Is it risky for gender-specific brands to target the opposite sex? The Marketing Society Forum, Wednesday, 18 January 2012 12:00AM

Unilever is crossing gender boundaries by adding limited-edition scent Anarchy to its Axe range.

Is it risky for gender-specific brands to target the opposite sex? The Marketing Society Forum


Fashion brands often subsequently launch a variant for the opposite sex - think Topshop and Topman. It's an obvious diversification strategy, leveraging the investment in awareness and brand equity. It is even more common to have gender-specific variants of the same fragrance brand.

What's riskier about Anarchy is the direct association with the Axe/Lynx brand, with its unapologetically laddish view of the world. Nonetheless, the unreconstructed heroes of the Axe/Lynx ads are portrayed in a firmly tongue-in-cheek manner, so I think Unilever will have a lot of goodwill to work with in its new target market. If not, there are always the laddettes.


As the old saying goes, men are from Mars and women are from Venus, so surely you can't have a male 'predatory' product appeal to a woman? Is there a risk of diluting the strength of the brand equity built around The Lynx Effect?

And yet I must confess to being rather excited and interested. As a mum of a 14-year-old girl, I'm curious to know what the insight is and what it adds to the very complicated world of young female courtship. (I remember it being a little less straightforward than the boys' view).

If Unilever and Bartle Bogle Hegarty can demonstrate the benefit for girls in a way that stays true to the original brand, they may have themselves a winner.


Brands selling to both sexes are prolific in the his-and-hers world of fine fragrance. Chanel's male perfumery business is significant, not because men are stuck in 90s 'metrosexuality', but because Chanel stands for something bigger than femininity.

I don't think this is what's happening with Axe. Judging from the YouTube teaser, the Anarchy campaign won't follow the old geeky-guy-gets-impossibly-fit-girl formula. The protagonists seem to be on an equal level, which is modern and gives the campaign broader social appeal.

Anarchy isn't a change of brand strategy. It's part of a bigger story designed to maximise share of culture and, crucially, shelf.


The trend is definitely toward gender-neutral, but can Lynx rival the branding of CK or D&G? Challenges of cliches are growing in popularity, but Lynx may be too much of 'the guy who thinks he's sexier than he is' for the sophisticated female self-image.

The Lynx effect of 'getting angels to fall' might be too much of a male fantasy to break across the female divide. It could be their Jack and Jill moment, or perhaps their taming of the Eau Savage.

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