Axe wanted to extend its portfolio by launching Axe Shower Gel in India. The challenges however were dual. Firstly, Axe was synonymous with deodorants in India. In a pre-launch study, 87% of respondents misattributed the Axe Shower Gel TVC to Axe Deo. Secondly, consumers were not familiar with format of shower gel as India is predominantly a bar market with shower gels contributing only 0.3% in the soaps market.
The brand’s target audience, the Indian urban-male youth, flirted with multiple media, but shocking, fast-paced, high-voltage drama dominated the content consumed. Hence, Axe wanted to embed the news of the brand launch in a story that would spread organically and integrate the brand with the storyline to establish the product format. However the existing programing on television targeting the youth did not present such an opportunity.
Axe Shower Gel tied up with MTV and created a fake ‘kidnap’ of one of its video jockeys, VJ Jose. The campaign kicked off with Twitter going wild after MTV VJ Jose remained inactive for five days. News of him going missing originated from his Twitter followers. On February 10, 2012, India woke up to the alarming news of Jose being kidnapped. A video of the kidnapping released by the three femme fatale captors made it clear that they meant business.
After 96 hours, the 3 captors announced their demands: “Launch Axe Shower Gel in India or Jose will have to bear the consequences”. Axe officials refused to relent stating that their tests proved that Axe Shower Gel was dangerous as it had a powerful effect on women, removing all social inhibitions.
Tension built up as the kidnappers hijacked MTV’s website, posting 40 videos of them torturing Jose, while audiences interacted with them suggesting ways to torture Jose. Every act of torture involved getting Jose dirty and followed by a complete wash-down with Axe Shower Gel. The hostage drama finally ended when huge pressure from Jose’s fans pushed the Axe officials into giving in to the girls’ demands. The campaign concluded with the release of a 10 minute film and music video, revealing the final twist at the Axe Shower Party. The story unfolded simultaneously on television and digitally, via a 10 part short film series. While the microsite FindJose was the primary hosting vehicle for the activity, content was also disseminated and conversations seeded on social media to maximise engagement.
The campaign delivered eight million video views, 117 million impressions and 1.8 million page views on the microsite. The 45 days activity resulted in a 4.1% market share in the liquid soap category within 5 months of launch. Average monthly sales volumes doubled from four tons in Q1 to 8 tons in Q2 2012 post activity. The Axe Shower Anthem YouTube banner delivered a CTR of 3.18%.
The average time spent on WeHaveJose(hacked MTV website) and FindJose microsite was 3:41 and 2:11 mins respectively.