Sweet smell of innovation

Reinvention has been the hallmark of Unilever’s bodyspray brand Lynx. But can new ads for the latest variants help it escape the lads’ cultural niche in which it is embedded? asks Louise Jack

Lynx%20bodysprayUnilever has continually reinvented its bodyspray brand Lynx during its 23-year history, for example linking it successfully to laddism. But it now faces a fresh challenge as the lads’ mag era stalls.

It launched its latest fragrance variant to the Lynx stable of bodysprays recently; an “enticing” mix of chocolate, sage, coriander and ginger called Dark Temptation. A fresh digital campaign went live last week and a TV campaign, created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) will start next month.

The second quarter of 2008 will see the unveiling of what Unilever calls a “new innovation” for the brand, Lynx 3. The product comes in a gadget-style container and dispenses two different fragrances so the consumer has the choice of using them separately or combined. It is believed the launch will be backed by a £6.5m marketing campaign.

All are examples of the continual reinvention that Lynx has practiced since it was first created. The brand was launched in the UK in 1985, two years after being launched in France under the Axe moniker. It was the first bodyspray for men that was not part of a wider range of product, and was available in three fragrances – Amber, Musk and Spice. Since then, almost 20 fragrance variants have been on sale.

Unilever dominates the deodorants and bodysprays market, worth £459m in 2006 according to Mintel. Its two biggest brands, Lynx and Sure, together take almost 25%. Its other brands, Dove and Impulse, take a further 10% between them. Mintel attributes Unilever’s dominance to the fact that it targets all the major consumer age and gender demographics.

Research from Datamonitor shows that Lynx’s 2006 market share was 9.1%, behind Right Guard and Sure, the market leader with 14.1%. But findings from a Mintel study show that no other deodorant brand generates a similar level of appeal or commands such outstanding loyalty among its key audience.

Karen Hamilton, Unilever’s category vice-president of deodorants and male grooming for Europe, has worked on the Lynx brand since 1995. She says: “The way we brand Lynx, even in Unilever, has opened my eyes to a completely different approach to marketing – this is not a supermarket brand like margarine or washing powder.”

Hamilton says that Lynx and Sure for Men coexist quite comfortably within Unilever because Sure focuses on the fundamental benefit of a deodorant, which is protection. Unilever sees Lynx as more than a deodorant brand, it also markets shower gels and in some parts of the world, where Lynx is marketed as Axe, there are also skin care products for the body. In the UK, Snake Peel, an exfoliating body scrub is available.

There are obvious categories into which the brand could stretch, such as hair care, but Hamilton says Unilever is not intending to go in that direction “just yet”, instead focusing on what it believes men are most interested in buying – deodorants and cleansing products. Thus, Lynx’s most significant UK launch for 2008 will be the combined fragrances product Lynx 3.

Futurebrand senior consultant Nader Khosrovani points out that the “lad’s culture” with which Lynx has engaged so well, is in decline. Sales of lads’ mags like Loaded and FHM have plummeted over recent years and youth culture is less focused on going out and “getting hammered”.

Lynx%20logoHe says: “Lynx has leveraged that ‘lads’ insight very well. It has kept reinventing itself with new executions and the ads are good. Unilever’s challenge is to keep bringing that idea to life and remain relevant to its changing market.”

BBH has handled Lynx’s advertising since 1995 and Hamilton cites the agency’s appointment as a “major milestone” for the brand. BBH UK chairman Jim Carroll says the challenge is to remain relevant. “We need to reconsider our terminology and to evolve the way we portray the brand as the mating game itself evolves. The emerging picture is of it being played by equal participants.

“The pressures on the account are about being at the vanguard of communication change. Our online work is becoming increasingly participatory.”

Both Hamilton and Carroll say their core market is to be found online, thus digital is becoming an increasingly important component of the brand’s communications.

New content offers dating and grooming tips, widgets and gadgets for mobile phones. The advertising, such as 2003’s Pulse campaign which used dancing as its theme, has “allowed the brand to step into popular culture” according to Hamilton. The agency has produced tongue-in-cheek ads with raunchy images depicting users of the brand as being irresistible to women.

However, the irreverent approach has not been universally welcomed. Last autumn, a blogger spliced sexy images from an Axe advertisement into a video for Dove – another Unilever brand – urging parents to protect girls from negative images of women. Unilever faced accusations of hypocrisy and double standards in a stream of internet blogging, albeit mainly in the US.

The company says the advertising for Axe/Lynx is clearly light-hearted and states the matter has had no negative impact on sales for either brand.

Indeed, Unilever says the Lynx brand has just broken the €1bn (£750m) mark in global sales for 2007, quite an advance on its €300m (£228m) total of ten years ago. 



1983 Axe is launched in France by Unilever-owned Fabergé 

1985 Lynx is first launched in the UK in May and is available in three fragrances – Amber, Musk and Spice 

1988 Lynx shower gel range launched 

2002 Over 35 million cans of Lynx sold in the UK as sales grew by 7% 

2005 Lynx uses the summer festival season to launch the Manwash, a human car wash where grubby festival-goers can be scrubbed down by ‘manwashettes’ 

2007 Global sales of Lynx break the €1bn (£750m) mark.



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