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The Controversy Behind Conflicting Messages from Axe and Dove

Business, Most Influential
The Controversy Behind Conflicting Messages from Axe and Dove

Unilever has been plagued by controversies from the two brands it owns: Axe and Dove. Both products are hugely in contrast in their advertising campaigns. Of course, Unilever continues to maintain uniformity among its brands adhering to its ideology, which is dedicated to improving quality of life through the provision of hygienic products and therefore enhancing self-esteem.

The question is, is the Dove brand really adhering to its product campaign? Or is it just hypocrisy? Perhaps the reason why Unilever allows Axe to continue its product campaign, in spite of the fact the marketers have seen the vast conflict between its two major brands in terms of getting the company’s message across its consumers, is that Axe manages to bring in more sales. Axe made it big in sixty countries with annual sales of nearly $600 million dollars in the early years of the 21st century. On the other hand, even though Dove’s sales increased by 6% a year after launching their “natural beauty” campaign, succeeding years’ sales has flatlined.

Here are some reasons why people find that Axe and Dove have stirred much controversy notwithstanding that they are actually from the same company. The main story can be trimmed down to one thing: the brands’ contradicting advertisements.

Amidst the advertising choas, one thing is for sure, it did rouse critics and consumers to speak out their comments, and that is exactly what these brands wanted: to create a buzz and gain attention. Whether that is good advertising or sheer hypocrisy, it all boils down to the sales generated by these two major brands.

Target Market

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Simply put, it is quite obvious that Axe is for young men and Dove is for women who want to feel good inside and out. The male population is also besieged by physical insecurities and by spraying on Axe, beautiful women would come rushing to them. That’s the Axe brand promise.

Self-Esteem       

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Also, even if they are from the same company, you will not likely give it such a huge deal as long as these products can really deliver what they promise in their advertisements. However, in the real sense, the public need not be alarmed that they have contradicting messages. If you will look closely, they both coincide with the mission statement of their mother company, which is to improve their customers’ quality of life in terms of hygiene and self-esteem. There is no question that the Axe and Dove brands’ vision is to provide superiority when it comes to hygiene but there goes the issue on self-esteem.

True, each delivers the promise of boosting self-esteem to their specific target market. The Axe brand provides self-esteem to young men who experience social adjustments due to the physiological changes that occur when they hit the age of puberty, whilst the Dove brand offers to improve self-esteem in women by being beautiful in their own skin, naturally.

Teams Handling the Brands

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What is surprising to know is that both brands are handled by teams that are spearheaded by male managers. However, there is a difference in leadership and how the teams conduct their meetings. Dove team is inclined to wear lighter colors, more like being on the soft side of things, featuring organic meals and light music. The Axe team, on the other hand, is more on the rebellious side of things. Members are more likely to wear black shirts and they conduct meetings with much gusto on late evenings with high-adrenaline activities and alcohol overflowing around them. New members of the team are being initiated into the “Axe Fraternity” by undergoing rituals with a bit of The Matrix touch.

The Way Women are Depicted

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Dove’s uplifting “Campaign for Real Beauty” actually earned commendations. Carefully looking into the ads, you will wonder how its parent company, Unilever, balances this kind of advertising with that of Axe which depicts scantily dressed modern women who are being seduced by men. In other words, Axe objectified women while Dove celebrates the natural beauty of women.

The marketing experts from the Kellogg School of Management questioned this. How could Unilever have launched Dove’s campaign and be the same company behind Axe’s arguably corrupting depictions of women?

Product Positioning and Sales

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There is no doubt that even if Axe does continue to showcase it’s rather sensual or sexual advertisements, following its motto: “Sex Sells”, it continues to rake in more sales. This could be the reason why the parent company supports – though not verbally – the product position of its Axe brand.

The product positioning of Dove, on the other hand, understands that it can sell beauty products through boosting women’s confidence, sticking to its goal that “profit and purpose can work well together.” When it comes to sales, Dove has gone a long way since it was launched in the 1950’s, bringing in billions of dollars to the company.

Perhaps this is the main reason why Axe continues to stick to its positioning.

Getting the Message Across

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There is the fear that Axe’s campaign encourages inappropriate behavior among the males while Dove tries to encourage women to be proud of their innate beauty. However, critics find that Dove’s tagline in the “Real Beauty Sketches” video isn’t really encouraging women from different ethnicities and ages to be at ease with whatever kind of beauty they have. It seems that Dove is also trying to tell women that beauty equates to being young and thin.

The Big Question

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Now lies the big question, how can Dove and Axe harmonize their campaigns in such a way that they can still achieve their sales targets without having to get too far from their parent company’s mission statement. Each have their purpose and the challenge is how to prove consumers and critics that they can work together devoid of the contrast in their campaigns.

Again, looking into their advertisements can actually raise some eyebrows. But if you don’t intend to let these campaigns bother you and as long as they deliver what they say in these ads, then maybe that is also the reason why Unilever chooses to stay mum about this controversy.

But if you are into understanding marketing strategies, that is a different story.

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