Unilever Gets Provocative with Pitch-Dark Parties
Lots of brands talk about using their events to “touch consumers.” It took Unilever’s Axe, a brand whose marketing isn’t exactly known for its subtlety, to use event marketing to get those consumers to touch each other.
The Axe Dark Party was clever if not a little subversive, but it was also right on message. The series of events brought together young men and women for social events with a twist. Parties were held in pitch darkness, encouraging attendees to find their way around using their sense of touch—a perfect way to introduce the brand’s Touch body spray.
“When we launch a new variant, we always try to root it in a concept that’s meaningful to our target consumer,” says Kevin George, director of marketing for Unilever’s deodorant business. “We wanted to link to that excitement you feel before your first kiss, before your first move. We wanted to find ways to really deliver on the senses of those touches.”
Axe began the campaign with a celeb event at the Guccione Mansion in New York City, where guests were challenged to find their way through a maze in the dark while handcuffed to a person of the opposite sex; all the action was filmed on night vision, with video being fed to the main room. Even dinner was served in the dark.
The concept was repeated for general-market consumers in 10 major markets, with advance buzz generated by radio and grassroots; and then for college students via fraternities at 15 campuses.
“The idea was that there was no way people could walk out of the party and not say the word touch,” says Cheryl Beckman, director-client services at GMR Marketing. “People were saying it over and over again as they told their friends about it after the event.”
The results were touching, too. Axe’s dollar share of the anti-perspirant/deodorant category increased from a healthy 7.8 to a delish 9.9 following the campaign, and the brand rang up a three percent increase in awareness among males 11 to 24.
Oh you can’t touch that. (Sorry, we had to.)