video could be viewed with an ‘Essential Scrub Work Out instruction’ by two girls in bikinis. Visitors of the site could order their personalized icecards including a product sample. Icecards are a sort of business cards with a person’s contact details on one side and some artwork of the sponsoring company on the other. The link to sales was made by adding a text on each icecard making people aware of a sales promotion for the new product. Next to the Axe website, the campaign was communicated by a banner campaign, emails and on www.icecards.com. To get insights in brand preference and purchasing behaviour of shower gels a questionnaire was included at the end of the ordering process (Van der Aa 2005, pers. comm., 22 April).
Different goals were set for the introduction of Axe Snake Peel among which the most important was to create buzz and awareness around the new product. The icecards were a good tool to create awareness for the person who ordered them, but also for the people in his or her environment who got a card. Furthermore, the icecards generated web traffic to the special site for the new product that fulfilled the goal of creating page views. Other goals were the stimulation of product trial and the stimulation of sales.
The results of this campaign were positive: within 45 days 45.000 sets of Axe Snakepeel were ordered and distributed. Due to high demand for the icecards, there was a lot of traffic at the Axe website. Research from Icemedia found furthermore that 78% of the users ordering represented the targeted age group of 15-35 years. The average age was 24,7 years old with a peak lying at 17 years. Also the bigger part of the icecard users admitted they were not active users of Axe shower gel and have thus been invited on a positive way to product trial (Van der Aa 2005, pers. comm., 22 April).
How did it turn out?
Although people do not discuss a shower gel as intense as a new car or a good movie, there is a lot of information exchange about consumer-packaged products like shower gel, especially when the product is new. Unilever knows that shower gel is not a very exciting product and therefore it tries to make it stand out in the shops. To achieve this, Unilever uses for example a bright colour of the shower scrub and tries to differentiate through a distinctive marketing campaign. Because the company thought that traditional marketing was not going to make a big impression on its young target group, buzz marketing was chosen (Van der Aa 2005, pers. comm., 22 April).
The online campaign seems to connect with the target group and through a simple tell-a-friend button, spreading of the campaign is made easy. The use of icecards is another good example of tell-a-friend promotions. Because the cards are fun, easy and free, people want to have them, pass them on and tell their friends where they can get them. The good thing of the cards is that their ‘pass-it-on-effect’ is very high: an average icecards user hands out 15 or 16 cards out of a set of 20. And from those icecard receivers also about 30% orders their own, which shows the medium’s impact (Mayorga 2003). It has to be mentioned however, that there will be people who are solely interested in free contact cards and have no intention to buy Axe shower gel. But on the other hand, people do not want to be associated with brands they do not like and certainly would not hand out personalized contact cards to their friends if they thought the brand shown on it was not cool.
The viral campaign in combination with the icecards thus seems to have created buzz around the Axe Snake Peel Shower Scrub but this was not the only goal set for the campaign. Unilever wanted to stimulate product trials and sales. Analysing the different tools used and goals set for the campaign, it is clear that product trial has been stimulated by including a product sample with the icecards and actual sales were stimulated by including a discount coupon. These last two things: product samples and discount coupons, were part of the whole buzz marketing campaign but can itself be classified as sales promotions. This shows that buzz marketing should be integrated in the marketing mix of a company, rather than being used as a single tool.